The Predictable Patterns of the Sun and the Seasons

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SWBAT investigate the predictable patterns of our sunrise and sunset and how it relates to our seasonal patterns.

Big Idea

The days are getting longer!! That means summer is coming! In this lesson students discover this relationship by interpreting graphs and making claims about their findings!

Setting the Stage:

National Science Education Science Standards Connection:

The National Science Education Standards has said that making observations is key to inquiry-based and discovery-focused learning in science instruction. In order to do this students participate in inquiry-based learning that allows them to solve a problem in science through observation, discourse and using a science journal. Students will then be give a chance to share their findings with their peers and then reflect on their own understanding.

Next Generation Science Standards Connection:

In this lesson students will continue to observe the Sun. 1-ESS1-1 asks students to use observations to explore the predictable patterns of our sun.  In this lesson students use the predictable pattern of our sunrise and sunset to discover the relationship between the amount of daylight and our seasons. 1-ESS1-2 asks students to make observations at different times of year to relate the amount of daylight to the time of year. Students will discover that as the days get longer the Earth heats up and as the days get shorter the weather gets cooler.

Home to School Connection:

We will be learning about the sun, the stars and moon. The NGSS asks that students to observe, describe and predict how the sun and moon changes over a period of time. I send home two science bags that will allow students to observe the night sky.

The Sun Bag: In order for students to observe the changes of our sunset, each day a different student takes home our Sun Bag that includes a Sunset Observations sheet, The Sun: Our Nearest Star by Franklyn M. Branley, a box of crayons and a parent letter. Students record his/her findings on our class Sunset Calendar We observe the sun for a full month so that we can observe, describe and predict the sunset changes.

The Moon Bag: In order for students to observe the change of the moon, each day a different student takes home our Moon Bag which includes a Moon Observation Form (black paper), The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons, white crayons and a parent letter. Then students record his/her findings on our class Moon Phases Calendar. We observe the moon for a full month so that we can observe, describe and predict the changes it goes through in one full cycle. If the moon is not visible that student will record the night sky and then the next day we will predict what it would have looked like had it been seen.

Classroom Structures:

In order to support a high level of student discourse within my science lessons I have assigned two different student partnerships.  Turn and Talk Partners are discourse partners that work together to share the deep thinking that happens throughout the day.  Workshop Partners are partners who are matched together for the purpose of working during our independent times.  In this lesson students will be engaged in both partnerships.

Science Journal:

I make my own science journals with blank 8.5x11 copy paper however many teachers prefer to use composition notebooks. Another idea is to use a folder with writing paper placed within the fasteners. My students glue the "science prompt" or "science question" at the top of their new page and then write the date for each entry. 


KLEWS Chart: "Does the sun have predictable patterns?

Sunrise & Sunset Calendar

Average Monthly Temperatures

Science Journal Prompt: Is there a pattern to how much daylight we get each season, month or day?



15 minutes

In this lesson we refer back to our KLEWS anchor chart titled, "What are the patterns of the Sun?" In our last lesson my students pointed out that our sunset happens later and later and later.  I ask my students if they think this could be a pattern. 

A KLEWS anchor chart is described as a tool that allows students to track their learning throughout an investigation, building up to the understanding of a scientific principle. Our KLEWS chart tracks our findings and our evidence as we learn about the Sun.

I activate prior knowledge when I show my students are class-made Sunset Calendar of the Sunset bag. I tell my students that we will be studying the sunrise and sunset over an entire year.

Boys and girls, in our lesson about the sunrise and sunset we learned something really important.  We learned that the sunsets and rises everyday because the earth spins. That means we only see the sun during the day.  If you look at our Sunset Calendar, you will notice that the sun is setting at a different time each day.   Using my analogue clock I show my students the time of our first investigation and then change the time for each day of the month. My students notice that the sun is setting later and later. Have you ever wondered how much sunlight or daylight we get each day? It looks like the sun is setting later and later. Do you think there is a pattern to the amount of hours the Sun is out each day or even each month? I allow my students share their ideas and thinking with their turn and talk partners.

Wow! Many of you started making predictions. You said you think the sun will continue to stay our later and later and later. Rylie, you said you think the sun will set later in the summer and early in the winter.  I wonder if our data will show the same thing? Today we are going to investigate this further! You will answer our question, "Is there a pattern to the amount of daylight we get each day, month or season?

I record our new question, "Is there a pattern to how much daylight we get each day, month or season?" under the "W-What are we still wondering" section of our KLEWS chart.


25 minutes

The Common Core asks students to use organize, represent, and interpret data from graphs. In this lesson students work in partnerships to read and interpret data to develop a claim about the predictable patterns of our sunrise and sunset.  Each partnership is given a copy of the Sunrise & Sunset Graph that shows the "average" sunset and sunrise time for each month. This graph does not accurately show daylight saving times hours and is based on Montana's schedule.  This information was taken from the Astronomical Applications Department or Weather Spark.

