The Big Bang

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SWBAT identify the Big Bang as a current major theory as to the creation of the universe SWBAT identify two (2) primary pieces of evidence that support the Big Bang including red shift and cosmic background radiation

Big Idea

Students identify the two main pieces of evidence to support the Big Bang, as well as holistically exploring the Big Bang as a cosmological theory of the beginning of the universe

Lesson Introduction

One of my favorite lessons, this densely packed (get it?!) lesson features a ton of information - we talk about the process of the Big Bang, how it led to the "start" of the universe, and most importantly (from a Regents perspective), the two main pieces of evidence that scientists use to support the Big Bang - cosmic background radiation and red-shifting of distant galaxies. As a note, this is optional, but a loud object (such as an airhorn) is a great demo to use with your students. 

Materials: (optional)

  • Airhorn, audio clip, or object capable of demonstrating the Doppler Effect

[Note: For embedded comments, checks for understanding (CFUs), and key additional information on transitions and key parts of the lesson not necessarily included in the below narrative, please download the following document to access comments: 8.1 - The Big Bang (Whole Lesson w/comments). Additionally, if you would like all of the resources together in a PDF document, that can be accessed as a complete resource here: 8.1 - The Big Bang (Whole Lesson)[PDF]. Finally, students may need their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] for parts of the lesson (a document used widely in the New York State Earth Science Regents course) as well.]

Do Now

10 minutes

Students come in silently and complete the (attached) Do Now. In this case, the Do Now is a review of material and some "hot standards" from earlier units in addition to some needed review on material from the current unit on Meteorology. After time expires (anywhere from 2-4 minutes depending on the type of Do Now and number of questions), we collectively go over the responses (usually involving a series of cold calls and/or volunteers), before I call on a student and ask them to read the objective out loud to start the lesson.

As a general note, the Do Now serves a few purposes:

  1. It serves as a general review of the previous day's material;
  2. It is a re-activation of student knowledge to get them back into "student mode" and get them thinking about science after transitioning from another content area or alternate class;
  3. As a strategy for reviewing material students have struggled with (for example, using this as a focused review for material that they have struggled with on unit assessments or recent quizzes); and,

It is an efficient and established routine for entering the classroom that is repeated each day with fidelity (I never let students enter the classroom talking. While it may seem potentially severe to have students enter silently each day, this is both a school wide expectation and a key component of my classroom. In many respects, I find that students readily enjoy the focus that starting with a quiet classrooms brings each day).

Introduction & Notes

10 minutes

With the first lesson in the unit, I start it off with a pretty big question, which is posted for your use on the first page of the Introduction & Notes resource - "How did the universe get here?"

After giving them a few seconds to discuss with a partner, I take a few responses (many of which are quite creative). I then introduce the topic by re-stating the commonly held theory of the Big Bang is one of several, but currently the most generally supported theory as to the start of the universe as we know it. As we then transition to the Notes section on the second page of the Introduction & Notes resource, I have them watch a brief BrainPop clip on the Big Bang (see Reflection for further context here)(Note: I can't really embed the video as it's behind a sign up wall, but see the Reflection for more information. Also, the Word document in the Lesson Introduction section has the answers inserted as comments, if you'd like to see an answer key for the blanks in the Notes section).

Evidence of the Big Bang

20 minutes

In the next section, aside from learning historically about the Big Bang, students examine the two fundamental pieces of evidence used to support the Big Bang: (1) cosmic background radiation; and (2) red-shifting of distant galaxies. Similarly to previous texts, they're tasked with reading the passage together with a partner and identifying the two main pieces of evidence on the following page via the Evidence of the Big Bang resource. Below, you'll see a brief video of two of my students working together on this.

Again, I'm trying to distill in this lesson the most important and essential facts they need to know, without going too far off the deep end into content that isn't appropriate or required in the course. 

As an added note, one thing that they traditionally need a bit of help with is this idea of the Doppler Effect. It's hard to explain through text or images, so giving them an authentic enough experience is helpful. For example, this website has some good sounds to play, and there are a few Youtube videos (embedded below) which you may want to play for the class as well.

(a humorous take)

However, my favorite demo (perhaps the funnest one ever - the kids love it, although I sadly didn't get a video) is to take them outside to an open area, and either yourself or have a kid run by with an air horn (Note: This can be very distracting to classes and homes nearby as the product I purchased is extremely loud - just a warning) to experience it for themselves. Obviously this is space, area, and weather-dependent,  but I had the opportunity to do it, and it's really funny and very enlightening for the kiddos to hear it for themselves. I played a couple audio clips (including the one from the Big Bang Theory) to give them an idea on what to listen to, and then brought them outside to do the demo at the front of the school (luckily, it was a nice day outside). Again, if you're doing it near a school, give the teachers in other classes a bit of a warning to either close their windows and/or blinds. Below, I added a brief reflection on this idea - of making lessons "sticky" for kids. This comes from the Chip & Dan Heath, authors (and brothers) who write books about social phenomena and the mind. It's really interesting, and they wrote a free article called Teaching That Sticks that I'm also attaching. Definitely check it out if you have the chance to!


15 minutes

The Practice section in this lesson is, like the vast majority of questions found in all of my classwork and homework, is 100% Regents-based. All of the questions come from prior Regents examinations. Likewise, as I try to generally do with all of my lessons, the questions are mostly organized to get increasingly more difficult and increase in complexity, which is why the harder questions tend to come toward the end. 

In terms of student work habits, I tend to sometimes make this decision in the moment, and as a response of what I know about the students and how they're processing the material on, but I'll either ask them to work independently, in partners, or (sometimes) give them the option. 

Usually, before starting practice, we tend to go over some steps for self-help ("What should you do if you're stuck?"), and I might reference a previously used multiple-choice or free response strategy in order to build their skills while simultaneously learning content (as an example - one popular one we always use - "If you aren't sure what the right answer is, see if you can eliminate some wrong answer choices"). I tend to circulate for compliance and then hone in on specific students while they're doing this. As an added piece of rationale, I captured this photo (Student Group Work), which shows two of my students working on the Practice section of the lesson, but when they were stuck, Katherine was able to refer back to her notes to answer the question correctly, as well as explain to her partner Christopher what the right answer actually was!

After about 10 minutes, we go over their responses. Students who finish early are encouraged to work on the exit ticket (resource below) and double-check their responses. We use a combination of strategies (active voting, cold calling, popsicle sticks, volunteers) to go over the responses, where students correct their work and ask any clarifying questions. 

Exit Ticket & Closing

5 minutes

In the last few minutes of class, I have students complete the daily Exit Ticket. For the sake of time, I have students grade them communally, with a key emphasis on particular questions and items that hit on the key ideas of the lesson (Note: This usually manifests as students self-grading, or having students do a "trade and grade" with their table partners). After students grade their exit tickets, they usually pass them in (so that I can analyze them) and track their exit ticket scores on a unit Exit Ticket Tracker. 

After students take a few seconds to track their scores, we usually wrap up in a similar way. I give students time to pack up their belongings, and I end the class at the objective, which is posted on the whiteboard, and ask students two questions:

  • Do you feel that you mastered the objective for the day?
  • Can you reiterate one thing you learned about (in this case, information on evidence of the Big Bang, etc.)?

Once I take 2-3 individual responses (sometimes I'll ask for a binary "thumbs up/thumbs down" or something similar), I have students leave once the bell rings.