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SWBAT relate the amount of daylight to the changing seasons.

Big Idea

Challenge your scientists today with the question: How does the amount of daylight affect the seasons?

Instructional Notes

This unit is a mini-unit that can be taught directly after Space Part 1 or independently.  I chose to teach the Space Part 1 unit (also here on BetterLesson!) during January, and then Space Part 2 in late May.  

Space Part 1 addresses the following NGSS standard:

1-ESS1-1. Use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted. 

This mini-unit addresses this additional standard:

1-ESS1-2. Make observations at different times of year to relate the amount of daylight to the time of year.

It becomes so clear to children that days are getting longer in the Spring and Summer, which makes this a perfect time to analyze data about the amount of daylight in different seasons.  Also, now having lived through multiple seasons with my students, we can share common experiences (remember when snow covered the playground *forever*!?!).

In this lesson, we use video resources with models of the Earth's rotation and tilt to get to the "why's" behind the seasons.  We separate the year into the seasons, and then compare and contrast them.  The amount of daylight directly affects how the natural world changes in different seasons.


5 minutes

In this lesson, we return to the objective from a previous lesson, which uses language pulled straight from the standards, "We will make observations at different times of the year in order to show different amounts of daylight."  During the previous lesson, we predicted that summer would have the most daylight.

In today's lesson, I want to dig a little deeper into the concept that the changing amounts of daylight and rotation and tilt of the earth are the causes of changes in the seasons.  These are complicated concepts for adults, much less first graders.  I do not expect all children to master the ideas; this is initial exposure to help aid future understandings.  

To begin today, I facilitate a shared reading of the previous objective, as well as the anchor chart we created previously.  Then, I ask students, "Why does the amount of daylight change?"  This question sets our purpose for the day, to understand the why's behind the seasons and relate the amount of daylight to them.


30 minutes

During the lesson, students watch two videos.  NGSS Science & Engineering Practice #8 Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information includes not only watching videos or reading informational texts, but also evaluating them.  Did this source help answer my question?  Which video best helps me answer my question? See another lesson evaluating videos here, also on! 

I pose the question, "Why do we have seasons?," which children record at the top of the page as they take notes in science journals during the videos.

I chose videos from the following two sites: 

  • Kid's Astronomy has a video with a computer model showing the movement of the Earth around the sun.  However, the model is difficult to understand.
  • Brainpop Junior has a great video about the seasons which gives a description of each season and has a very child-friendly model of the Earth's movement.  Brainpop does require a subscription, and I encourage you to check with your district to see if they subscribe!  One best practice while watching BrainPop videos is to put on the closed captioning and to pause the video as students request it, so that they can copy down key terms or information.

After watching each video, I ask students to turn-and-talk with a partner to share their ideas.  This gives all students the opportunity to engage with the question, use science vocabulary, and get their thoughts in order.    Here, first graders share their thinking comparing two videos. 

The turn-and-talk strategy also allows students to practice speaking and listening skills, like presenting an idea and agreeing or disagreeing with peers.  Then, I call on students to share their ideas.  I make a list of the ideas on chart paper.

Check out some amazing student work, including diagrams as the children understand the movement of the earth, and notes!


5 minutes

In closing, after students evaluate which video best helps them understand why we have seasons, we revisit the objective.  I ask, "How does the amount of daylight change what happens in each season?" and "What is happening that causes the seasons?"  Students turn-and-talk to restate this information to a partner, and I call on a few to share their ideas in summary with the class.