Boys and girls, you will need to look very closely at this graph and see if you can answer our question, "Is there a pattern to the amount of daylight we have each day, month or season?" You will have to look at this graph and try and figure out if you see a pattern.  This graph shows the sunrise and the sunset for each month.  If you look at the bottom of the graph you will see the months of the year: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September and October.  If you look at the side of the graph you will see the times of day.  If you see AM - that means before lunch and PM means after lunch.  As you are finding patterns, you might find one. When you tell me your pattern, you are making a claim.  When you show me your pattern on the graph, that will be your evidence.  A claim is a lot like your hypothesis.  A claim is your brain goes - AH-HA! I think I know the answer!!  Are you ready to make some claims as you investigate this graph today?

In this lesson I use the Project-Based Learning Model: Claim + Evidence + Reasoning = Explanation. As the students are working I ask them to record their "claims" in their science journals. A claim is the "what do you know" part of the cycle.  I try to guide my students to develop a claim that suggests the days get long and then short again.

As the students work, I act more as a facilitator. I walk around and confer with each partnership guiding behavior, ask probing questions, and redirecting the learning. Conferring is the process of listening and recording the work the student or students are doing and then compliment the work. As I listen, I research a teaching point and then work to provide clarification through questioning, modeling and re-teaching. My students notice things like, "In June and July the sunsets later and rises really early but in December the sunsets early and the sunrises late."

After giving my students enough time to develop a claim, I bring the class back together for a group share.  I listen in on students share their claims in a whole group setting.  I ask them to show me their evidence using the the Sunset, Sunrise Graph.

Boys and girls as you share your claim or idea, I want you to use your graph to show me how you discovered this new information. My students say, I notice that there is a lot of daylight in the summer but not in the winter. 

Video:  Claim 1, Claim 2, Claim3, Claim 4

Right now with your turn and talk partner please share how you came up with this claim: There is a lot of daylight in the summer but not in the winter. 

After a few moments of sharing, I bring my class back together and show them a new graph.

I want my students to investigate the average weather in each of the four seasons and compare that to our findings from our Sunrise, Sunset Chart. I begin this section by giving my students photographs that can be grouped into the seasons.

Boys and girls, each of you have a photo in your hand. Your job is to figure out where your photo belongs: Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall. Look closely at your photo. Are there any clues that could help you? I have each child glue their photograph in the correct spot on our Seasons Anchor chart.

Weather changes from day to day but also from season to season. You can even predict the weather for each season. In Montana the summer is warm and in winter the weather is cold. Today I am going to give you a weather graph and your job is to compare it to the Sunset and Sunrise graph.  Are there any patterns that you notice?  Your job is to see if there is any new information that can help you solve our question:  Is there a pattern to the amount of daylight we get each day, month or season?

I send my students off with the Average Monthly Temperatures and ask them to compare this graph to the Sunrise & Sunset Graph.  As they are working I walk around and scaffold the conversations. I guide my students to observe the predictable pattern of when the days are longer the weather is warmer and when the days are shorter the weather is colder. 


10 minutes

As I bring my students back together to share our findings, my students are SO excited about the patterns they noticed.  They share things like, when it is warmer the days are longer and when it is colder the days are shorter.

Boys and girls, each of you have found that that their is a pattern to how much daylight we get each day, month or season.  I take 3 or 4 of the Sunrise Sunset charts and tape them together.  I show my students this new graph and tell them that the first graph is from when they were 4, and then the next graph is from they were 5 and so on and so on.  I ask my students to think about this new idea. I give them a few minutes of wait time until I have most students signalling with a thumbs up that they are ready with an idea.  At this point, I ask my students to share their new thinking with their turn and talk partner.

I bring my students back together and use these graphs to explain how the seasonal patterns continue as well as the sunrise and sunset pattern.

We fill in our new learning under the Evidence and Learning sections of our KLEWS chart.


10 minutes

In order to develop a culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration. I begin this lesson activating prior knowledge for my young students with this fun video about the seasons.

There are two videos that are great tools for elaborating on the learning that has taken place in our classroom today. This one is free to the public.

After the video I show my students the tilt of the globe and explain where the pole and the equator are located.  I ask my students to stand up and pretend to be the Earth. I ask them to show my a tilt and then play a a quick game of Simon Says. 

Simon says, "Put your hands on your equator."  ...Antarctica, The Arctic, the poles, the North Pole, etc. 


5 minutes

The Science and Engineering Practice 4 asks students to analyze data. At the K-2 level this involves students collecting, recording, and sharing observations. In this lesson the students are recording information, thoughts and ideas in their science journals.

I send my students back to their science journals and ask them to write about our investigation today.

Boys and girls you learned a lot in our investigation today.  Please record any new learning after watching our video and be sure to include a detailed illustration.

I use my Document Camera to show students examples of quality scientific writing and illustrations to act as model for students needing extra support.