This the first lesson in the unit aligned to the Essential Science Standard 1.E.1 Recognize the features and patterns of the earth/moon/sun system as observed from the Earth. Click here to listen to my Explanation of Essential Standards and Essential Question. Since this is an introductory lesson, the essential question is 'What do I know about the Earth, moon, and sun?'
In this lesson, students will be exposed to common models of the Earth, moon, and sun that they will see throughout the unit in media and texts so that they will be able to recognize them as they encounter them. This builds their communal background knowledge before diving into the objectives which become more specific about the scientific content to be taught.
* 1/2 piece of copy paper per student
*Introduction to the Earth, Sun, and Moon PowerPoint
*1 piece of chart paper for class questions
To get started with this unit, I first give a pretest to find out what my students know about the Earth, moon, sun, and stars. I say,
"Our question for today is 'What do I know about the Earth, moon, and sun?' This is because we are starting a new unit on those specific things which are parts of the Solar System! Before we begin learning about science, I need to find out what you already know so that I can determine what to teach you. So, I need you to write down everything you already know about the Earth, the moon, stars, and the sun. If you have any diagrams that you can add, put those on the pretest, too. We'll take a few minutes to do this and then we will move on."
For the pretest, I give each student a half sheet of blank paper. I instruct them to draw four columns and label each one. I chose to give blank white paper so that students could have space to write and draw if they chose to.
After I see that everyone has had time to think and list what they know, I collect the papers and ask my students to share what they wrote so that I have an immediate response about what they think they know going into this first lesson. As students share, I listen for similarities in what students know--and what they think they know but do not quite understand. I also listen closely for misconceptions so that I can make sure to address those in future lessons!
Then I say,
"Good scientists always ask lots of questions, so I am sure you have some! What do you want to know about the Earth, sun, moon, and stars? Take a minute or two and start your own list of questions in your journals, then we will share questions and I will make us a class list".
After a few minutes, my students share their questions and I write them on a list that I will keep up in the room throughout the unit. I find that keeping a list of questions up helps me to target my lessons to my students' interests and keeps them focused much more easily! I also refer back to the list frequently throughout the unit to show students how much they are learning! Asking scientific questions building on prior experiences to find out more about the natural world supports Science and Engineering Practice 1.
To introduce images and models of the Earth, moon, and sun I show a PowerPoint that I created with lots of graphics to show my students examples of the Earth, moon, and sun. This builds background knowledge so that when they see these images over the next several lessons they will know which one (Earth, sun, or moon) we are talking about. As I show each slide, I introduce what it is and whether it is a photograph, a drawing, or a model. I try to be as explicit as possible about how the image was developed because I do not want students to develop a misunderstanding that the images of the solar system are real photographs, for example.
This activity really supports Science and Engineering Practice 2, 'Developing and Using Models', as students are learning about the different types of models used by scientists. Practice 2 calls for students to use and develop models including diagrams, drawings, physical replicas, dioramas, dramatizations, or storyboards that represent concrete events or design solutions. As students work towards developing their own models, they need experience looking at lots of examples and in this activity I take time to really explain to my students how scientists developed and use each type of model.
After I finish the PowerPoint, I say,
"Do you have more questions about the Earth, moon, and sun now? If you do, add them to your question list!"
Then I invite students to share more questions!
To wrap up this lesson, I say,
"We are going to be spending a few weeks learning about the solar system. If you find any resources like books, magazines, or websites, remember to bring them in so we can share them!"
I think it is really important to point out to my students that they are also able to find important resources that we can share together and learn from, so we end with that!