You Are My Sunshine- The Sun's Role

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SWBAT explain how we use the Sun's heat and light energy .

Big Idea

Students will use the sun's heat and light energy to change the color of beads.

Lesson Overview

5e Lesson Plan Model

Many of my science lessons are based upon and taught using the 5E lesson plan model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. This lesson plan model allows me to incorporate a variety of learning opportunities and strategies for students.  With multiple learning experiences, students can gain new ideas, demonstrate thinking, draw conclusions, develop critical thinking skills, and interact with peers through discussions and hands-on activities.  With each stage in this lesson model, I select strategies that will serve students best for the concepts and content being delivered to them.  These strategies were selected for this lesson to facilitate peer discussions, participation in a group activity, reflective learning practices, and accountability for learning.

Unit Focus  

The Out of This World-A Journey Through Our Solar System unit focuses on students recognizing that Earth is a part of the “solar system” that includes the sun, planets, moons, and stars and is the third planet from the sun. Through models, investigations, graphing, and computer simulations, students learn that Earth revolves around the sun in a year’s time, and rotates on its axis once approximately every 24 hours. They make connections between the rotation of the earth and day/night, and the apparent movement of the sun, moon, and stars across the sky, as well as changes that occur in the observable shape of the moon over a month. The unit wraps up as students learn about the brightness of stars, patterns they create in the sky, and why some stars and constellations can only be seen at certain times of the year.

Lesson Synopsis

In this lesson, You Are My Sunshine-The Sun's Role, I begin holding up a model of the Sun and ask students to describe it by creating a web in their interactive notebook. We discuss their descriptions and think about the ways the Sun is important to the Earth. Then I show them a quick video to give them more of a realistic snapshot of the characteristics of the Sun. We engage in a brief discussion after the video to help them synthesize their understanding. Once they develop an initial sense of the Sun, we read a small passage to learn more about the parts of the sun. Next, they construct a foldable for their notebook They apply what they have learned by constructing a 3-D model of the Sun and use it to discuss certain parts of the Sun and how it impacts Earth. From this discussion, we determine that light and heat from the Sun impact Earth. I have them investigate further the effects of light and heat from the sun by using solar beads. They observe the effects of the beads when they are under light and heat. The lesson ends with an exit ticket related to the the Sun.

Next Generation Science Standards  

This lesson will address and support future lessons on the following NGSS Standard(s):

  • 5-ESS1-1: Support an argument that the apparent brightness of the sun and stars is due to their relative distances from Earth.


  • 5-ESS1-2: Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky.

  • 5-PS2.1: Support an argument that the gravitational force exerted by Earth on objects is directed down.


Scientific & Engineering Practices

Students are engaged in the following scientific and engineering practices

2.) Developing and Using Models: Student create a 3-D model of the Sun to observe its structure to describe the energy it produces. Then they use solar beads to test the effects of the energy it gives off.

Crosscutting Concepts

The You Are My Sunshine-The Sun's Role lesson will correlate to other interdisciplinary areas.  These Crosscutting Concepts include:

2.) Cause and Effect:  Students use solar beads make observations to provide evidence of the effects caused by the Sun's light and heat energy.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas within this lesson include:

ESS1.A:  The Universe and its Stars

ESS1.B:  Earth and the Solar System


Classroom Management Considerations

Importance of Modeling to Develop Student

Responsibility, Accountability, and Independence 

Depending upon the time of year, this lesson is taught, teachers should consider modeling how groups should work together; establish group norms for activities, class discussions, and partner talks.  In addition, it is important to model think aloud strategies.  This sets up students to be more expressive and develop thinking skills during an activity.  The first half of the year, I model what group work and/or talks “look like and sound like.”  I intervene the moment students are off task with reminders and redirection.  By the second and last half of the year, I am able to ask students, “Who can give of three reminders for group activities to be successful?” Who can tell us two reminders for partner talks?”  Students take responsibility for becoming successful learners.  Again before teaching this lesson, consider the time of year, it may be necessary to do a lot of front loading to get students to eventually become more independent and transition through the lessons in a timely manner.



For time management purposes, I use “lab rats ” where each student has a number on the back of his or her chair, 1,2,3,4 (students sit in groups of 4)and displayed on the board.  For each activity I use lab rats, I switch up the roles randomly so students are experiencing different task responsibilities which include:  Director, Materials Manager, Reporter, and Technician.  It makes for smooth transitions and efficiency for set up, work, and clean-up.  


15 minutes

Activating Prior Knowledge

To begin, I display an image of the Sun from and ask: What am I holding and how would you describe it?"  I have students use their interactive notebook to write down ideas. Next, I have them do a turn and talk with their group and then ask each group to share something with the class. 

I move on and say:  "Our sun is one of many stars in our galaxy and plays an important part in Earth's existence." Here, I hold up a model of the Earth and ask: If the Sun is so much bigger than the Earth or any other planet, why does it look small in the sky? (I want them to make the connection that it appears smaller because of its distance from Earth.)

I ask: "How do you think the sun is important to the Earth?" We discuss as a class and add details about how the sun gives the Earth light and heat.) 

After gathering their initial thoughts, I direct them to the board to view Characteristics of the Sun. This is a quick minute and half video that gives students a snapshot description of the sun. 

Once the video ends, we have a brief discussion summarizing what they learned from the video using these

  • In terms of size and temperature, how does the sun compare to the other stars?
  • How would you describe the sun's role in the solar system?
  • The narrator mentioned that the light your see from the sun left the sun about 8 1/2 minutes ago. What did she mean by that?


20 minutes

Investigating the Sun's Composition

I hand out a brief reading passage to each student. I explain we are going read about the parts of the sun together. Then, they are going to construct a sun foldable that displays all the parts of the sun we read about. This goes into their interactive notebook and serves as a reference for them. (I found this foldable online and thought it was a good way for students see how the layers of the sun are compiled while summarizing the details about each one.)

Summarizing Our Learning

We reconvene as a class, we enter into a discussion about the components of the sun using these questions.

  • What part of the Sun is the hottest? 
  • Why do you think the sunspots appear dark?
  • Why do you think are solar flares so bright? 
  • Why is the Sun important to us?


Here we discuss how the importance of the Sun for Earth.  We determine Sun gives us light and heat. Then I ask students to think of ways we use heat and light from the Sun. I have students share ideas and I write them on the board. They share the we use the sun for heat, energy, vitamin D, to help plants grow (some of them had a general idea that plants use the sun's light for photosynthesis), solar power, light to see during the day, heat keeps us warm.


15 minutes

Applying What We Learned

Once we determine items that use light and heat, I share that they are going to explore this more.  I hand out 5 UV solar beads and a pipe cleaner to each student. I ask them to place the beads on it and create a bracelet. Then I ask them to observe the beads and describe them before  we further investigate how the beads turn color. After some shares, I explain their task is to find out ways to make the colors change

I give them time to find different ways. They write their observation on a recording sheet. After some time, we reconvene, share, and discuss how they got the beads to change color. I am looking for students to identify light and heat sources.  


beads in the light turn color   bead activity


5 minutes

Checking For Understanding

To wrap up the lesson, I hand out an exit ticket that asks students asks students. First, they are to write 2 reasons why is the sun important to us. Second, they write an inference to What if the sun disappeared, how would its disappearance affect Earth? 

Students complete this for homework and turn it in the next day. I collect it and use this as a formative assessment.

Exit Ticket Sample Front

 exit ticket -sample  backside