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Lesson Sequence Final Reflection

Ellen R. Weaver
In accordance with NGSS expectations my students worked over
a nearly three-week period to expand their knowledge about the sun,
stars, and patterns in the sky. We observed the sun around the school
and at their homes, as well as the times of sunrise and sunset. We
used a model to show how the sun and earth move in space in which
one student acted as the sun (holding a lamp), and another acted as
the earth (rotating) and read the book Sunup, Sundown by Gail
Gibbons. We also were able to document our findings through a
diagram of our school and individual houses in which, for homework,
students drew where the sun came up and went down around their
own home. We then created a village of our homes in an attempt to
show how the houses would fit together in the suns path in the real
world. We oriented our diagrams so that we could model the sun rising
and setting by carrying a beach ball (the sun) from the sunrise end of
the village to the sunset side. We communicated our findings by
illustrating our thinking on an online drawing app as well as a hallway
display.
Student Learning
In phase one and two my students were already showing a lot of
interest in this topic, and we actually (throughout the week) had many
conversations about space, stars and our planet, including an involved
conversation about how gravity works. Our conversation about
daylight savings time was difficult, but ultimately students were able to
agree that the sun followed a reliable pattern. The students loved to
go outside first thing to check where the sun was in the morning and
began to run straight towards the end of the building that they knew
they would find it. When school was over, they delighted in racing
outside and finding it in its new position in the sky. We had the
somewhat unexpected but wonderful investigative talk about why the
sun did not go all the way across the sky seeming instead to just go
over a part of it. They also did an excellent job of meeting in their
pairs to discuss their data. Students were already making connections
about sunrise and sunsets at their houses being in different or similar
places, and many of them had recorded very similar times! This led to
an excellent conversation in which we delved into our understanding of
whether or not the sun is keeping to a pattern.
Although we did not get all of them to complete their home
journals for their data, fourteen of the twenty students did return their
work for our data comparison study. Of the fourteen, eight were filled
out for the full week. Fig. 1 below will show the best, average, and
least accurate sheets of how the students filled out their data. One
student (Fig. 1a) had an entirely subjective recording in which the

times for sunrise and sunset are mostly missing and vary extremely.
This was strange because this student in particular is very astute in
terms of science and was annoyed that his data didnt match up to the
others. We were able to decide as a class that scientists should pay
attention to data that follows a pattern, and relate that to the suns
pattern as well. Overall the data collection was successful and allowed
us to establish that the sun followed a pattern at each house, from the
time it rose and set, to the path that it took. The biggest challenge
came from rationalizing the student whose work was so dissimilar from
the rest.
In phase three we did the model of the sun and earth to greater
affect than the first example. This was tremendously helpful to the
students and after this lesson every student could describe how the
sun stayed in one place and the earth turned. Many of the students
were able to use vocabulary like rotate accurately. Students also
were able to describe that one full turn of the earth was the same as
one day, or twenty-four hours. The lesson extended a little bit to show,
briefly, how the earth moved around the sun and how that was the
same as one year. This activity was very successful. Unfortunately,
our neighborhood building lesson was much more difficult. Eventually,
the majority of the students were able to recognize that the direction a
house faced did not change the path of the sun, and we were able to
orient all of the houses so that the sun could go over them and follow
the same path. However, this activity may have been too abstract.
The activity went better in the small pairs when they were limited to
two or three houses, rather than the whole group. The activity did not
translate as well to the full scope of the neighborhood.
I think that one of the most rewarding activities for these
students was when they were able to make their posts to the online
Seesaw portfolio. One student drew the sun in phases going over a
house, narrating it to say The sun goes across the sky in the same
way everyday. Another student drew a large picture of the sun with
small stars around it, sitting over a house, and added narration that
said Our sun is a big star and it is so bright we cant see the other
stars unless the sun is on the other side of the world for the night time
here. Almost all of the students were able to make a digital
illustration to show the sun following a pattern, or the sun and earth in
space. Students had the freedom to add as much information as they
wanted, and several students put in details about each aspect of the
lesson sequence. This was the favorite part for most of the students,
although it would not have been possible without the other lesson
components.
Revision and Reflection
Ultimately I feel that this lesson was successful, but there were
several areas that I think could be improved. I feel that it is important

