Phases Of The Moon

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SWBAT create a model to show how the regular motions of the Moon cause Moon phases.

Big Idea

The phases of the Moon depend on how much of the sunlit side of the Moon faces Earth. Students create a model to show the changes that occur as a result of the movement of the Moon.

Bell Ringer - Phases Of The Moon

10 minutes

The Universe: The Phases Of The Moon

Before viewing the video:

First, I use the Association Triangle Strategy with students to help them associate three important words from the lesson. This Bell Ringer strategy will bridge conceptual knowledge and create a deeper understanding of vocabulary words. I ask students to see relationships among important vocabulary from the lesson such as: Moon, Sun, and phases. This strategy is similar to a Three Ring Venn Diagram strategy.

After viewing the video:

Then, I ask students to take 1 minute to complete their Association Triangle. Students should have one sentence on each connecting line of the triangle. The sentence should incorporate the two terms that are connected.

Next, I ask students to take 1 minute to Turn and Talk with their partner to share their sentences. After sharing, I encourage students to develop one sentence for the middle of the triangle that would incorporate all three terms (Moon, phases, Sun). I take 1 more minute to share the (middle) sentences with the class. Letting other students hear these sentences builds vocabulary skills, thinking skills, and confidence. Some good sentences include: 

  • The Moon changes phases because of the Sun.
  • The Sun causes the different phases of the Moon.
  • The Sun and Moon work together to make the phases.

Model: Phases Of The Moon

25 minutes

Phases of the Moon

After reading about the Phases of the Moon in a textbook, Tradebook, or other non-fiction text, I want students to develop a model of the phases. Developing a model (SP#2) will help students to describe and predict phenomena, bring certain features into focus, and represent a system such as the Phases of the Moon. Models (CCC#4) can be used to represent systems and their interactions such as processes (phases of the moon).

I ask students to create their model using a black strip of construction paper and white colored pencil. Using these supplies will make this phenomena an interesting and understandable visual aide. Students will use the model to describe the cyclic patterns that occur (MS-ESS1-1 Earth's Place in the Universe).

This lesson also focuses on SP#6 construct an explanation for causes of phenomena. Students will construct their model of the Phases of the Moon and explain the phases. Later, this will help students define the importance of their model to the Earth-Sun-Moon. When students model with mathematics, they (MP#4) show changes that occur in a particular time period, which in this model is about 29.5 days (amount of time for moon to complete all 8 phases). Patterns (CCC#1) are also addressed in the learning. Patterns such as Phases of the Moon exist everywhere in regularly occurring shapes and in repeating patterns.

What Did You Learn?

5 minutes

What Did You Learn?

I ask students to reflect on the lesson by having them complete the sentence starter "I learned. . . .because. . ." on the back of the worksheet. Sentence starters provide a frame of a complete sentence and add rigor to the writing. This is especially helpful for Special Education and ELL students.

I want students to write quietly for 2 - 3 minutes. As part of a school wide writing goal, I remind students to use TCA's (Target Correction Areas) such as a capital letter, correct end punctuation, and a complete sentence. 

Some student responses include: 

  • I learned that the Moon changes because part of it is light by the Sun.
  • I learned that waxing and waning can determine ow much of the moon we can see because waxing means gradually growing larger and waning means gradually growing smaller.
  • I learned that it takes two weeks for a full moon to appear because the moon has to revolve around the Earth.
  • I learned that the moon has 8 different phases because the Sun makes the Moon have different phases.
  • I learned that the Moon has no light because the Moon gets its light from the Sun.


Student answers are important and will be addresses in the next lesson(s). This is a formative assessment strategy that will provide feedback to guide my future instruction. It's important to give students a few minutes to process their thoughts and write their response. It's best practice.