Shadows on the Move

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SWBAT explain how shadows change as the Earth moves.

Big Idea

Why does the sun seems to move across the sky?

Setting the Stage

National Science Teaching Standards

Earth Science

  • Changes in Earth and Sky
  • Objects in the Sky

The Sun and the Earth are objects in the sky. The Sun provides heat and light to the earth, and the earth rotates.  As the Earth rotates, the sky seems to move, but it is because of the Sun's position. This lesson is important because students understand how the Sun plays a role in creating shadows.  Students also need to understand that shadows are formed when an object or item blocks the Sun. When the Sun is low, the shadows are long.  Shorter shadows mean the Sun is high. Also, it is important that I teach this information to the students because it is a part of my curriculum.

 ï»¿ï»¿Science and Engineering Practices: 

SP 8 addresses obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information in K–2 which builds on prior knowledge, using text, and analyzing text.  Students communicate what they learn to others about the information that they obtained from the lesson and additional research. This lesson permits students to communicate about how shadows are formed with the assistance from the sun. 

Prior Knowledge: 

Students have prior knowledge of the Sun and Earth through reading and discussions. They have some understanding of what make shadows from the text and the text, Bear Shadow by Frank Asch. This text is excellent for younger students to understand shadows. 




4-Plastic cups


White copying paper, legal size, 11x14

Shadows on the Move- Lab Sheet

Achievers Shadow Exit Ticket

Super Star Shadow Exit Ticket

All-Star Shadow Exit Ticket


10 minutes

At their desks, students sing a song that the class sings at the opening of each science lesson.  This song motivates and engages my Junior Scientists at the beginning of each science lesson.

I call on a student to read our "I Can" statement for the day. While using a microphone, a scientist says, "I can make shadows using a flashlight as a light source." The "I Can" statement helps students take ownership of the lesson as they put standards in to context.  Also, the students understand the outcome of the investigation. The other students praise the student that reads the "I Can" statement by clapping.  I encourage students to give each other praise to boost their self-esteem.

Students are informed of today's objective. By the end of the lesson scientist, you should be able to explain how shadows change as Earth moves.

Students are provided with a sticky tab to write their "I wonder" statement.  Students are asked to complete the "I wonder" statement.  I posed this question to assist the students: What do you wonder about shadows? Students are informed to complete the stem in a complete sentence. The "I wonder" statements assist me in observing what the students know about shadows. Also, the students write "I wonder" statements so I can access them informally and see what my students know.  Students are permitted to place them on the "I wonder" anchor chart. This chart serves as a visual for my students.


25 minutes

While students are at their group tables, I discuss with the groups their investigation, "What makes shadows?"  Groups select who will record, manage, and report. I determine the leader because I want someone who demonstrates leadership qualities. I permit students to select their roles, so they can take ownership of their learning. Also, they can select their personal strength. 

I explain to the students that they are going to observe shadows and make drawings of what they see. I ask for a student volunteer to  help demonstrate how to trace a shadow. I turn off the lights to make it dark. Then I turn on the flashlight on a cup, and ask the students to observe the shadow being cast. I ask them where the light source is and where the shadow is cast. Then students are asked: where do you think the shadow will be? Circle the picture and explain why you chose that picture. 

Teacher note: Refer to the lab sheet to see where to place the flashlight. 

I show the students what to trace.  I inform them that the the Sun is similar to the light source from the flashlight.  I discuss the shadow, and I permit the student that I called on to trace the shadow as a demonstration by following the outline of the shadow. 

While using their lab sheets, students are informed to collaborate in groups. I inform them to follow the lab sheet in order to complete the investigation.  

Teacher note: The lab sheet informs the students on where to place the flashlight.   

As the groups complete the investigation, I walk around to facilitate their learning. I pose the following questions: When was the shadow long? When was the shadow short? How are shadows formed? What role does the Sun play in producing shadows?

While groups are at their tables, each group is permitted to share their findings with the other groups. It is important that students share their scientific findings so they understand that scientists share their results. As students present, I am listening to make sure that students understand that a shadow is long when the light source is low in the sky and the shadow is short when the light source is high in the sky. Also, students should have noticed that a shadow is opposite of the sun due to being blocked by an item. 

I take up the lab sheet from students to make sure that students complete their lab sheet effectively. I am making sure that students draw conclusion by referencing back to their hypothesis and data table.

Here is the Shadow on Move-Student Work.

Here are the students investigating, Shadow, video.



15 minutes

While students are at their desks, they complete the "Scientist out the Door", Shadow Exit Ticket. The exit ticket permits the students to look at the sun's position and determine how the shadow looks during the morning, noon, or afternoon. The exit ticket permits me to assess my students' understanding of the taught concept. Here are some examples of the students' exit tickets, Achiever, Super Stars, and All Star.

I take up the exit ticket to check for students' understanding or misconceptions. This helps me to determine what I teach next.