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Solar System Learning Activities




5, 6  

Codes used for teaching focus:

  • F = Field Knowledge
  • D = Deconstruction
  • J = Joint Construction
  • I = Independent Construction

Solar System Learning Activities

1: Negotiating and building the Field (F)

  1. Explain the tasks required by the end of the unit:
    • draft and publish an independently constructed information report about the Solar System
    • present an independently constructed oral information report about the Solar System
    • jointly construct a model, diorama or chart of the Solar System to use when presenting the oral information report
    • write a procedure for a younger child to follow to make the model, diorama or chart
  2. Explain that the students learn how to do these things by:
    • Reading and talking about the various aspects of the Solar System
    • Reading and deconstructing examples of information reports and procedures
    • As a whole class, jointly constructing information reports and procedures
    • In pairs or groups, researching and producing information reports and procedures
    • Writing their own independent information reports and procedures
    • Preparing and presenting their own oral information reports
  3. Negotiating the Field
    • Brainstorm: write “Solar System” on the board.
    • List childrens’ ideas on large sheets of paper to be used again later
  4. Categorize ideas
    • The children form groups of 5 or 6 and categorize the ideas brainstormed
    • As a whole class, discuss the various ways the ideas have been categorized
  5. Read Classification of the Solar System
    • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the classification schemes

2. Building the Field (F)

  1. Children complete Definition Match worksheet individually
  2. Whole class discusses the responses to worksheet
  3. Begin a class glossary of the Solar System. Children add to this glossary whenever they find a word or concept they don’t know
  4. Students refer to Glossaries for help
  5. Review the purpose of information reports
    • Discuss who might read this information – parents, other Year 5 and 6 students, younger students. Write with the audience in mind.
  6. In groups of 5 or 6 the children choose a classification scheme and list appropriate headings in topic books

3. Deconstruction (F, D)

  1. Revisit the structure of information reports
  2. Re-emphasis
    • the use of title,
    • an introduction giving the classification,
    • the use of paragraphs with suitable sub-headings based
    • captioned diagrams, tables, illustrations and
    • listing books and other resources used to research the information
  3. Read a sample report about Earth.
    • Highlight subheadings, topic sentences and noun group
    • Discuss the headings for an information report about one planet
      • Title – What is it’s name?
      • Classification – What type of planet is it?
      • Mythology – How did it get its name?
      • Location – Where is it?
      • Rotation and Revolution – How long are its years and days?
      • Size – How big is it?
      • Composition – What is it made of?
      • What’s it like on the surface?
      • How many moons does it have?
      • Does it have rings?
      • Does it have any special features?
      • Who discovered it?
      • Have any man-made satellites been sent there?
      • Resources Used

4. Locating information about the Solar System (F, D)

  • Shared reading – Solar System big book
    Re-emphasis how to use
    • a table of contents,
    • index and
    • how to read a diagram
  • Notetaking group activity
    • One student reads to a group of 5 or 6 others a text that they have chosen about the Solar System. The others take notes using the information report proforma.

5. Recording information about the Solar System (F, D)

  • Students decide on what aspects of the Solar System they will research.
  • In groups of 5 or 6, the children use the research material to investigate and make notes (using the information report proforma.) about the planets and other bodies of the Solar System

6. Deconstruction (F, D)

  1. Read Small Worldsby David Drew
    • Point out that some texts are mixed genre i.e. information reports may contain sections that are also explanations.
    • Highlight subheadings, topic sentences and noun groups.
    • Note the use of “boxed” information.
    • What classification scheme has been used?
    • Who is the likely target audience?
    • What additional features does the book have compared to the report on the Earth? – contents page, glossary and index.
  2. Add words to class glossary

7. Deconstruction (F, D)

  1. Read The Gas Giantsby David Drew
    • Point out that some texts are mixed genre i.e. information reports may contain sections that are also explanations.
    • Highlight subheadings, topic sentences and noun groups
    • Note the use of “boxed” information.
    • What classification scheme has been used?
    • Who is the likely target audience?
    • What additional features does the book have compared to the report on the Earth? – contents page, glossary and index.
  2. Add words to class glossary

