Forum: Teachers Lab

Topic: are there any teachers out there that can help me?

Topic Posted by: confused student
Date Posted: Tue May 20 17:33:12 2003
Topic Description: ok i have to make a lesson plan about this for a big assignment and i have been lookin everywhere and i cant find anything about it someone please help me!!! this is wat i have to find stuff on..."describe how objects in the solar system are in regular and predictable motions that explain such phenomena as days, years, seasons, eclipses, tides, and moon cycles" i dont even understand what that is sa

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Posted by: crystal
Date posted: Mon Jan 24 11:40:16 2005
Subject: h
Underlying Concepts and Skills Described in the National Standards:
1. The 4B(6-8)#5 benchmark describes why we see different phases of the moon. There are 3 fundamental ideas in this benchmark that are combined in order for students to understand this phenomenon:

4    The moon orbits around the earth once every 28 days.

4    The light we see from the moon is reflected light from the sun.

4    How much light (the part of the moon) we see depends on the positions of the earth, moon, and sun.

2. Regular and predictable motion is emphasized in the National Science Education Standards 5-8/E3b. Two fundamental ideas are combined in this standard:

4    Most objects in the solar system are in regular and predictable motion.

4    Regular and predictable motions explain such phenomena as the day, the year, phases of the moon, and eclipses.

3. The use of models is a unifying process that cuts across all grade levels and content areas. The National Science Education Standards describe models as representations of real objects or events that provide great explanatory power in understanding how things work

Instructional Implications:


      Students are often told what causes the phases of the moon, rather than constructing their own understanding through the use of models. One of the reasons this idea is so difficult is students’ unfamiliarity with the geometry of light and “seeing”. Models can help them see where the light is coming from and how much of it reaches our eyes when it is reflected, depending upon where the reflecting object is in relation to the light source and where we are when we see it. Students need many direct experiences with light and reflection first.

      Eclipse ideas may be more comprehensible to students but be aware that students often confuse the shadow cast by the earth on the moon during a lunar  eclipse as being the explanation for phases of the moon. Research shows that the shadow explanation is the most commonly held intuitive notion by adults and children for what causes the moon’s phases. Therefore, providing an opportunity to see the difference between the two phenomena may help students give up the shadow notion as the explanation for moon phases.

      When using models, it is important for students to understand their limitations. They should examine their models for what appropriately represents the objects, the distance, and the motions and what might be misrepresented by their models. This examination of their models can ensure that students try to make models that represent the actual objects or phenomena as closely as possible and do not perpetuate misconceptions based on a faulty model.

      Making a model is not the endpoint. The importance of the model is the explanatory power it provides. In this task, the students’ explanation that accompanies the use of the model is what provides that explanatory power. Emphasize to students that the value of the model is in providing a scientific explanation for the phenomena they have described. Description and explanation are two different things.
    # An excellent site, from the Private Universe Project, that addresses difficulties of teaching phases of the moon is at: There are several excellent ideas for instruction and a diagnostic assessment to inform instruction

Materials Needed: access to online computers or other resources, a variety of materials such as Styrofoam balls, light sources, etc. provided by the teacher if students do not have access to materials from home.

Other LEARN Resources that Support this Task: The Phases of the Moon Curriculum, developed by the Michigan Department of Education Science Resources Project, is an excellent example of a curriculum that addresses students intuitive notions about the earth, moon, and sun system. To learn more about this curriculum, go to

Rubrics: The task specific rubrics provided are for teacher assessment purposes. If the task is used as an instructional opportunity, the rubrics are helpful for providing feedback to students on their work. If students had prior opportunity to develop understanding of these ideas, the task may be used as a summative assessment and the rubrics may be used for scoring student work. Teachers may choose to rewrite the rubrics in “student language” to guide them in the development of their final product.


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