Day One of Plaid Pete's Star Lab

16 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT support an argument that differences in the apparent brightness of the sun compared to other stars is due to their relative distances from Earth.

Big Idea

What is a star? How are stars formed? Students begin this series of lessons in Plaid Pete's Star Lab by examining inquiry charts that help them learn about the lifecycle of a star.

Setting Up the Investigation

This is Day One of a Four Day Investigation.

On this day one, students will engage in a guided exploration where they learn about the life cycle of a star.  On the second day, students will further their understanding of stars by exploring the concepts of magnitude and luminosity. This will lead students to consolidate what they have learned to make a claim supported by evidence.  Finally, students will explore the different patterns of constellations of stars in the night sky created by the rotation of Earth upon its axis.

Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards

In this investigation, students continue the work that will lead them to explore the Disciplinary Core Idea of Earth's Place in the Universe:  The Universe and its Stars -  that the sun is a star that appears larger and brighter than other stars because it's closer, and stars range greatly in their distance from Earth. (5-ESS1-1); Earth and the Solar System - that 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. (5-ESS1-2); Motion and Stability:  Forces and Interactions - that the gravitational force of Earth acting on an object near Earth's surface pulls that object towards the planet's center.  (5-PS2-1) and the Crosscutting Concept of Patterns  - Similarities and differences in patterns can be used to sort, classify, communicate and analyze simple rates of change for natural phenomena. (5-ESS1-1); Scale, Proportion, and Quantity - Natural objects exist from the very small to the immensely large (5-ESS1-1); and Cause and Effect - Cause and effect relationships are routinely identified and used to explain change (5-PS2-1).

Please Note:  The Lexile Level for Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe - Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 8  is 830 (5th Grade Range is 740 - 1010).

The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 10 minutes.  There is a one time preparation of the inquiry charts and labels of approximately 20 minutes.

Materials Needed:

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 8

One copy of Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe Inquiry Charts - Lesson 8 (I copied these in color on 11x17 ledger paper and laminated them)

One set of Plaid Pete is Finding Earth’s Place in the Universe Inquiry Chart Labels - Lesson 8 (I copied these on card stock, cut them out, and laminated them)  

One copy of Plaid Pete is Finding Earth’s Place in the Universe Inquiry Chart Key - Lesson 8 (The shapes on the posters correspond to the shapes on the key to identify the stage of the star)

One copy of Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe Word Wall Cards - Lesson 8

One paper copy for each student of Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe Word Wall Cards - Lesson 8

Focus & Motivation

10 minutes

Introduce the Scenario

I tell my students, "Plaid Pete is at it again!  This time, He's not getting into trouble for something he did do, but for something he didn't do!"   I ask my students, "How many of you have ever had that happen?"   I look before me and there is a sea of raised hands.  I tell them, "Let's read and find out what this is all about, and maybe we will learn what today's lesson is about as well."

Students Read the Scenario in their Teams

I pass out one copy to each of my students of Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 8.  They get their highlighters ready to highlight the text so that they can read it "Reader's Theater" style.  I tell them there are 3 parts today - Plaid Pete, Seth, and a narrator.

When my students have finished, I ask them to answer the question that is located at the bottom of the sheet:  What do you know about stars now?  List any new ideas you have learned below.  

I will quickly scan these as I collect them from students.  I know that my students have acquired some knowledge since the beginning of the unit.  Their answers today will give me some idea for questions to ask them as we progress with the lesson.  I will look back at their pre-assessments and the answer to the question about stars, comparing them to this sheet. This will also give me an idea of where to place the focus for my lesson tomorrow.  In order for my students to understand the reason behind concepts like magnitude and luminosity, they first must understand the source of energy within stars for that light. The question has also come up about whether or not there is gravity in space - and a few students have answered a resounding no.  This tells me that we have work to do!

I come across this student's sheet as I am combing through them and it makes my heart sing!

Learning Objective & Success Criteria

Note:  Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now including a language objective with each lesson.  These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.

I share the learning objective and success criteria and explain that we will be working on this today and tomorrow - so that they should have achieved these objectives by the end of this series of lessons:  

Learning Objective:  I can support an argument that differences in the apparent brightness of the sun compared to other stars is due to their relative distances from Earth.

Language Objective:  I can analyze and interpret data in order to engage in an argument from evidence.  [ELP.4-5.7]

Success Criteria:  I can correctly complete my lab sheet, analyzing the data, and constructing an argument supported by evidence with my team.

