Sky 4: The Moon

AAAS - Science Net Links
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan
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.



In this lesson, a student draws the moon's shape each evening on a classroom calendar.  The class then determines the pattern in the shapes over several weeks. Student understandings should be confined to observations, descriptions, finding patterns, and making predictions.   Attempting to extend this understanding into explanations goes beyond the grade-level scope of NGSS and using models will be limited by the inability of young children to understand that earth is approximately spherical. Children at this age have little understanding of gravity and typically have misconceptions about the properties of light that allow us to see objects such as the moon. (Benchmarks for Science Literacy, p. 336.) Thus, these topics should be avoided. (AAAS Scienenetlinks Sky 4:  The Moon the content section.)

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Early Elementary
  • Grade 1
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

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
This lesson provides opportunities to describe and observe the moon for at least two months. The observations are made on a classroom data sheet. To include the prediction component of this Performance Expectation, the observations need to be made over an extended time. The lesson notes suggest that the observations continue for at least two months.

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
Students should share their observations about the moon and the teacher records them. As the observations continue over the recommended two months observation period of the moon, the students should be encouraged to write their findings in a science notebook. Students could describe the pattern that they were observing and make predictions about the next shape of the moon they would observe.

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

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
To fully meet this practice students should share their prior knowledge about the moon. The teacher could record this information. As the students make moon observations, recording what they have learned and comparing it to their prior knowledge can be adjusted. As students share their observations with others they should also be encouraged to notice patterns that are formed.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
This lesson explores the moon and it's patterns. To fully meet the Core Idea the students would have to also be encouraged to observe the sun and the stars in the same fashion as well.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students will be able to start to use the observations and descriptions as evidence to predict a pattern if the observations are done over enough time. The lesson suggests use of a Virtual Reality Moon Phase website to be used when the sky is unobservable or the student is unable to observe the moon on the day that is assigned. A lesson on how to use this website properly would be necessary before allowing its use.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The lesson aligns with the NGSS and allows the Disciplinary core idea, Cross Cutting Concepts and the Science and Engineering Practice to work together to support students in making sense of the phenomena.

  • Instructional Supports: This lesson supports instruction and provides real world connections for all learners. The suggestion that the instructor use Frank Ash Bear moon books as a way to engage the students and uncover prior knowledge allows for a familiar connection as students at this grade level are familiar with those books. Having each student responsible for making observations of the moon on a specific day is a way to make a real life connection with the science that is being uncovered in a guided discovery way. Once the student understands the process of making and recording observations, teacher involvement should become minimal. The teacher remains engaged in the learning experience as he/she asks questions that encourage a deeper understanding of the observations that the student is making. "How many days until the pattern will start again?" "What shape do you believe you will see on Friday of this week or on the birthday of a student in the classroom?" Students that are struggling should be given a calendar that has two shapes of the moon pre-dawn on each date. The student decides which is correct and crosses out the other shape.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The lesson defines a class performance task for observing the moon and tracking the observations on a class calendar. This provides formative and summative assessment data. The suggestion in this lesson is to read a Frank Ashe book, Moongame, and ask the students to respond as to what in the story is purely fiction and what could happen based on their moon observations. It is suggested that as the students begin to understand the class observation process that they begin to record individual observations and understandings. The teacher will have a better assessment of each student's understandings and provide opportunity to correct misunderstandings.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This lesson suggests the use of pictures from the United States Naval Observatory's website: Virtual Reality Moon Phase Pictures. The teacher should become familiar with this website before teaching to enhance the learning experience that can be offered. In the lessons Extension section, it recommends using the materials and the lesson provided by NASA/MSU-Bozeman CERES Project: Go to Birthday Moons. This site allows students to identify and graph the moon phase of their birthday's which would extend and support the three-dimensional learning this lesson provides. This section can be improved by adding the suggestion that the students use a camera, tablet or another type of recording device to document each student's observation.