Bringing Moon Phases Down to Earth

Journal Article by: Leesa Hubbard Digital resources are stored online in your NSTA Library.

Teaching astronomy concepts to elementary students does not have to be complicated or require expensive materials. As a teacher resource agent for the American Astronomical Society and through involvement with other science- or astronomy-related organizations, the author has discovered through experience that sometimes it’s the simplest hands-on activities that are the most effective in conveying astronomy concepts. In this article, she shares her process for introducing K—4 students to the phases of the moon.

  • Elementary

A selection from Science and Children—September 2008

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Reviews (9)
  • on Thu Apr 16, 2020 1:35 AM

I took a look at this article because I knew as a teacher the phases of the moon was something that I was going to have to teach eventually. For what I have looked at, TEKS about the appearance moon show up at almost all elementary age grade levels. Although, I did find that the phases are specifically mentioned in the forth grade TEK 4.8(C). I think this article could be helpful in classrooms for several grade levels. It is a quick read for sure, but it gives you a lot of insight on how to teach this topic. I know that before reading this, I never even considered daytime moon observation as something I could and maybe should do with my students for example. It actually opened my eyes to that possibility. I think this article gives a good basis for how to teach the subject, and provides a good sample of ideas thats diversity could help a lot of students should one method of teaching not quite click.

Catherine Garland  (Hallsville, TX)
Catherine Garland (Hallsville, TX)

  • on Wed Apr 15, 2020 7:59 PM

1. Why did you choose to put this article in your collection? Be specific...." because it looked interesting" is not sufficient. I chose this article because I am fascinated by the moon and I wanted to find a fun way to introduce the moon phases to my future students so that they can be just as fascinated with the moon as I am. 2. What new information did you learn? This article gave a few different alternatives for what I can do if the students are still struggling with learning the moon phases. I learned that even when he gave a blank piece of paper with just circles and the students had to shade in the moon, some students were having trouble shading in on the correct side. But, for some reason, when he gave them a black piece of construction paper and white chalk, these same students were better able to visualize the moon phases and shade in the correct sides. 3. What TEKS would it go with and how could you use this information in your classroom? 4.8C - collect and analyze data to identify sequences and predict patterns of change in shadows, seasons, and the observable appearance of the Moon over time. I could use the given list of tailored activities to make sure that all of my students are understanding the moon phases. 4. Based on your experience, is there anything in the article that you agree with? Disagree with? Have questions about? I like how the author starts the unit by taking the students outside to show them that the moon and the sun can be out at the same time.

Melina R
Melina R

  • on Wed Apr 15, 2020 7:48 PM

I chose this article because it gives really good and accurate information about the moon phases and how to best teach it. I definitely learned how best to teach the different phases of the moon from this article. I would use TEKS 1.8B 2.8c and many more, you can change the activity up to fit many different grades! I agree with everything that this article says, the information is important to teachers and it is also very accurate witch is very important.

Macy Ann  (Houston, TX)
Macy Ann (Houston, TX)

  • on Mon Apr 13, 2020 4:41 PM

I chose this article because it was about a simple hands on activity to get students to understand the phases of the moon. I learned that you do not always have to have extravagant activity for your students to do get involved. Having simple and easy to understand activities can sometimes be best because they students can understand the astronomy concepts. This would be a great activity for second graders. They could use the TEK 8C “observe, describe, and record patterns of objects in the sky, including the appearance of the moon”. This TEK would be used every night for the month while the students are observing and recording the phases of the moon. The only problem I had with this article is that the link for the lunar observation chart does not work, but you can simply look it up on Google to find one. Overall, I enjoyed this article because it was well written and easy to understand. This activity reminded me of an activity I did when I was in middle school where we recorded the phases of the moon.

Kylie  (Bullard, TX)
Kylie (Bullard, TX)

  • on Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:51 PM

This article details activities in a K-4 classroom that emphasize observing the moon over several nights to understand the phases of the moon. The activities enable students to recognize that there are slight changes every night, but over a week and a month there are significant changes to the moon. The author provides differentiation strategies and a connection to standards. The article also contains a link to additional resources including a lunar observation chart, a moon journal, and a moon survey.

Maureen Stover  (Seaside, CA)
Maureen Stover (Seaside, CA)

  • on Sun Apr 03, 2011 6:58 PM

This simple moon observation activity dispels the notion that the moon can only be seen at night and teaches children how to observe and record data. An outstanding activity for K-3.

Pamela A
Pamela A

  • on Fri Oct 12, 2012 12:03 PM

Starting with the crescent phase this educator introduces students to moon phases during classroom time so that students can make actual observations. This is following by a moon tracking chart students complete for a week at home in the evening. Students are surprised you can see the moon during the day. The author also talks about modifying the activity as well.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Sat Mar 26, 2011 4:39 PM

I love the ideas that all teachers can implement, without expensive supplies or equipment, and this article summarizes one of those ideas. The concept of phases of the moon is often full of misconceptions, and this one is a way to start a study of the motions of the earth, sun and moon. Be aware, though, that is is only a start and that there is much more to be explored in order to be truly understood.

Wendy  (Pocatello, ID)
Wendy (Pocatello, ID)

  • on Thu Jul 07, 2011 8:52 PM

Hubbard offers a progression of activities to do with young students, K – 4, to help them understand the Moon can be seen during the day and make observations of the Moon’s phases for a month. Within the article are suggestions for differentiation to make sure all students understand the concept. The resource is useful, it would be helpful if more specific information on the differentiated resources were available. The lunar observation chart referenced as a download, is no longer available.

Sandra Gady  (Renton, WA)
Sandra Gady (Renton, WA)

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