8. Note taking (D, J)

  1. Using the information report about the Sun jointly make notes onto the information report proforma.

9. Accessing information (F)

    Group Activity

  1. Students work in groups of 4 – 6, researching a chosen aspect of the Solar System.
  2. Students use information report proforma to take notes.
  3. Internet Research
  4. Astronomy for Kids (
  5. Introduction to the Solar System (
  6. Solar Art (
  7. StarChild (
  8. Students begin to draft an information report about their chosen aspect of the Solar System
  9. Work on the information report continues throughout the unit

10. Review procedures (J)

    1. What are they used for?
    2. Things you need
    3. The steps to follow is written in numbers points
  • Jointly write a procedure about entering and saving information into a computer-based database

11. Identify planets and conditions beyond the Earth’s atmosphere (F, I)

  • Use research material and notes already made to compile a computer-based database of the features of the Solar System
  • Include:
    1. Name
    2. Type of planet or object
    3. Distance from the Sun in kilometers
    4. Period of orbit in days
    5. Diameter in kilometers
    6. Composition, including existence or not of atmosphere
    7. Surface temperatures in degrees Celsius
    8. Names of moons
    9. Discoverer
    10. Satellites visited
  • The database is built up over the whole unit

12. Design and construct a model or diorama of the Solar System (D, I)

  • Consider:
    1. materials required
    2. size
    3. color
    4. perspective

    Assessment Task:
    Jointly construct a model, diorama or chart to use when presenting the oral information report

13. Write a procedure for a younger child to follow to make a model or diorama (F, I)

    • Revise the language and structure of a procedure
      1. Language used
      2. Things you need
      3. What to do in steps
    • Children draft and publish the procedure to follow to make their model or diorama

Assessment Task:
Independently construct a written procedure

14. Recording information about the Solar System (F)

  • Before and after viewing worksheet.
    • Notetaking from The Planets video
  • Students record what they already know about the Solar System in the Before section of the worksheet.
  • Whole class views the video
  • Rewind and on the same day view a small section of the video
  • Students record what they recall of the video on the After section of the worksheet

15. Jigsaw activity (F)

  • Students prepare material for jigsaw activity where they share in groups information about the topic
  • Teacher models presentation of information to groups
  • Students prepare information to share with a new group

16. Students form new groups with all topics represented in each group (I)

  • Regroup class after discussion and report on activity
    • information
    • style
    • availability of material
    • use of graphics
    • use of other visual aids

17. Topic groups plan presentation to whole class (J)

  • Points to consider:
    • presentation style
    • accuracy information presented
    • use of graphical aids
    • manner of presentation

18. Presentation of oral information reports (E)

Assessment Task:
Oral Presentation rubric

19. Whole class matrix (F)

  • After student presentations, whole class adds information to the matrix

20. Solar System Deconstruction (D)

  • Show large version of The Solar System
  • Mix the paragraphs up and have students sort
  • Point out the structure that makes the report flow and the use of topic sentences and noun groups
  • Students cut and paste individual worksheets
  • Students highlight the structure on their sheets – underline the topic sentences; circle the noun groups
  • Other deconstruction activities:
    • Close passage with topic words and conjunctions removed

21. Communicative Crossword (F)

  • In pairs the students design a communicative crossword using topic words and field knowledge of the Solar System

22. Identify the conditions on Earth which sustain plant and animal life (F)

  • Make a matrix of surface and atmospheric conditions on the planets and their moons
  • Note which planets or moons may be able to sustain life
  • Note on which planets or moons it would be impossible for humans to live

23. Consolidation – Question and answer game (F)

  • Students write down a question and the answer on separate pieces of paper about the topic
  • Papers distributed to other students
  • Students read their question / answer and then move about the room to find the person with the matching paper

24. Other Consolidation Activities (F)

  • Students review their understandings using the activities at:
    • Activities to Explore (
    • Find Words (
    • Mars Madness (
    • Planet Tic Tac Toe (
    • Solar Art (

25. Evaluation (F)

  • Published information reports are shared with the whole class
  • Students read one another’s information reports
  • Students discuss and critique these reports

Assessment Task:
Independently constructed written information report on one or more aspects of the Solar System.

