Space: Patterns in the Sky

Kathryn Yablonski
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Unit , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Simulation , Assessment Item , Activity , Curriculum
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



Students will be able to make observations of the sun, moon and stars to describe predictable patterns in space from earth.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 1
  • Elementary School
Access Restrictions

Free access with user action - The right to view and/or download material without financial barriers but users are required to register or experience some other low-barrier to use.

Performance Expectations

1-ESS1-1 Use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted.

Clarification Statement: Examples of patterns could include that the sun and moon appear to rise in one part of the sky, move across the sky, and set; and stars other than our sun are visible at night but not during the day.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment of star patterns is limited to stars being seen at night and not during the day.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The Performance Expectation is met throughout this unit. The unit includes 16 lessons. Teachers might consider using the same key observation lessons: sun (lessons 2 & 3), moon (lessons 6- 8), and star (lesson 11) during the school year so that students can make connections between the patterns and their variations due to length of day and seasons.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The students increase their understanding of data analyzing and observation of patterns if the observations of the sun, moon and stars are repeated throughout the school year and coincide with the seasonal changes. Observations should be made individually and as a class. Graphic organizers could be used for recording data. Providing scientifically correct and grade- level appropriate readings and pictures are also suggested.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The full unit allows the students to use simulations and first hand observations to make real world connections for the elementary learner. The first hand observations made throughout the school year by the students and comparisons made to astronomy websites and scientifically accurate readings, strengthen the student understanding of the phenomena observed. Students need to be given specific strategies for making observations of the sky, such as use of the horizon line, position in the sky compared to other objects, and documenting the time the observation was taken. It is also suggested that class time is given to a discussion about how to safely look at objects in the sky.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
This unit provides the students with many opportunities to make observations, record data, and look for patterns. Students, parents and teachers may find that the use of an astronomy application for a tablet or smartphone would enrich understandings of the stars that are being observed. Schools that are located in an urban area may, as a unit extension, suggest that families take a trip to the country to see if more stars can be observed.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The series of lessons fit together coherently. All lessons in the series can be accessed through the website. They include observations of the sun, moon and stars with the goal of developing the ability of the student to describe predictable patterns. In Lesson 13 -16, students are provided with the opportunity to share their observations and to document the phenomena addressed which develops a deeper understanding of the three-dimensional learning addressed by the NGSS.

  • Instructional Supports: This unit includes 16 lessons that engage students in authentic and meaningful observation experiences that reflect the practice of science as experienced in the real world and help the student make sense of the phenomena. Each lesson provides an instructional support section and a materials section for the teacher. Lessons also provide the following teaching sections: warm up, exploration, closing. Some lessons include an assessment section. A connection is made to the Common Core as students are challenged to gather information from sources to answer the question of can patterns in the sky be observed and predicted. (W.1.8)

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This unit elicits direct and observable evidence of three-dimensional learning by students using Practices with Core Ideas and Crosscutting concepts to make sense of phenomena. A pre-assessment, formative, and summative assessment option are embedded in various lessons. In a few of the lessons, an anchor chart is used as an age-appropriate aligned rubric. This rubric provides a scoring guide but, could be strengthened if it also provided guidance for interpreting student performance along the three-dimensions to support teachers in providing ongoing feedback.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: Some lessons provide video excerpts from the classroom as well as student work samples. Other lessons provided musical suggestions and guides the class to content specific websites as needed. The lesson that involves moon observations includes use of the website Teachers need to preview the website before teaching the lesson and they need to provide guided support for their learners to help students understand and effectively use the website as a research gathering tool.