Solar Panel Technology

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SWBAT support a position regarding funding the research and development of solar panel technology.

Big Idea

Where should the money go? Students explore how solar panel technology is growing but is it fast enough? Should the government fun solar panel research?


5 minutes

An interesting thing happened when I conducted my lesson on solar panels. Many students felt that solar energy would be the energy of the future if the technology could advance. I designed this lesson to offer students the opportunity to explore the technology of solar panels. 

My first strategy is a real life application. I give the students the following scenario: 

The government is trying to decide how to allocate money for energy. They have money from the lottery that they can use in a variety of ways. Energy Research and Development companies are working to compete for this money. Two companies have made the list. The first is a coal company that wants to develop environmentally better ways to extract the coal from the ground.  The other company wants to develop better solar panel technologies.

You are a Congressperson. You are on the Energy Committee and your research team has been assigned to learn more about the solar panel technology in an effort to decide how to spend the money.  

I ask, "Could this happen in real life? Why or why not?" Then I ask, "Why is energy an important controversy in Congress?" My intention is to help students develop questions that Congress people might ask about factors contributing to climate change. I want students to understand that policy makers have to keep in mind how using fossil fuels have contributed to global warming because they allocate funds for research. 



30 minutes

I give the students an article about solar panel technology written by Environment 360, from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences. I use a vocabulary Dig strategy to help my students get past the scientific words. In this strategy students circle words someone may not know. They write the words on a piece of paper. I collect the paper and we discuss the definitions of the words and how the words were used in the article. I then add the words to my Word Wall as a visual reference for when they begin the writing component of the lesson. 

After looking for unknown vocabulary, students annotate the article. I like to use a Jigsaw strategy on longer articles because it gives the students an opportunity to collaborate.



I ask them to read one section of the article and make three annotations. The first annotation is GoSP. This means the student found evidence in support of spending the money on solar panel technology. The second annotation is NoSP. This indicated that the evidence is in support of not giving money for solar panel technology. Finally I ask students to annotate with exclamation points for any interesting information. I ask them to determine interesting information because I am supporting student led learning. So many times students have to find answers to questions developed by teachers and tests. I want to give them the opportunity to tell me what they think is interesting. The student Solar Technology Annotations papers are filled with circles, boxes and annotations as the students skimmed and read over the article several times.  



15 minutes

For the last part of the lesson students record their annotations in the 3 x 3 box. I like to use the 3 x 3 box because it helps organize the information the students have read. This organizer helps makes the writing of a summary very easy. In the Solar Panel Technology student samples, you can see how I ask the students to find quotes in addition to organizing their annotations. Quotes make writing stronger so I ask students to find an expert quote from the article that would help make their position stronger. In the movie I am using a strategy of Real Life Application to offer the students an audience. 


The 3 x 3 Box looks like this: 

Go Solar Panels


No Solar Panels






Should the Government give money to research and development of solar panels?



Because this was a Jig Saw activity, it is time to share the group.  One student shares the Go Solar Panel bullet points as others listen to determine if they want to use the bullet point as one of their defenses. Students first decide which position they will defend. If they are Go Solar Panels, they read the bullet points from all like-minded group members together. Students write down the most persuasive information on their 3 x 3 Box collectively. 

This strategy demands a group critical analysis of information in the article in an effort to find the best defense for a position. I explain that groups do not have to use the same bullet points. If you feel strongly about a bullet point, others do not have to write it. 

With the annotations, students write a three to five sentence summary explaining if they feel the Congress should fund solar panel research and development. My strategy is Summary Writing. I like to use summaries for several reasons. Writing summaries is considered a best practice in instruction, proven to help students understand. In addition, teachers are required to show evidence of using Common Core Standards. This lesson authentically ties to a Science lesson. It's a win-win. In the power point called Solar Panel Technology Student Samples I kept the unedited summaries of the students.   

I helped students determine how to improve the summaries by reminding them to use Word Wall Words, by using a Gallery Walk so the students can peer edit, and by reminding hem how to use quotes and citations.