Phases of the Moon Lesson Plan: Position of the Planets

Submitted by: Jessica Storer

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this multi-day lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-8, students use BrainPOP resources to demonstrate and identify the position of the earth, moon, and sun for each phase of the moon. Students will also explain why there are phases of the moon and describe basic characteristics of the moon.

Students will:

  1. Demonstrate and identify the position of the earth, moon, and sun for each phase of the moon.
  2. Explain why there are phases of the moon.
  3. Describe the moon.

Materials:

Vocabulary:

waxing, waning, moon, moon phases, Sun, Earth, satellite, gibbous, New moon, full moon, revolution, orbit, crescent, first quarter, third quarter

Preparation:

Determine whether the BrainPOP or BrainPOP Jr. movie about the moon is more appropriate for your students. On day one, make class sets of the downloads available below (Moon Phases diagram and Earth and Sun cut out) as well as the KWL Chart. Copy the Moon Phases activity sheet if you are using the BrainPOP movie rather than the Jr. movie. For day two, collect tennis balls, soft balls, beach ball, and a flashlight. On day three, place 8 cookies per student on a plate and make plastic ware and scissors available.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Day One Have students fill out the KWL Chart. Then ask students, “What is the moon?” Allow a few students to answer.
  2. Have students watch the moon video on BrainPOP or BrainPOP Jr.. depending on students' ability levels.
  3. As a class or independently, have students complete the quiz on the moon. This will help you gauge your students’ understanding of the topic.
  4. If using the BrainPOP movie version, project the activity page for the class to see and fill it in together as a class. As you complete this, call students up to the board to help write in the answers to the moon activity sheet.
  5. On the board write “moon”. Then ask students to list some things they have learned about the moon today. Record their responses on the board.
  6. Day Two Review with students by asking them what facts they can remember about the moon. Allow students to respond.
  7. Now ask the students, “What are moon phases?” Explain they are going to learn about the phases of the moon. First explain why the moon goes through phases throughout the month. Using a moon phase diagram, go over the 8 phases of the moon: new moon, waxing crescent, first quarter, waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, third quarter, and waning crescent. Explain the name of the phase, how the Earth and the moon are positioned in relation to the sun, and what the phase looks like on the moon. Also, point out to your students that the moon is on a 28 day cycle for its 8 moon phases. When the moon is “waxing” it appears as though the moon is growing bigger and the moon is “waning” when the shape of the moon grows smaller.
  8. Demonstrate the phases of the moon. Utilizing a tennis or softball as the moon, the beach ball as the Earth, and the flashlight as the sun, demonstrate what each phase of the moon would look like. Have one student hold the moon (tennis or softball), one hold the sun (flashlight), and one student hold the Earth (beach ball). Using the materials the students should rotate and act like each of the object to reenact the phases of the moon. At each phase have the students stop so you can name the phase, describe what the phase looks like, and allow students time to really look at the phase. Make sure the lights are off in the classroom when doing the demonstration.
  9. After demonstrating each phase, play a moon phase game with your students. For the game, demonstrate one of the moon phases (using the tennis or softball, flashlight, and beach ball) and see if students can guess the name of the phase. Repeat this process over and over, until you feel as though your students have developed a good understanding of the phases of the moon.
  10. At the end of the day, ask students if they are able to explain why moon phases occur and what are the moon phases. Allow a few students to answer the questions.
  11. Day Three Tell students that today they are going to do an activity involving the phases of the moon. Pass out the Moon Phase Diagram, and the Earth and Sun cut out. Allow students to choose a partner to work with during this activity and go over the instructions.
  12. The students should be given 8 cookies, a paper plate, and plastic knife or spoon. With their 8 cookies, they will recreate each of the 8 moon phases so that each cookie looks like a different moon phase. Students will use a plastic knife or plastic spoon to reduce the amount of cream on the cookie if needed. For example if they are modeling the full moon, the students would take the top of the cookie off and leave all of the cream on the cookie. The cream shows the part of the moon that is receiving light. If they were modeling the first quarter phase, the student would take off the top of the cookie and then scrape half of the cream off the left side of the cookie using a spoon or knife. Make sure all modification of cookies is done on the paper plates to avoid mess. Also, remind students to look at their moon phase diagrams to help them throughout the activity.
  13. Once they have made each of the 8 cookies look like each of the 8 phases, have students cut out the Earth and the Sun from the cut out page. They will need scissors to do this. Then situate the Earth, sun, and moon (Oreo cookie) in the correct position to show the new moon phase.
  14. After demonstrating with their partner, students should fill in the chart on the Moon Phase activity chart, drawing the moon phase and the position of the Earth, moon, and the Sun during the moon phase.
  15. Students should repeat the previous directions 7 more times, doing this for each phase and working with their partner. Give students an ample amount of time to complete the activity. Then go over the activity together as a class.
  16. Review characteristics and facts about the moon with your students. Also, have students complete the “L” on the KWL chart given to your students on day one.

Extension Activity:

Students can keep a journal of what the moon looks like each night for a month, create a picture book for younger children explaining why the moon goes through phases and what the moon looks like for each phase, research about moon landings, or explore myths and folklore pertaining to each full moon during the year.

3 comments
  1. lielliott said:

    I don’t see a moon phase download anywhere…am I missing something?

    • cemignano said:

      Hi lielliot-

      Additionally, we’ve updated the links for the Moon Phases diagram and Earth and Sun cut out. You can now find them under the materials section.

    • angelawatson said:

      Hi, there! You can access the Activity page by logging into BrainPOP. The links in the lesson plan will then take you right to the Activity (which is on the Moon movie’s topic page.)