The Predictable Patterns of the Sun and Seasons

Michele Beitel
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, students analyze and interpret data to look for patterns in sunrise and sunset times across seasons.  As a result of this analysis, students figure out that there are repeating patterns in seasonal sunrise and sunset times.  

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 1
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

1-ESS1-2 Make observations at different times of year to relate the amount of daylight to the time of year.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on relative comparisons of the amount of daylight in the winter to the amount in the spring or fall.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to relative amounts of daylight, not quantifying the hours or time of daylight.

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

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This lesson supports students in exploring patterns in student collected and historical data to compare sunrise and sunset times. Students use this data to identify patterns that can be observed and predicted.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
During the lesson, students analyze and interpret sunrise and sunset data both from their own observations and based on real historical data. In order to make this practice explicit to the students, teachers will need to make it clear to students that they are looking at a data set to find patterns. The lesson already guides students to look for patterns in the graphs, so this would be a minor addition to the lesson.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Before this lesson, students gather data outside of school hours to share with the class. Students then analyze this data and use the patterns in additional historical data to make predictions. Depending on class geographic location, teachers may elect to cut the temperature investigation from the ‘Explore’ portion of the lesson.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
This lesson provides explicit support for students in observing patterns and using them as evidence to describe the phenomenon of sunrise and sunset patterns. During the ‘Explore’ portion of the lesson, students are asked to work with partners to identify patterns in their data sets.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson offers many opportunities for students to engage in 3-dimensional learning to explore and explain the phenomenon of sunrise and sunset patterns. Additionally, there are specific connections to the Common Core expectations for analyzing data from graphs. Teachers may improve the 3-dimensional nature of the lesson by making the Practices more explicit to students when they analyze and interpret sunrise and sunset data.

  • Instructional Supports: This lesson benefits from the use of authentic, historical and current data, as well as a consistent involvement of students in the process of data collection and analysis. The lesson also provides supports for diverse learners in the form of some built-in wait time and partner sharing to prepare for class discussion. This resource may be improved with the use of a word wall or vocabulary cards as an additional support for diverse learners. This resource may also be improved by the addition of some sample probing questions and more ‘look-fors’ in sample student responses. Furthermore, teachers should consider removing the videos from the ‘Elaborate’ portion of the lesson, as this introduces the tilt of Earth on its axis, an idea that is explored to depth in Middle School.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: While this resources specifically calls for allowing students time to reflect on their understanding, it could be improved by offering specific ‘look-fors’ in student responses. Additionally, teachers may consider how to capture evidence of 3-dimensional learning throughout the lesson, and how this builds into a coherent plan for assessment in a series of lessons that builds around these concepts.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: N/A