Due: Week 7

Note: The following Science and Technology activities are introduced as the children read about these concepts.

ST 1. Solar Eclipse: Blackout (F)

  • Materials: 1. coin
  • Procedure:
    1. Close one eye and look at an object in the distance that is bigger than you.
    2. Hold a coin a arms length in front of your open eye and look at the object.
    3. Bring the coin closer to your open eye until it is directly in front of your eye.
  • Results:
    1. As the coin is brought nearer to your face, less of the object is seen until, finally the object is no longer visible.
  • Why?
    1. The coin is smaller than the object, just as the moon is small than the Sun, but they both are able to block out light when they pass close to the observer.
    2. When the moon passes between the Sun and the Earth, it blocks out light just like the coin blocked your view of the object.
    3. This is called a solar eclipse. The Moon moves around the Earth about once every 29 days, but a solar eclipse does not occur every time.
    4. The Moon does not orbit around the Earth’s equator, and the Earth’s axis is tilted, so the Moon’s shadow misses the surface of the Earth most of the time.

ST 2. Phases of the moon (F)

    (Perform this experiment in a darkened room.)

  • Materials:
    1. pencil
    2. styrofoam ball about 30 centimeters in diameter
    3. lamp
  • Procedure:
    1. Push a pencil into a styrofoam ball.
    2. Position a lamp near a doorway.
    3. Stand in a darkened room facing the lighted doorway.
    4. Hold the ball by the pencil in front of you and slightly higher than your head.
    5. Slowly turn yourself around keeping the ball in front of you as you turn.
    6. Observe the ball as you turn.
  • Results:
    1. The ball is dark when you face the doorway.
    2. Part of the ball lightens as you turn.
    3. The ball is fully illuminated when your back is to the doorway.
    4. The ball starts to darken as you turn towards the door.
  • Why?
    1. The light from the doorway lights up one side of the ball at a time – the side facing the light
    2. As you turn, more of the lighted side faces you.
    3. The Moon behaves like the ball.
    4. Moonlight is a reflection of the Sun’s light, and only one side of the Moon faces the Sun.
    5. The Moon has phases because, as the Moon travels around the Earth (you in the demonstration), different parts of its bright side are seen.

ST 3. Moonlight / Reflected light (F)

    (Perform this experiment in a darkened room.)

  • Materials:
    1. modeling clay, plasicene or playdough
    2. hand mirror
    3. torch or flashlight
  • Procedure:
    1. Place a table close to a wall.
    2. Use a piece of clay to hold the mirror upright on a table.
    3. The mirror should be at right angles to the wall.
    4. Hold the front of the torch at an angle and to the side of the mirror.
    5. Turn the torch on then off.
  • Results:
    1. The mirror looks bright and a circle of light is seen on the wall.
  • Why?
    1. The mirror does not give off light, but it can reflect light.
    2. A beam of light reflects from the mirror and hits the wall when the torch is on.
    3. The Moon does not give off its own light. (The Moon is not luminous.)
    4. The Moon reflects light from the Sun.
    5. Without the Sun there would be no moonlight.

ST 4. Saturn’s Rings (F)

  • Materials:
    1. white cardboard
    2. black text
    3. scissors
    4. ruler
    5. pin
    6. glue
    7. pencil with an eraser attached to the end
  • Procedure:
    1. Cut three strips of cardboard that are each 2.5 X 15 cm.
    2. Place the strips so that their centers cross over, (like a cross made out of three strips).
    3. Glue the centers of the strips together.
    4. Use the black text to make two marks across both ends of each strip. Start the first mark 1 cm from the end and make the second one 3 cm from the end.
    5. Insert the pin through the center of the strips and then into the eraser of the pencil. (Make sure that the strips spin easily.)
    6. Spin the strips.
    7. Observe the spinning strips.
  • Results:
    1. Two black rings are seen, but you can see through the spinning strips.
  • Why?
    1. Your eyes blend the black marks as the strips spin, producing what appears to be solid rings.
    2. The rings around Saturn are made up of pieces of ice and rock.
    3. The movement of these pieces of ice and rock around Saturn makes them appear be be continuous rings, as does the movement of the black marks on the spinning strips.

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