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Phases of the Moon Lesson Overview

This activity asks students to use models of Earth, the Sun, and the Moon system to discover why moon phases occur. Students use a Styrofoam ball to represent the Moon, which will be lit by a single light source in the classroom, to observe how different portions of the ball are illuminated as they hold it in various positions. They create a complete series of phases matching the appearance of the Moon. And they relate moon phases to the positions of Earth and the Sun.


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75 Minutes
Whole Class
PTI Inquiry
3.3, 4.3, 5.2, 5.8, 5.9, 7.2
Lesson Components Time Inquiry Skills Tech. Used Engage Level Brief Description
Engage 5 min none none 2 Students are engaged in a discussion on the Moon
Explore 30 min 3.3, 4.3, 5.8 none 3 Students create a model of the moon phases and go through each phase.
Explain 25 min 5.2 none 3 Students go through the lunar phases describing the illumination and identifying the name of the phases
Expand 10 min 5.2, 7.2 Internet/TV hook-up 3 Students view a video of the lunar phases and identify which phase is shown
Evaluate 5 min 3.3, 5.9 none 3 Students organize moon phase cards in the correct order.

Level of Student Engagement
1     Low     Listen to lecture, observe the teacher, individual reading, teacher demonstration, teacher-centered instruction
2     Medium     Raise questions, lecture with discussion, record data, make predictions, technology interaction with assistance
3     High     Hands-on activity or inquiry; critique others, draw conclusions, make connections, problem-solve, student-centered

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