Day 2: The Passing of Time... Day/Night, Seasons, and Years

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SWBAT explain how Earth's movement around the Sun causes changes in day/night, seasons, and year.

Big Idea

Students will create a diagram that shows the four seasonal positions of Earth during a year.

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, Part 2- The Passing of Time...Day/Night, Season, and Years Relationship, I begin by reviewing vocabulary (rotate) from yesterday and connecting it to today's focus word, revolve. Then students work as a group and use a model to demonstrate the tilt of the Earth as it revolves around the sun. Within this model, they analyze four key positions of the Earth throughout one revolution in relation to the sun's light. To make their model more concrete, I display a computer simulation to show these positions and how they affect the seasons we experience on Earth.  Using the back and forth strategy, students summarize their understanding and then create a diagram showing the four season positions of the Earth during a year.

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 model to illustrate Earth's tilt as it revolves around the sun and show seasonal positions during its orbit. They construct a diagram to demonstrate this occurrence.

Crosscutting Concepts

The Part 1- The Passing of Time...Day/Night, Season, and Years Relationship lesson will correlate to other interdisciplinary areas.  These Crosscutting Concepts include:

1.) Patterns: Students use a model to observe the Earth's movement around the sun to describe patterns in terms of seasons and predicted.

2.) Cause and Effect: Students use models and computer simulations to make observations of the Earth's tilt while rotating and revolving around the sun to explain the cause of seasons and the time 1 year.

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.  


10 minutes

Making Connections-Activating Prior Knowledge

I begin by asking students to take out their vocabulary t-chart from yesterday. I direct their attention to term revolve and display the following image. I tell them to look at the motion of the Earth in relation to the Sun and ask: "What do you notice about this motion? How would you describe it?" After we discuss what they observe, we connect it to the term revolve on our t-chart. We write a few words to describe the motion in the chart: to go around. Then I say: "Think about the length of time it takes the Earth to complete 1 rotation." and ask: "Who can tell us how many hours it takes?  To think about it in time, those hours equals ...?" I am looking for students to identify it as 1 day.

Once we established 1 rotation takes one day, I ask: "How many days will it take the Earth to revolve once around the sun?"  I look for students to make the connection that it takes about 365 days for the Earth to revolve around the sun. I have them write this on their t-chart under Time to Complete Motion.

student notebook

I share with students that we will fill in the last part at the end of the lesson, as we are going to explore effects of the Earth's revolution.


20 minutes

Preparing to Investigate

Now that we have defined revolve, I ask students: "What kind of changes do you notice throughout a year?" I am looking for students to recognize that seasons change. Once we identify seasons, I explain that we are going to look more carefully at why seasons change and how the Sun appears differently in the sky between seasons.

Investigating Earth's Tilt

I tell students they are working in lab rats groups and will be using their interactive notebook. Their task is to create a model to simulate the seasonal changes. The are using a ping pong ball as the Earth, a flashlight as the sun, and a a diagram that illustrates four key positions of the Earth during a year. They use their model and diagram to observe the Earth's position and direction of light upon it.  

Next, they use their models to answer the following questions in their interactive notebook.

  • What does your model Earth look like at position A?
  • What areas of the world are experiencing more direct sunlight?
  • What areas of the world are experiencing less direct sunlight? 

These questions are the same for positions B,C, and D.

We reconvene as a whole and discuss what their models looked like at each of the four positions they noted. I am looking to see that students have observed the amount of sunlight on parts of the Earth at certain times of the year.


25 minutes

Identifying Reasons for Seasons

To develop more of an understanding about season, I hand out What Causes Seasons? article by NASA. We read it together as a whole close. As we read, I stop at different parts and check in with students. I ask them to locate and highlight main ideas within the text.

Making It Concrete

Now I display seasons simulation to illustrate the tilt of the Earth and the angle of the the sun's rays through each season. I pause at each change of the season to discuss what they notice about the tilt of the Earth, amount of sun on certain parts of the Earth and how many hours of daylight certain parts of the world experience as a result. 

Pairing Up to Share What They have Learned

I have students write an explanation to the question: What causes the seasons to occur? I give them a template to write their explanation on. Once they finish, I pair them up to take part in the strategy Back and Forth. Students share their explanation with their partner and their partner checks it over for accuracy. Under their explanation, they write suggestions to the writer on what parts need more information or clarification.

I use this strategy for two reasons. One, it helps students explain their understanding of the concept, how seasons occur. And two, checking their partner's explanation helps them identify any misunderstandings or misconceptions. They can engage in conversation and work together to make sure they both understand how seasons occur.

I circulate the room while they work, checking in and monitoring pairs.

I ask students to go back to their t-chart. Now we fill in the remaining part of the t-chart on the key terms rotate and revolve. 


5 minutes


For homework, students are given poster paper asked to draws models that show the four seasonal positions of Earth during the year. Their diagram models should include a sun and Earth's tilt. They must accurately illustrate Earth's tilted position at each seasonal point and show the amount of sunlight it. Then use it to answer the following question

If you wanted to enjoy longer periods of daylight in the summertime, would you head closer to the equator or farther from it? Why?


 seasonal poster