Guided Exploration

35 minutes

Introduce the Task

(Note:  The Symbols on the Charts correspond to the Inquiry Chart Key)

I have placed the Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe Inquiry Charts - Lesson 8 around the room, taped to the walls and cupboard doors.  I have placed my students in groups of 3.  They have used inquiry charts before, but it has been quite some time, so I explain the procedure.  I say, "Just like you and I, stars have a life cycle - they are young, grow older, and eventually die.  These inquiry charts represent the stages in the life cycle of stars.  Just as important as the fact that they have these stages or steps in their life cycle, is the fact that certain things occur or happen during these stages.  I will give you approximately 3 minutes for each chart.  Your job is to discuss with your team what you notice about the pictures.  Ask yourselves the questions, 'What stage does this picture represent?  What might be happening during this stage?'  I have given each of you a different colored marking pen.  Please share the pen.  Each person should have 2 or 3 opportunities to write your groups responses."  

I don't expect that most of my students will have any background knowledge about the life cycle of a star.  That is the wonderful thing about using the strategy of Inquiry Charts - they are designed to be used at the beginning of a unit to assist students in building background and generating language about content that they are unfamiliar with.  This is done prior to instruction.  That way, when it comes time to begin engaging students in discussion, all students have some language to participate.

Immediately, one student comments, "But one of the charts doesn't have any pictures on it."  I respond, "I know."  They give me a puzzled look, but I prompt them to comment on it anyway.  I have given each group a different colored Vis a Vis marker so that I know which group has made which comment.  As they work together, I listen in, as well as prompt them to really look at the pictures and not settle for the first quick answer.  In this Video Clip 1 this pair (along with previous pairs) is fairly convinced the pictures on this chart represent the end of a star's life.  Perhaps they came up with this idea on their own, or maybe they copied what the previous groups have listed - but they were interacting with information in some capacity!  In this Video Clip 2, this group also has some ideas, and some misconceptions.  However, the discussion about the ideas they have is vitally important to the process.  This discussion will pave the way for building their concepts about stars.

After all groups have finished, I ask my groups to be seated.  I share out some of the answers from the charts.

Label the Charts

After we have discussed a few of the responses, I tell my students, "I have some labels here that go with each chart.  I am going to read them to you.  When I am finished, I will ask each group to randomly pick one of the labels.  It will be your groups job to find the chart that you believe your label goes with and use a piece of tape to affix the label to the bottom of the chart."  I read the Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe Inquiry Charts - Lesson 8 and then mix up the labels and place them face down, fanning them out like a deck of cards.  I ask teams to choose a label.  There is a buzz of activity as students fan out looking for the chart that matches their label.  When they have completed this task, I say, "Hmmm . . . I am wondering if perhaps we might need a little more information.  Let's see if that will help us because I think a few of these were tricky."


10 minutes

Play Podcast

I tell my students, "When you want to get expert information - go to the experts!  So, I am going to play a podcast from an astronomer who works with NASA, the National Aeronautical and Space Administration."  I play the podcast Ask An Astronomer:  How Do Stars Live and Die? from  

After the podcast is completed, I direct my students' attention to the inquiry charts.  We read through each of the charts and labels, deciding which ones fit.  When a label does not fit, we set it aside and move on to the others.  Finally, we have just a few charts where we have to analyze the pictures and compare them with the labels.  

I say, "Now that we have some understanding of how stars are formed and their life cycles - let's learn some of the vocabulary that we will need in this next series of investigations."

Vocabulary Instruction

10 minutes

Consistent with the 5E Model for Science Instruction, I have provided a hands-on opportunity before introducing vocabulary. 

Introduce Vocabulary

I present the words from the Plaid Pete is Finding Earth's Place in the Universe Word Wall Cards - Lesson 8 using the following instructional routine.

  1. Say the word to students.
  2. Ask students to repeat the word at least 5 times.  For example, I will say, "Say it to the window.  Say it to my hand.  Say it to the door.  Say it to the ceiling."
  3. I say the word in context.  For example, I will say, " The position the plants were placed in was one of the controlled variables in the video."  
  4. I will then randomly call on a student to use the word in a sentence, giving successive prompts to assist them, if needed.

Science Notebooks

I use the following routine to have students write these words into their Science Notebooks:

After introducing the words, I demonstrate for students how to make a three column table with rows for each of the eight vocabulary words.  I model for them in my own Science Notebook how to write the word in the first box, a non-linguistic (e.g. picture) representation of the word in the second box, and work with the class to generate an example sentence for the first word in the third box. Students cut out their copies of the cards and place in the envelope, which they glue on the page behind their table.  They will finish sentences for the remaining seven words either for homework, or for seat-work later.  A completed notebook will look like this Example.

Reflection & Closure

5 minutes

Burning Questions Chart

I pass out Post-It Notes to each of my teams and call their attention to our Burning Questions Chart.  We have been collecting questions throughout the lessons of this unit.  We check to see if there are any questions that we can answer through our work today.  

My students are asking some great questions!  Some we can answer and some we can't.

I direct my students to write their new burning questions on their Post-Its and we place them on the chart, eager to find out if tomorrow's lesson will provide their answers!