October 1, 2014
First grade in the fall is filled with excitement and new beginnings. It is the perfect time to teach a unit about the moon.The K-2 Earth and Space Science Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) ESS1.A includes the disciplinary core idea that “Patterns of the motion of the sun, moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, and predicted.” Beginning the day before the first full moon in September, I ask the students to observe the moon that night and be ready to discuss this the next day. A letter has gone home explaining this and asking families for their support. The next day, the discussion centers on the question “When is the next full moon?” I record everyone’s comments on a Know, Want to Know, Learned chart to which I have added an H. The H is for “How could we find out?” Through this discussion, I gain and have a record of understandings and misunderstandings students have about the pattern of moon phases, which we revisit after we have had an opportunity to observe, analyze data, and revise or refine the initial claims and explanations. We use two of the scientific practices in the NGSS: (1) “planning and carrying out investigations” and (2) “analyzing and interpreting data.” (These are practices 3 and 4 in Appendix F of A Science Framework for K-12 Science Education.) Students record on their calendars the phases of the moon as personally observed or learned through media such as Internet, newspapers, or television. Students plan and conduct their moon investigations. I provide feedback to individuals and groups on their use of the scientific practices. My feedback is designed to move their learning forward so that they gain proficiency in the use of the practices to develop understanding of the scientific content. I also weave in some English/Language Arts/Literacy Common Core State Standards by having available and reading So That’s How the Moon Changes Shape! (Fowler 1991) and Finding the Moon (Delta Education 2003). To help develop shared background knowledge about the moon, I read Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me (Carle 1986). I read this one both at the beginning of the study and at the end so students can reflect on what is fiction and what is fact in the text. The final two books, Phases of the Moon (Olson 2007) and Faces of the Moon (Crelin 2009), are the main focus of this unit and are read several times. As a final assessment, individual students sequence the moon phases by drawing with chalk on black circles and labeling the phases of the moon. Related Links: Space-related project Everyday STEM Structures Card Sort – Science or Technology?