view a plan
This first one involves an introduction to the Solar System
Social Studies, Science
By – Alex Johnson-Jimenez
Subject – Science, Social Studies
Grade Level – 5th – 6th grade
NOTE: This is the introductory lesson plan for the Colonization of Mars Thematic Unit.
This unit can also be found here .
Here’s the Daily Journal .
Here’s the Vocabulary List .
Lesson Plan 1: Introducing The Most Heavenly Bodies In The Solar System
Students will be able to identify the major bodies of this solar system, as well as apply knowledge gained through previous experiences to the task of understanding the need for colonization of another planet.
50 popcorn balls 5 different sizes including 5 of each different size (use balloons, Styrofoam balls, sports balls as substitutes for the popcorn balls)
5 Plastic bowls or boxes
Transparencies of the solar system or space travel
Computers with internet connection or CD-ROM Drives
CD-ROMs from the resources list at the end of this document
Books from the resources list at the end of this document
Worksheets (see attached copy)
50 manila folders
Journal Entry sheets
Estimated Time: 65 min.
The teacher will ask the students to wash their hands thoroughly. Set the timer for 5 minutes of student time. Student groups will then be presented with ten popcorn balls (wrapped in cellophane) of varying sizes and colors. The teacher will then ask the students to gently handle the balls as they investigate the balls, and as a group discuss what the sizes, colors, and number of the balls might mean. Student groups will record their answers and thoughts on a sheet of paper. After approximately 5 minutes of investigating, theorizing, and writing, the teacher will ask the students to present their ideas to the class as a group. The teacher will write the main ideas of their presentations on the board. The teacher will thank the students for presenting and state, “I need you all to place the popcorn balls back in the bowl at the center of the table. We are starting a new unit that will last 2 weeks. This unit focuses on ten objects that are round, are different sizes, and different colors. I need you all to pay close attention to the transparencies because when we are done viewing them, I will ask you to describe how the ten popcorn balls and the objects on the transparencies are related-after that you can eat the popcorn balls.” Total Time: 5 min.
1.Set the timer for 3 minutes of teacher time. Once the popcorn balls are put back in their containers, the teacher will begin placing the transparencies on the overhead projector one at a time, but will not say anything about them. The teacher should leave the transparencies up or approximately 10-15 seconds so that all can see them. Total Time: 3 min.
2.At the conclusion of the transparency presentation ask, “what is our new unit about?”
3.Take answers. The first answer will probably be right if they mention the solar system or planets.
4.Set the timer for 2 minutes of teacher time. Acknowledge that the new unit is indeed about the solar system, but that you will be studying the planets in particular. State: “I know that you have probably already studied the solar system in other classes, but we will be doing something a little different this time around. You will figure out how this unit is different from others later on. Right now, I would like for you to spend 2 minutes discussing this question with you group: ‘How are the ten popcorn balls related to the solar system?’ Make sure that you can explain your answer.” Set timer for 2 minutes of student time. Total Time: 4 min.
5.After the 2 minute time limit is up, set the timer for 5 minutes of teacher/ student time, ask student groups to report to the class the connection between the popcorn balls and the solar system. Give each group a chance to report even if one group has already stated that the ten balls could represent the nine planets and the sun and that the sizes and colors are similar to the ten planets and the sun. (i.e. the biggest ball is yellow, the medium sized balls are red (Mars), blue (Earth), white (Venus) and so on. Total time: 5 min.
6.State: “I need the people responsible for group materials to come to the front.” Give each student enough copies of the worksheet for each member of the group. 30 secs
7.Set Timer for 5 min of teacher time. State: “I need everyone to look up on the overhead projector canvas. The worksheet that you have before you is for collecting information about two bodies in the solar system. Follow along as I read the directions Now, let’s do an example so you can see how to fill this worksheet out. Under Solar System Body Name, write the name of the body that you will be studying. I will be assigning the ones that you will be studying in a minute. Next, answer the questions that follow: How far is this body from the Sun? One group will get the Sun as part of their assignment so simply write ‘this body is the Sun.’ Answer all these questions as best as you can and no you do not have to go in order. When your group is done, send someone up to the butcher paper to record the information in its appropriate place using the markers under the paper. This is a group project so I expect to see each person helping to fill this out. I do not expect you to remember everything you saw on the transparencies or from other classes so, group 1 will use the internet, groups 2 and 3 will use the CD-ROMs, and groups 4 and 5 will use the classroom library. You will have 15 minutes to answer all the questions.” Choose students at random to repeat what they are to do as a group until all the directions have been repeated. Choose groups at random and assign two solar system bodies. For example: group 1 is assigned the Sun and Mercury, group 2 is assigned Venus and Earth, and so on. Before you set them loose say, “by the way you can eat the popcorn balls as you work, do not take the balls to the computers. I will be walking around, so if you have any questions let me know.” As the students are working on their assignments, tape the butcher paper which is approximately four to six feet long on the blackboard and at about four feet off the ground. Set the timer for 15 min of student time. Total Time: 20 min.
