Introduction to Earth's Place in the Universe: Preassessment

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Objective

SWBAT demonstrate their prior knowledge about Earth's Place in the Universe.

Big Idea

What do students already know about Earth, the solar system, and the universe? Students take a pre-assessment that will be used to inform instruction.

Unit Explanation

Unit Rationale

The Next Generation Science Standards indicate that students should have acquired the ability to describe and predict patterns of motion of the sun, moon, and stars and other natural phenomena in grades K-4.  However, many students may not yet have had the opportunities to enable them to do these things.  The pre-assessment for this unit will identify students' pre and mis conceptions, and the first few lessons of the unit will provide foundational understandings.

Big Ideas In This Unit 

#1 The Sun is our closest star, and is the central and largest body in our solar system.  

#2 Regular and predictable patterns of motion of Earth and the moon, relative to the sun, can be described as a result of the force of gravity.  These movements are responsible for the natural phenomena that occur on our planet (e.g. day, night, shadows, moon phases, seasons, etc.).

Note:  The assessment boundary for 5th Grade for the Next Generation Science Standards is limited to the causes of day/night, months/years, and shadows, but does not include the cause of the seasons of the year. However, as this topic is addressed in the Middle School Standards, it will be introduced in this Unit.

Next Generation Science Standards Addressed by this Unit:

Disciplinary Core Ideas:

5-ESS1.A The sun is a star that appears larger and brighter than other stars because it is closer.  Stars range greatly in their distance from Earth.

5-ESS2.B The orbits of Earth around the sun and of the moon around Earth, together with the rotation of Earth about an axis between its North and South poles, cause observable patterns.  These include day and night; daily changes in the length and direction of shadows; and different positions of the sun, moon, and stars at different times of the day, month, and year.

Crosscutting Concepts:

Patterns

Similarities and differences in patterns can be used to sort, classify, communicate and analyze simple rates of change for natural phenomena.

Scale, Proportion, & Quantity

Natural objects exist from the very small to the immensely large.

Pre-Assessment

50 minutes

Introduce the Unit

I tell my students that today we are beginning a new unit:  Plaid Pete Finds Earth's Place in the Universe.

I tell them that just like with our previous unit, I need to have some understanding of what they already know.  They are now accustomed to my pre-assessments and understand that this is not graded.

Pre-Assessment

I hand out the Plaid Pete Finds Earth's Place in the Universe Pre-Assessment to my students. I want to ensure that reading is not a barrier to their understanding, so I read the assessment to them and ask them to complete it to the best of their ability.  I know that my students will most likely have some ideas about these topics, although many may not have formal academic understandings.  In order to reveal my students' pre and misconceptions, I have designed the questions on this pre-assessment to be as open ended as possible.

Common Misconceptions

There are some common misconceptions that students have regarding Earth in Space Science that I will look for on this pre-assessment, and keep in mind as I teach this unit.  They include the following:

  • The sun is not a star.
  • The sun disappears at night.
  • The Earth is the center of the solar system.
  • The sun revolves around the Earth.
  • Day and night are caused by the sun going around the Earth.
  • The solar system contains only the sun, the planets, and the moon.
  • All the stars are the same size.
  • All the stars are the same distance from the Earth.
  • The Earth is larger than the sun.
  • The phases of the moon are caused by a shadow from the Earth.
  • You can only see the moon at night.
  • The shape of the moon changes.
  • The moon does not rotate.
  • The moon makes light the same way the sun does.
  • The moon goes around the Earth in a single day.
  • Seasons are caused by the Earth's distance from the sun.
  • The "Big Dipper" is a constellation.
  • Stars and constellations appear in the same place in the sky every night.


I collect the written assessments and score them by comparing them to the Learning Progression Rubric for Earth's Place in the Universe. I have simply copied the Disciplinary Core Ideas and Crosscutting Concepts of The Next Generation Science Standards in a format so that I can compare my students' responses to determine where their understandings fall on the continuum between what they should already know, the ideas they need to master this year, and what they will be expected to master in the next few years in Middle School.  I am primarily looking to see if students have some general understanding that there are observable patterns with regard to the sun, moon and stars.  I also want to know if there are students that have already acquired some grade level concepts, and who will therefore need differentiation in order to meet their needs.

In this screencast of student pre-assessment, I notice a common misconception.  While there are few precursor skills to this NGSS standard (as seen on the Learning Progression Rubric), I would hope that some of my students would have some idea about predictable patterns of the sun, moon and Earth.  There are very few indications of that on these pre-assessments. I have a lot of foundation to build!

Setting the Stage

15 minutes

Science Notebooks

We prepare our Science Notebooks for our new unit.  First, we write the unit name and big ideas on the next clean page of our Science Notebooks.  This will be the first page of our new unit.  At the end of the unit, students will come back and create an illustration(s) representing what they learned in this unit.  

Since this unit will have 2 big ideas, I have students watch as I model dividing  the page in half and writing the following on the top section:  

#1 The Sun is our closest star, and is the central and largest body in our solar system.  

Then on the bottom half I write:

#2 Regular and predictable patterns of motion of Earth and the moon, relative to the sun, can be described as a result of the force of gravity.  These movements are responsible for the natural phenomena that occur on our planet (e.g. day, night, shadows, moon phases, seasons, etc.).