ALEX Lesson Plan

     

Is the Sun the Biggest Star?

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Kathy Perkins
System: Tuscaloosa City
School: Tuscaloosa City Board Of Education
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34879

Title:

Is the Sun the Biggest Star?

Overview/Annotation:

Young students may think the sun is the biggest and brightest star in the universe since it appears to be the brightest star in the sky when viewed from Earth.  In this lesson, students will use flashlights to construct a model of the difference in stars' appearances due to their distance from Earth.  Then they will use the Internet to research the sun and stars to create a poster, picture book, or digital presentation to explain that the sun is not the biggest or brightest star--it only appears that way due to its proximity to Earth.  

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 5
10 ) Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text. [RI.5.1]


Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.5.10- Find in the text/or answer who, what, why, when, and where questions to demonstrate understanding of an informational text.


English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 5
23 ) Write informative or explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly. [W.5.2]

a. Introduce a topic clearly, provide a general observation and focus, and group related information logically; include formatting (e.g., headings), illustrations, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension. [W.5.2a]

b. Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic. [W.5.2b]

c. Link ideas within and across categories of information using words, phrases, and clauses (e.g., in contrast, especially). [W.5.2c]

d. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic. [W.5.2d]

e. Provide a concluding statement or section related to the information or explanation presented. [W.5.2e]


Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.5.23- Compose informative or explanatory texts by stating a topic, providing facts or details, and providing an appropriate conclusion related to the topic.


Science
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 5
12 ) Defend the claim that one factor determining the apparent brightness of the sun compared to other stars is the relative distance from Earth.

Insight Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Engaging in Argument from Evidence
Crosscutting Concepts: Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
Disciplinary Core Idea: Earth's Place in the Universe
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
Students:
  • Support a claim that the apparent brightness of the sun compared to other stars is due to the relative distance from the Earth.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Defend
  • Claim
  • Factor
  • Evidence
  • Apparent Brightness
  • Relative Distance
  • Sun
  • Stars
  • Earth
  • Reasoning
  • Argumentation
Knowledge:
Students know:
  • The sun and other stars are natural bodies in the sky that give off their own light.
  • The sun is a star that appears larger and brighter than other stars because it is closer.
  • Stars range greatly in their distance from Earth.
  • A luminous object close to a person appears much brighter and larger than a similar object that is very far away from a person (e.g., nearby streetlights appear bigger and brighter than distant streetlights).
Skills:
Students are able to:
  • Identify a given claim to be supported about a given phenomenon. The claim includes the idea that the apparent brightness of the sun and stars is due to their relative distances from Earth.
  • Describe the evidence, data, and/or models that support the claim, including the following:
    • The sun and other stars are natural bodies in the sky that give off their own light.
    • The apparent brightness of a variety of stars, including the sun.
    • A luminous object close to a person appears much brighter and larger than a similar object that is very far away from a person (e.g., nearby streetlights appear bigger and brighter than distant streetlights).
    • The relative distance of the sun and stars from Earth (e.g., although the sun and other stars are all far from the Earth, the stars are very much farther away; the sun is much closer to Earth than other stars).
  • Evaluate the evidence to determine whether it is relevant to supporting the claim, and sufficient to describe the relationship between apparent size and apparent brightness of the sun and other stars and their relative distances from Earth.
  • Use reasoning to connect the relevant and appropriate evidence to the claim with argumentation. Describe a chain of reasoning that includes the following:
    • Because stars are defined as natural bodies that give off their own light, the sun is a star.
    • The sun is many times larger than Earth but appears small because it is very far away.
    • Even though the sun is very far from Earth, it is much closer than other stars.
Understanding:
Students understand that:
  • Natural objects, like the sun and stars, exist from the very small to the immensely large.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Earth: Gravity and Space

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.5.12- Using a model, identify that distance affects the brightness of stars.


Local/National Standards:

 

Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will create a poster, picture book, or digital presentation to defend the claim that the reason the sun appears brighter than other stars is its proximity to Earth.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 
 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

Greater than 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

2 flashlights

globe

one copy of star signs from Attachments section

one copy of notetaking cards from Attachments section for each student

Rubric for each student

paper

markers, crayons, or other art supplies

yellow and red food coloring (optional)

shaving cream (optional)

Technology Resources Needed:

computers with Internet access (one per pair of students)

computer with Internet access and projector for displaying videos and websites

Background/Preparation:

Teachers should preview the website students will use for research prior to the lesson.

