Moon Phases

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SWBAT explain the phases of the Moon.

Big Idea

What are the phases of the Moon?

Setting the Stage

National Science Teaching Standards

Earth Science

  • Changes in Earth and Sky
  • Objects in the Sky

The Moon, Sun, and Earth are objects in the sky. At the start of the Moon's orbit, it sits between the Earth and Sun. The Sun shines on the Moon to provide moonlight. The sun shines directly on the Moon. The part that faces us is dark which makes it a New Moon. It is important for students to learn that objects in the sky have patterns of movement.  It is important that the students learn about the Moon and how and when it goes through phases. When students look at the night sky, they understand the phases of the Moon and why they can see the Moon at night. It is also a part of my Tennessee curriculum.

 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 allows students to communicate with their peers about the moon.  They discuss how the moon does not provide sunlight and that it needs support from the sun. 

Prior Knowledge:

Students recognize objects in the sky such as: Sun, Moon, birds, clouds, and airplanes. They know that the Sun provides light and heat so Earth can maintain its temperature.



  • White Rice



15 minutes

While students sit at their desks, I inform the students that the Moon seems as if it is changing shapes. The Moon does not change shapes, but it appears that way. The Moon changes phases as it orbits Earth. It takes 28 days for the Moon to go through its phases.The sun shines on and off one side of the Moon.

I show the student an anchor chart with the 8 phases of the moon: new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, third quarter, and waning crescent. When the moon is "waxing",  the Moon appears bigger. When the Moon is waning, the Moon appears to be growing smaller.

 Students observe a video of the Moon phases. The students observe a video to assist my auditory and visual learners who also enjoy singing.


25 minutes

We focus on the four phases: new moon, first-quarter moon, full moon, and last-quarter moon. In the second grade, we only focus on those four phases. I create an anchor chart with the four phases along with information about the four phrases. The chart serves as a visual for all students to observe.

  • new moon- the moon is between the Earth and Sun. We cannot see the Moon at all. 
  • first-quarter moon-after a week, the moon orbits one quarter of the way.
  • full-moon-we can see all of the moon's lighted side.
  • last-quarter moon-the moon is three quarter of its way around the Earth.


I provide the students with a blank "Moon Phase" Comic Strip template, a bag of white rice, and a glue stick. The students are instructed to illustrate, using the rice to show the four phases, and write about each phase in their own words. I encourage the students to reference to the anchor chart. The comic strip helps the students to express themselves through writing, arts, and science. It is imperative that students are permitted to communicate about what they learn.


Here are the students working during Moon phase, video.


10 minutes

Students submit their comic strip. As I evaluate the comic strip, I am making sure that students write about and illustrate the phases correctly.

As I close the lesson, I asked the students: How long does it take for the Moon to orbit Earth? What do the phases show? I ask these questions to close out the lesson. Also, I want to see how much content students have mastered.


5 minutes

Students are provided with a blank Moon calendar template to observe changes in the night sky for an entire month. I send a letter home, along with the calendar, to explain the investigation. The calendars are taken up at the end of the month and used as a performance assessment.