Introduction to Insolation

10 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT identify the Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, and polar regions on a world map (including latitude(s)) | SWBAT define the summer/winter solstice and spring/autumn equinox and identify the dates that they occur in New York state

Big Idea

In this introductory lesson, students get a chance to chart out some important lines of latitude and explore why the solstices and equinoxes are important dates on the solar calendar in terms of the Sun's position

Lesson Introduction

[Note: For embedded comments, checks for understanding (CFUs), and key additional information on transitions and key parts of the lesson not necessarily included in the below narrative, please go to the comments in the following document: 4.1 - Introduction To Insolation (Whole Lesson w/comments). Additionally, if you would like all of the resources together in a PDF document, that can be accessed as a complete resource here: 4.1 - Introduction To Insolation (Whole Lesson)[PDF]. Finally, students may need their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] for parts of the lesson (a document used widely in the New York State Earth Science Regents course) as well.]

This is the first lesson in a new unit on Insolation. This lesson in particular introduces the concept of Insolation by identifying key lines of latitude that will serve as important markers for the Sun's position at different times of the year. Students then watch a video detailing basic information on the Sun's path, including that of solstices and equinoxes as key dates in the solar calendar. We then go into a brief exploration on how the seasons exist as a result of the Earth's tilt. 

Do Now & Objective

10 minutes

Students come in silently and complete the (attached) Do Now. This Do Now deals with igneous rock characteristics, which are an important concept to review to adequately prepare students for the upcoming Interim Assessment.  After time expires (anywhere from 2-4 minutes depending on the type of Do Now and number of questions), we collectively go over the responses (usually involving a series of cold calls and/or volunteers), before I call on a student and ask them to read the objective out loud to start the lesson.

As a general note, the Do Now serves a few purposes:

  1. It serves as a general review of the previous day's material; (although not this one :-)
  2. It is a re-activation of student knowledge to get them back into "student mode" and get them thinking about science after transitioning from another content area or alternate class;
  3. as a strategy for reviewing material students have struggled with (for example, using this as a focused review for material that they have struggled with on unit assessments or recent quizzes); and,
  4. It is an efficient and established routine for entering the classroom that is repeated each day with fidelity (I never let students enter the classroom talking. While it may seem potentially severe to have students enter silently each day, this is both a school wide expectation and a key component of my classroom. In many respects, I find that students readily enjoy the focus that starting with a quiet classrooms brings each day).

Earth Model

15 minutes

For a detailed explanation, see the embedded video above (link here). You can easily look at the Model of Earth resource, but it's especially important to download the Word document with the embedded comments for the full list of checks for understanding and teacher directions on more specificity surrounding how I teach this. Again, and as always, feel free to modify this to fit the needs of your classroom and/or students!


10 minutes

The above embedded video (link here) is a pretty good introduction into the Earth's position around the Sun at different points of the year. I use the Video Notes resource to have students take down the basic (and most important) information while they watch the video in its entirety. The video itself is only about 2:30 seconds long, so after watching the video, I usually give the students a minute to partner up and check their answers with a neighbor before I then use the popsicle sticks (see the strategy in action here) or an alternate strategy (like a mix of cold calling/volunteers) to very quickly go over the 10 fill-in-the-blank responses.


20 minutes

The Practice section in this lesson is, unlike most of my other traditional practice-based lesson sections, is not 100% Regents-based. Some of these questions I made up myself, as I wanted some fundamental and standard questions that would directly get at the objective in a way that many of the more traditional Regents questions could not. As always, I still want them to cement these ideas by testing their knowledge at the end of the lesson, so there are definitely some more traditional multiple-choice Regents questions, but it just isn't 100% derived from former Regents exams. 

Likewise, as I try to generally do with all of my lessons, the questions are mostly organized to get increasingly more difficult and increase in complexity, which is why the harder questions tend to come toward the end. 

In terms of student work habits, I tend to sometimes make this decision in the moment, and as a response of what I know about the students and how they're processing the material on, but I'll either ask them to work independently, in partners, or give them the option. Usually, before starting practice, we tend to go over some steps for self-help ("What should you do if you're stuck?"), and I might reference a previously used multiple-choice or free response strategy in order to build their skills while simultaneously learning content (as an example - one popular one we always use - "If you aren't sure what the right answer is, see if you can eliminate some wrong answer choices"). I tend to circulate for compliance and then hone in on specific students while they're doing this. 

After about 10 minutes, we go over their responses. Students who finish early are encouraged to work on the exit ticket (resource below) and double-check their responses. We use a combination of strategies (active voting, cold calling, popsicle sticks, volunteers) to go over the responses, where students correct their work and ask any clarifying questions. 

Exit Ticket & Closing

5 minutes

In the last few minutes of class, I have students complete the daily Exit Ticket. For the sake of time, I have students grade them communally, with a key emphasis on particular questions and items that hit on the key ideas of the lesson (Note: This usually manifests as students self-grading, or having students do a "trade and grade" with their table partners). After students grade their exit tickets, they usually pass them in (so that I can analyze them) and track their exit ticket scores on a unit Exit Ticket Tracker. 

After students take a few seconds to track their scores, we usually wrap up in a similar way. I give students time to pack up their belongings, and I end the class at the objective, which is posted on the whiteboard, and ask students two questions:

  1. Do you feel that you mastered the objective for the day?
  2. Can you reiterate one thing you learned about Exit Ticket (in this case, basic lines of latitude and information on the seasons, etc.)

Once I take 2-3 individual responses (sometimes I'll ask for a binary "thumbs up/thumbs down" or something similar), I have students leave once the bell rings.