Note: Students who are using the internet should have a list of appropriate sites available to them to assist in their data gathering. These sites can be found in the resources list at back of this document. It is suggested that the teacher make shortcuts to these sites for the students to use. If the teacher is unfamiliar with how to create internet shortcuts to the desktop, please refer to Appendix A: Creating Internet Shortcuts for instructions on how to complete this task.
8.After the 15 min are up. Set the timer for 3 min of teacher/ student time. Have students return to their seats and have the facilitator from each group come to the butcher paper at the front of the room and report to the class things that they found to be interesting about their solar system bodies. In addition, have the facilitator state whether the bodies would support human life-yes or no. Once all the groups have presented say to the whole class, “Very good. Now I have a question that I want you to think about. Based on the information that you have heard from your classmates and information that already know, which body in the solar system is most like Earth?” As the students mull this question over, write the names of the planets on the board. The class will “vote” on which planet they believe is most like Earth. The teacher will put tally marks underneath each planet that is selected. All the students will have a vote. Ask a student to record the votes on the board. Total Time: 3 min.
9.Set the timer for 6 min of teacher/ student time. Once all the votes are taken, Mars should be the winner. Ask, “The class has selected Mars as being the most like Earth. Why do you think Mars is most like Earth?” Create a Venn Diagram on the board as the students think about the question. In one circle write Earth and in the other write Mars (see diagram below). Take about 10 student responses about what things are similar, which go in the center of the Venn diagram, and take about 10-12 other student responses about what are the differences, which go outside of the middle section of the Venn diagram. Total Time: 6 min.
10.Set timer for 1 min of teacher time. State, “Lets think about this a minute. If Mars is similar to Earth in many ways, it might be possible for people to live on Mars. If this is so, what might be some reasons that people might have to want to leave Earth and live on Mars? I want you to discuss this question in your small groups. As a group, you must come up with at least two reasons why people would want to leave Earth and live on Mars. Your reasons do not have to be very long and can simply be one word, but be prepared to explain if necessary. You have 5 minutes.” Have a student repeat back what it is they are to do. Set timer for 5 min. Total Time: 6 min.
11.Set the timer for 6 min of teacher/ student time. Once the timer goes off, have group facilitators report the groups’ reasons for people wanting to leave Earth and live on Mars. The teacher should record the reasons on the board, use one or two words if possible. Ask if there are any other reasons they want to add. If not, suggest such reasons as: poverty, diseases, Greenhouse Effect, pollution, water shortages, overpopulation, wars, and simple scientific curiosity. Make sure that the students agree with these reasons. State, “OK, some of these reasons look familiar. Where have we seen some of these reasons for leaving one’s homeland and traveling to a place that no one has visited before?” Take answers. Hopefully a student will make the connection between the reasons that they have given to those of the Pilgrims when they came to America in the previous unit. If the students are unable to make the connection, prod them in that direction. Total Time: 6 min.
12.Set timer for 5 min of teacher time. Ask students to verbalize some of the reasons that the Pilgrims left their homeland in search of a different place. Ask, “So, if the reasons we have for leaving Earth are similar to those of the Pilgrims, can we call ourselves Pilgrims?” Take responses and conclude that we are Pilgrims of a sort, just a little different than the first Pilgrims. Finally, state, “This unit is about becoming the first people to colonize the planet Mars. We will work towards building a colony on Mars and use the information about how the Pilgrims colonized America to help us.” Total time: 5 min.
13.Praise the students for their work and state, “The butcher paper will be placed on the bulletin board for all of you to use as this unit progresses. Now, I need to have those responsible for handing out materials to come to the front.” Give each student ten manila folders (two for each student in the group) and enough vocabulary sheet packets for each group member (see attached vocabulary sheet packet). Once all the students have their materials state “On one folder write: Unit Journal. On the other write: Activities and Handouts.” Note: all pages should be three hole punched for placing them in binders. Explain, “In the journal folder, you will place 12 journal entry sheets. Everyday, you will answer the questions on the sheet. If you need more room, you can write on the back. In the other folder you will keep all the completed handouts and activities that we do during this unit, including your vocabulary packet. I suggest you place both these folders in a three ring binder so you do not loose the pages.” Choose students at random to repeat what the folders are for and what goes in each.
14.Finally, say “Tonight’s homework is for you to decorate these folders in whatever way you wish that is appropriate for this unit and for the classroom. You also need to write in your journals. The topic is, ‘When the Pilgrims came to the New World, do you think they would have survived if they did not work together? Explain your answer.’ In addition, you need to define at least 3 words in your vocabulary packet. These words must be defined in your own words. That means that you can’t copy the definition from a dictionary. You can do more if you want, but you need to have at least three done by tomorrow.” Check for clarification on what they need to do.
Walk throughout the classroom observing and answering questions. Assess the accuracy of their answers, use of materials, and contribution to the group.
Decorate folders, answer the journal topic question, and add at least three more vocabulary words with the definitions being in your own words. These are words that you may not have known before, found interesting, or simply want to add to your private word list.
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