The Sun in the Sky

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SWBAT describe the movement of the sun and its features.

Big Idea

What's hot, bright, and seemingly crosses the sky every day? The sun!

Teacher Preparation

In this lesson, students will learn about the sun and how the Earth and other planets move around it using media. They will create a simple labeled diagram to record their learning. This lesson is important to teach early in this unit to establish that the sun is the center of our solar system and that the planets move around it. This lesson will also address how the sun appears to move across the sky but it is actually because of the Earth's rotation. This lesson aligns to Essential Standard 1.E.1 'Recognize the features and patterns of the earth/moon/sun system as observed from earth and the clarifying objective 1.E.1.1 'Recognize differences in the features of the day and night sky and apparent movement of objects across the sky as observed from Earth'. Click here to listen to my Explanation of Essential Standards and Essential Question. The essential questions for this unit come from the list of questions my students generated during the introductory lessons and today's questions are "Does the sun move?" and "What is the sun made out of?" This lesson also aligns to NGSS 1-ESS1-1, 'Use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted' as students use their own observations and observations from media to describe the path of the sun in the sky. 


 *Non-fiction text about the sun, such as The Sun by Seymour Simon

*Science Journals & pencils


Warm Up

5 minutes

For the warm up, I use the list of questions we started during the introductory lesson in this unit to review what we have learned so far about the solar system and to focus today's lesson on the sun. I say,

"Which questions did you have about the sun? That's right - you asked about whether the sun moves and what it is made out of. Now, I am wondering if you have any more questions about the sun. Sometimes when scientists think about questions they have they think by themselves, but sometimes they think together. Today, sit close with a partner and talk for a minute or two and see what questions you can develop together and write them in your journal. Label the top of today's page 'The Sun' and just list any questions. Okay?"

Asking scientific questions based on background knowledge and information supports Science and Engineering Practice 1. As the students talk to each other and develop questions, I listen in to prepare myself for what they will be most interested in today. Although I know that the lesson will cover the basics about the sun, I want to make sure that I also address things that my students have specific interests in. If I cannot answer their questions, though, I am always okay telling them 'I don't know!" and that I will find out and get back to them!

After about 2-3 minutes, I ask for students to share and record their questions to refer back to at the end of the lesson.


30 minutes

This activity is mostly teacher-led because throughout the unit my students complete student-led research projects where they find their own information. Therefore, in this particular lesson and a few others, they are getting a lot of specific information directly from me! We start this lesson with me reminding them to listen for answers to our essential questions for the day, and their other questions, and then I read the text The Sun out loud to them. We do not just hastily read the text - rather, I stop after each page and we discuss the content. The conversation is just as important for my students to be able to comprehend and remember the facts as the reading of the text. As we go through if my students have more questions we take the time to really talk about them and discuss. Communicating about scientific information in this way supports Science and Engineering Practice 8.

In addition to the conversation, I encourage students to write down important facts that they hear about the sun that they find interesting. This supports Science and Engineering Practice 4, as students record information from the texts.

After the text, I say,

"We read the answers to a lot of questions! Now, let's think specifically about the movement of the Earth and how the sun looks like it is moving. Have you ever noticed when you are playing outside for a long time that it looks like the sun moves across the sky?"

Then I show this video of a time lapse of the sun 'travelling' across the sky and I say,

"Did you notice how it looked like the sun was moving across the sky? Was it? No! It wasn't! The sun is the center of our solar system, and it doesn't move! So let's change our original question from 'Does the sun move?' to 'Why does it look like the sun moves?'"

It is important to continuously model for my students that scientists change and adapt their questions. This supports Science and Engineering Practice 1. We use the text to look back at the diagram of the path of the sun and then together we draw a diagram of the sun's path across the sky similar to this one: Path of Sun. I explain to my students how the sun looks like it is moving across the sky but it is actually us moving on the Earth! As I draw it on our chart for today my students draw one in their journals. Drawing the diagram supports Practice 2, 'Developing and Using Models' as students use a model to represent the pattern of orbit in the natural world.

After that, we are ready for our wrap up!

Wrap Up

5 minutes

For the wrap up, I say,

"Who wants to answer today's questions - either our classes' questions or one of your own?"

Then I give several students the opportunity to answer either either our questions that we started with as a class or their own questions that they had about the sun. I encourage them to share how they figured out the answers to their own questions, which often comes from active listening as students figure things out as we build on information. The communication at the end of this lesson is really important because it provides a way for students to put this complex scientific information into words and terms that my students understand. Then, it becomes their own background knowledge. Communicating information about scientific principles and information supports Science and Engineering Practice 8.