The Sun, Earth, and Moon Relationship

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SWBAT understand the relationships among the Sun, Earth, and moon.

Big Idea

Students will create a model illustrating the movement of the Earth and Moon in relation to the Sun.

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, The Sun, Earth, and Moon Relationship, I begin with an animated diagram and ask students to generate 5 questions and 5 inferences about it. They pair-share-square and discuss the inferences and questions. Then I introduce and pre-teach vocabulary terms related to the motion of the planets and moon. I do this to help students develop their academic language for further investigations on the their movement and motion. Once we identify key words essential to developing an understanding, I have students read a science fiction comic about different perceptions of the Sun's, Earth's, and Moon's placement and movement in space. After reading, students analyze three claims made within the comic story. They select one claim and then create an orrery model and use it to construct an evidence based explanation to support their claim. Their explanation is collected and used as a formative assessment.

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 an orrery model of the Sun, Earth, and Moon. They use it to write an evidence based explanation about each one's movement in relation to one another.

Crosscutting Concepts

The The Sun, Earth, and Moon lesson will correlate to other interdisciplinary areas.  These Crosscutting Concepts include:

4.) Systems and Models: Students use an orrery model to represent the relationship between the Sun, Earth, and moon and make a claim about the position and movement of each one.

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.



15 minutes

Activating Prior Knowledge

I begin by bringing students attention to the board where I have projected an animated diagram of the Sun, Earth, and Moon.

In their interactive notebook, I ask them to Give Me 5 observations about the image displayed. Then I ask them to Make Me 5 inferences about the animation.

Next, they take part in a pair-square-share. Each student shares their observations and inferences with their elbow partner. Then, they join another pair of students and share their ideas with them and listen to their new pairs observations and inferences. After they share, I hand them each a blank sentence strip. As a group they need to decide which two observations and two inferences they are going to share. When they finish writing them, I have them post them on the premade t-chart I have posted on the board.

We reconvene as a class and read over the observations and inferences made. I pick out key observations and inferences related to the Earth's and moon's motion and movement around the sun. (I am looking to relate their observations and inferences to the rotation and revolution of the Earth and the moon's orbit around the Sun)


15 minutes

Pre-Teaching Vocabulary

Here I introduce and pre-teach vocabulary terms related to the motion of the planets and moon. I continue displaying the animated diagram and use it to identify terms related to the shapes of the Sun, Earth, and moon, and their placement, motion and movement.

I apply the terms: axis, rotate, revolve, orbit, to each relevant part of the animated diagram. I define each word on the board and have students write and illustrate each term in their interactive notebook. 

vocabulary notebook page

I do this to help students develop their academic language and to recognize the motion and movement associated with each term. They need to use these terms in the next half of the lesson as they examine three different claims about the relationship of the Sun, Earth, and moon.


25 minutes

Developing An Understanding of Earth's Place in Space 

We discuss the perceptions as a whole class about Earth's, moon's, and Sun's placement and movement in space. I post three claims.

Claims About The Sun, Earth, Moon

  • Claim 1: The Moon and the Sun both circle the Earth 
  • Claim 2: The Moon circles the Earth while the sun circles them both
  • Claim 3: Moon circles the Earth while the Earth circles the sun


Creating A Model to Support Our Claim

I explain they are creating a model to determine the accurate claim and support it. The and illustrate the movements of the Earth and moon in relation to Sun. This is an orrery model that I selected. This type of model gives students a visual of the Earth's and moon's motion and supports the remaining lessons in the unit. 

As they work on their model, I check in with students, making sure their model is correct. I look for arrows to show the movement of the Earth and moon as they orbit the Sun.

After students create their models, I discuss with students how models and diagrams can help us understand something more concretely instead of just reading about it. 



20 minutes

Using Our Model to Prove Our Claim

Now I have students write an evidence based explanation to support the claim they determined to be true. Their assignment is to explain the Sun's, Earth's, and moon's position and the movement in relation to each other. In their explanation, they are describing how they use their model to support the claim. Each explanation must include the terms from earlier in the lesson: axis, rotate, revolve, orbit, sphere.

Students work on these for the remainder of the class and continue for homework.  I collect them and use them as a formative assessment.