Moon Phases Matching

Astronomical Society of the Pacific Educators, and childhood researchers at Penn State, UC Santa Cruz and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Photograph , Game , Model , Activity
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.



Using a Match the Moon Phases Poster, students match pictures of the moon with matching pictures on a poster that shows the moon phase cycle. The teacher guides students as they make observations, ask questions, and share past experiences of looking at the moon through open ended questioning techniques. A printable pdf. of the Moon Phases Poster and Moon Phases cards are provided.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Grade 1
  • Elementary School
  • Pre-Kindergarten
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 activity is to be used for making observations, describing patterns, and making predictions about the moon. Emphasis should not be placed on rote memory of the moon phases. J. Benson states that “although children may be using language associated with temporal patterns, including relationships such as before and after, they may not have developed full understanding of temporal concepts unless they can also demonstrate an understanding through physical manipulation of objects”. [Benson, J. (2014). The development of planning: It’s about time. In S.L. Friedman & E.K. Scholnick (Eds.), The Developmental Psychology of Planning: Why, How, and When Do We Plan? New York: Psychology Press.] The activity can be used to help dispel many misconceptions of the moon that 1st grade students have. It also helps to support students in making connections in understanding that the moon has a describable pattern that can be predicted. A correct understanding and knowledge of the sun and stars is also needed to fully meet the Performance Expectation.

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
To fully meet the Practice, students should be encouraged to make connections between the observations they are making in the activity with the actual observations they can make of the moon in the sky. Students can then compare their firsthand observations with those made from media in the classroom.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The activity allows the learner to engage in knowledge making by offering the many learning entry points including: kinesthetic, visual, and auditory. All students should be encouraged to complete at least one of the activity extension suggestions. The different experiences help the learner gain a deeper understanding of the Disciplinary Core Idea. To further meet this Performance Expectation, the teacher can revisit this activity later in the year to further help students understand that moon patterns can be observed, described, and predicted.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
It is important for the student to use the knowledge gained from the activity as evidence in the explanations they develop as they track the moon over time. By gathering observations through two or more full lunar cycles, students will have the data needed to fully meet the Crosscutting Concept.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This activity addresses all three dimensions of learning as defined by the NGSS. It meets the Performance Expectation, Disciplinary Core Idea, and Science and Engineering Practices for first grade by having students investigate the daytime and nighttime sky. This activity should be used in conjunction with the students making observations of two or more lunar phases so that they have experience with the phenomenon in its natural setting. Care must be given to include other lessons that address the movement of the sun and the stars as well.

  • Instructional Supports: The Moon Phase map and the Phase cards assist the students with describing their observations and making explanations of the daily pattern of moon movement as it relates to their own experience. A five minute and 30 second model of this activity in action can be found at The video is a teacher support tool only. The activities are accessible to all learners with little adjustment. Since it is a guided activity, the teacher can utilize instructional supports when necessary and allow students to participate and respond at their own level. Activity Extensions and Teacher Background sections contain links that will provide additional background knowledge for teachers.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The activity provides the teacher with direct, observable evidence of three-dimensional. Annotated notes taken by the teacher during the activity and discussions provide data of student’s understanding. It does not provide quantitative measures of student progress. Development of an assessment or explanation rubric would enhance this resource.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -