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Mitch Lopate


Language Arts, Social Studies  




Mitch Lopate

EDU 557.31

Lesson Plan 4 – Grade 8

Topic:  The Copernican Revolution

Subjects:  Science, History, Mathematics, Writing Skills, Communications

Type of Lesson:  Introductory, Reinforcement, and Evaluation



1.      To familiarize students with the theory behind our solar system.

2.      To introduce students to the Copernican Revolution and the differences between medieval perspectives about the origins and nature of the universe.

3.   To enhance student’s writing skills with other creative methods.

            4.   To let students practice being timed on speeches.

            5.   To express student’s ideas and knowledge through oral communication.


Lesson Objectives:

1.        Students will criticize or defend Copernicus to an audience living in the Renaissance by describing the significant facts of the Copernican Revolution through an editorial presentation of three minutes in a clear, concise manner with 100% accuracy.  (Affective:  Responding/Organizing)

2.        After viewing and discussing a video, students will summarize the significance of the Copernican Revolution in a one-page essay with 100% accuracy.  (Cognitive:  Analysis)

3.        After reviewing a sample editorial on video, students will listen and appraise the speaker’s clarity of thought with a rubric as he or she performs his or her presentation to the class.  (Affective:  Analysis/Evaluation)


Lesson Introduction:

                The teacher will ask the students to name the planets and describe significant highlights of their natures and orbits.  In a previous lesson, Ptolemy’s theory about the rotation of the sun, moon and the earth was discussed.  The teacher will use the timeline developed in Lesson Plan 3 to reintroduce Copernicus and how his questioning of Ptolemy led to our understanding of the solar system today. 





Handouts of essay on the Copernican Revolution

Overhead of Ptolemy’s and Copernicus’ epicycle theories

Copernicus and His World.  The Rise of Science Series, BBC-TV/Open University


Lesson Development:

1.      Teacher will transcribe names of planets and parts of the solar system on board as students provide them.  This should include stars, galaxies, comets, asteroids, moons.

2.      Teacher will ask students to discuss the prevailing views of the Church and accepted beliefs of Ptolemy and Aristotle regarding the nature of the universe as indisputable sources. 

3.      Class will read short essay, view movie and review overheads about Copernicus and his theories.

4.      Students will prepare an outline of the Copernican theory to include:

a.       Copernicus was the first to question to Ptolemic system.

b.      He never advanced his theory that the earth was not the center of the universe; he only discovered that mathematical calculations that would be correct if an astronomer accepted the sun as a stationary point.

c.       The nature of solar vs. earth-centered orbits (epicycles).

d.      Ptolemic and Church-accepted doctrines

5.      Students will use their outlines as a guide for an editorial to be researched and read aloud within four days.  Students will choose the role of either:

a.       A church official

b.      Ptolemy, Aristotle, Pythagoras or other Greek philosopher/astronomer/scientist

c.       A Renaissance student studying at a university

d.      A nobleman

e.       A contemporary astronomer


Lesson Closure/Summary:

1.      Did students discuss the facts of the Copernican Revolution in their presentation? 

2.      Do students comprehend the power and opinions of the Church as a deciding factor in Copernicus’ decision to withhold his data?

3.      Can students write from the perspective of one of the characters, or do they need more information on the role?



1.      The rubric for the editorial will be as follows:

·        Student spoke in specific detail about his/her decision to criticize or defend Copernicus and offered at least five clear, concise examples as reasoning:  (A)

·        Student spoke with moderate detail about his/her decision to criticize or defend Copernicus and offered five clear, concise examples as reasoning:  (B)

·        Student spoke in general terms about his/her decision to criticize or defend Copernicus and offered no more than three clear, concise examples as reasoning:  (C)

·        Student spoke in general terms about his/her decision to criticize or defend Copernicus and could not offer more than two clear, concise examples as reasoning:  (D)

·        Student did not participate to any degree:  (F)



2.      Did the class use creative ideas for the project?  Comprehend the material?  Personify the role they chose?  Take advantage of the extra information given to them?


Lesson Follow-Up:

1.      There have been two sightings of new planetary objects in the solar system since 1977, the satellite Chiron and the heavenly body beyond Pluto, Persephone.  Ask students to research their names and suggest correlation between modern social patterns and the stories from mythology (example:  career fields, areas of study; Chiron represents healing arts/martial arts, leading to chiropractic, naturopathic medicine, Oriental healing) for these new objects.

2.      Introduce class to theory of Immanuel Velikovsky and the erratic orbit of Venus.  Reference the Mayan civilization’s knowledge of Venus’ cycle and their astronomical computations.  Ask history teacher to be a guest speaker to introduce class to astronomical discoveries from Central American civilizations as basis for multi-cultural Renaissance unit.

3.      Ask class to create a graph with Y-axis showing number of moons for each planet, and X-axis showing names of planets in solar system.  Ask class to plot the coordinates for each planet, and speculate on results and discrepancies between Mars and Jupiter.

4.      Ask class to research the projects of Galileo and his discoveries as the basis for the movie series, “From the Earth to the Moon” (HBO).  Hand-outs will be provided from “The Greatest Books since 1492” on Galileo.


Adaptation for Special Students:

            If a student is visually impaired, large printed dittos will be available to allow a clearer understanding of the lesson and assignment.  If the student is neurologically impaired, he or she can have an untimed lesson or discuss the project orally with the teacher.  If the student is perceptually impaired, he or she can read the material with a high level learner in the class, an older peer tutor or the teacher for a better understanding of the assignment.


NJ Core Curriculum Standards:

3.1-All students will speak for a variety of real purposes and audiences.

3.2-All students will listen actively in a variety of situations to information from a variety of resources.

3.3-All students will write in a clear, concise, organized language that varies in content and form for different audiences and purposes.

3.4-All students will read various materials and texts with comprehension and critical analysis.

3.5-All students will view, understand, and use nontextual visual information.

4.3-All students will connect mathematics to other learning by understanding the interrelationships of mathematical ideas and the roles that mathematics and mathematical modeling play in other disciplines and in life.

5.3-All students will develop an understanding of how people of various cultures have contributed to the advancement of science and technology, and how major discoveries and events have advanced science and technology.

5.9-All students will gain an understanding of natural laws as they apply to motion, forces and energy transformation.

5.11-All students will gain an understanding of the origin, evolution, and structure of the universe.

6.4-All students will acquire historical understanding of societal ideas and forces throughout the history of New Jersey, the United States, and the world.




Anderson, Margaret Jean.  (1996).  Isaac Newton:  The Greatest Scientist of All Time:  Great Minds of Science.  Springfield, New Jersey:  Enslow Publishing.


Black, C.F., Greengrass, Mark, & Howarth, David.  (1993).  Cultural Atlas of the Renaissance.  New York: Macmillan General Reference


Boorstin, Daniel J.  (1983).  The Discoverers:  A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself.  New York:  Random House.


Downs, Robert B.  (1961).  Famous Books Since 1492.  New York:  Barnes & Noble


Cornwell, Anne Christake & Damianakos, Alexander N.  (1993). The Renaissance/Audio Cassette (Western Civilization). University Press & Sound


Durant, Will.  (1953).  The Story of Civilization (Series V) – The Renaissance.

New York:  Simon and Shuster.


Durant, Ariel & Will.  (1968).  The Lessons of History.  New York:  Simon and Shuster.


May, Nadia (Narrator) & Pater, Walter.  (1995).  The Renaissance.  New York:

Blackstone Audio Books.


Velikovsky, Immanuel.  (1950).  Worlds in Collision.  New York:  Pocket Books (division of Simon and Shuster.)


Weber, Eugen.  (1995).  The Western Tradition:  From the Ancient World to Louis XIV.  Lexington, MA:  D. C. Heath and Company


Copernicus and His World.  The Rise of Science Series, BBC-TV/Open University

From the Earth to the Moon.  HBO Films, 1998.

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