to refine the lesson in terms of data collection and extend the


conversation about that data. I think that a more structured approach
to comparing and contrasting the students collected data would be
beneficial. In our weather units we are used to seeing the information
listed in a table or bar graph format, so it may be possible to create a
whole group template so that we can better see the information about
sunset and sunrise the students collected. This segment of the lesson
was more limited than the others, although we did have a really great
discussion and were able to make plenty of comparisons to one
another, which were, for the most part, accurate.
Although the components involving the neighborhood creation
were confusing at first, most students really got the idea and were able
to assist their peers who struggled with it. We had to make the small
groups more limited, with only two or three houses to orient. It may be
a more effective in the future to more fully model this activity, rather
than ask students to interpret the directions orally. I think that, as first
graders, they simply need more direction in terms of expectations and
I think that the conversation about the activity could be better
scripted. Students would also benefit from a second model of their
homes that is isolated from the sunrise/sunset data table. It would be
even more impactful if the students were actually able to build a
house and then use a light source to simulate the sun coming up and
going down. This level of instruction was not possible in this time
frame, but it could be valuable if the lesson was not forced into such a
small isolated window of time in which there are many additional
projects going on.
In the future, I would also like to either teach first or pair this
lesson with a writing lesson in which students are taught how to
strategies in writing. How To stories are mandated by the curriculum
and are usually taught later in the year, but students would benefit
from having the opportunity to write and illustrate their own ideas
about how the sun rises and sets in the same place, moves across the
sky, and has a reliable pattern. I think that first graders thrive when
given parameters to work within, and a How To story would be an
excellent framework for this concept. It would also allow this
curriculum, which my district does not support, to be better integrated
into the existing curriculum. I think that it would be nice for students
to be able to have another avenue for working through the concept
that is not as simple as a drawing and explanation, like they did on the
ipads during phase five.
The students were highly engaged and motivated to take part in
this sequence of lessons. I wish that this material was a part of our
science curriculum, but in lieu of that, I think that combining this
lesson with a series of math, writing, and read alouds may serve to
better integrate the concepts without sacrificing limited instructional
time as I did in this circumstance. By addressing the need for more

comprehensive data sharing and a more concrete model of a


neighborhood, I think that this lesson could become a really excellent
exploration. Overall, the majority of my students were able to describe
the pattern of the sun and met the objectives of the lesson. I feel that
no lesson is perfect the first time, but that this lesson was effective for
having been created and implemented in a short span of time.
Continuing Work
One way in which we can continue to understand the patterns of
the sun is as a feature of our yearlong study of weather. This would be
an extension within an ongoing science unit. We document the
weather, using a symbol for the type of weather that day, a color for
the range of temperature, and the high temperature of the day. We
collect information about precipitation through our school rain gauge
as well as the website supported by Underground Weather. At the end
of each month we compare the data of the month to find the most and
least common types of weather, the highest and lowest range of
temperatures. Once we have made these observations we use our
weather journal to consolidate each months data and compare it
throughout the school year. In this way, students can see exactly how
the weather changes from season to season and make observations
supported by data and evidence. An additional component can now
include noticing patterns about how the sun has a lot more to do with
the earth than just rising and setting.
I believe that this unit would be useful when using our math
curriculum as well. This concept of the sun and its patterns can be
tied to our exploration of time. In first grade students are expected to
learn how to read a clock. They need to know that sixty minutes is
equivalent to one hour, how to use one, five, and thirty minute
increments, and they must be able to solve time based number stories.
Our discussion about the sun and its patterns are highly related to
how we perceive times of day as well as vocabulary the students will
use like morning, evening and night. We can also talk about what time
it is around the world, and establish that the sun is always shining,
even at night when our side of the planet is facing away.
Although we have introduced a lot of new space-related books
into our library and watched some Magic School Bus episodes about
stars and space during snack to satisfy some of their curiosity, it would
be beneficial for students to be able to address the way in which our
star, the sun, overpowers the light from the other stars during the day.
We could potentially do this within our Project Lead the Way STEAM
curriculum in which we investigate light. It would be possible to have a
few small light sources, like battery powered tea-lights, across the
room in the dark and then shine a large flashlight at them from a closer
distance to simulate the difference between our sun in our solar
system and the stars that are further away. The fundamentals of this

lesson can be tied into the idea about the stars somewhat seamlessly
and provide an additional avenue for understanding how the world
works.
In addition, I believe that some of my gifted and talented
learners would benefit from the use of an exploration into the topic of
the sun and our solar system. I would like to encourage my three very
high scoring students to make use of their proactive choice time or
designated lesson time to pursue a project that would deepen their
understanding of our planetary system. They could learn about how
the sun effects other planets, or research stars. We are lucky that we
have technology in the classroom to support this kind of endeavor.
They could use the kids version of Worldbook, a research engine, as
a starting place. I think that this would be a wonderful opportunity for
these students to take part in some project based learning, with
direction and guidance from me, but primarily driven by their own
interest in the sun or stars.