Additional resources and information are available in NASA's Living with a Star teacher guide.

  Procedures/Activities: 

Engage (10 minutes):

Model how stars that are closer appear brighter with the following activity.  For this part of the lesson, you need a globe, the sun and star signs from the Attachments section, two flashlights, and a dark classroom or hallway.

  1. Divide students into three groups.  Give one group a globe to represent the view from Earth.  Give the second group a flashlight and the sun sign (included in Attachments section).  Give the third group a flashlight and the Proxima Centauri sign. 
  2. Have the group representing Earth stand at one end of the hallway or classroom.  Have the sun group stand about three feet away from the Earth group and shine the flashlight on that group.  Have the Proxima Centauri group stand as far from the Earth group as possible and shine their flashlight on the Earth group as well.
  3. Have members of the Earth group describe the differences in the appearance of the light from the flashlights.
  4. Rotate groups so all students have the chance to observe the light from different distances.

Explore (30 – 45 minutes, depending on students’ research skills):

  1. Watch the 4-minute video explaining NASA’s research on the sun.
  2. Tell students that the information scientists have collected using telescopes and satellites supports the idea that the sun is not actually the brightest star, it just appears that way to us on Earth because it is relatively close to us.  Students will use these facts to create a poster, picture book, or digital presentation to explain this to younger students who may think that the sun is bigger and brighter than all other stars.
  3. Have students use http://sunandstarfacts.weebly.com/ to gather information about the sun, stars, and their relative distances.  This is a great time to introduce research skills, citation of information, and use of quotation marks when quoting a text. 
  4. Give each student a copy of the note-taking cards from the attachments section.  Review the difference between summarizing information and using a direct quotation from the text.  Have students work in pairs at computers to conduct their research.  If access to computers is limited, have half the class work on research while the other half of the class does the extension art activity, and then rotate groups.
  5. Tell students that they should find out as much as they can about the sun and other stars to be able to make a compelling argument.  After they conduct their research, they will sort their notecards into categories.  Have students brainstorm categories for evidence types.  Examples are the distance from Earth, kinds of stars, the temperature of stars, the life of a star, and the brightness of stars.

Explain (30 – 40 minutes):

  1. Display charts labeled with the following categories and/or the student-selected categories:
    • Distance from Earth
    • Kinds of Stars
    • Temperature of Stars
    • Life of a Star
    • Brightness of Stars
  2. Have students sort their notecards into categories and tape them to the corresponding charts.  
  3. Discuss how each type of information could be used to explain that the sun appears to be the brightest star, but only because of its proximity to Earth.  While information about the relative distances of stars is important, students must also give evidence that the sun is not the brightest star, so evidence from multiple categories is required for a convincing argument.
  4. Have students choose three pieces of evidence from different categories to support their claim that one factor in determining the apparent brightness of the sun compared to other stars is the relative distance from Earth.  They will use these pieces of evidence to write an essay that will be used as the text for a poster, picture book, or digital presentation.

Elaborate (45 minutes – 1.5 hours, depending on your students):

Students will use their written essays to create a poster, picture book, or digital presentation for younger students to explain why the sun looks brighter than other stars.  You may assign these products based on students’ strengths and abilities, or you may allow students to choose which type of product they want to make.  Share the evaluation rubric with students before they begin their posters, books, or presentations.

Resources for posters:

Resources for picture books:

Free tools for digital presentations:

Have students share their posters, books, or presentations with a kindergarten–second-grade class along with sunspot cookies!



Attachments:
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  Assessment  

Assessment Strategies

Use this rubric to evaluate students’ posters, books, or digital presentations.  If your class shares their products with a lower grade class, they can evaluate their own effectiveness by interviewing the younger students following the presentations to see if their understanding increased. 

Acceleration:

Students can conduct an experiment to see the effects of the sun’s radiation through this sunscreen experiment at NASA’s Space Place.

Have students conduct more extensive research on the sun using the following websites:

Play the Solar Trickionary game online to learn detailed facts about the sun. 

Intervention:

Preview or review content with these videos:

Assign partners for research strategically, pairing students who need assistance with peer tutors.

Allow students to choose how they will present their information, giving the option to use technology to type the essay and create a digital presentation.  This may help students with limited fine-motor skills focus on the content rather than the artwork and handwriting.


View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.