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2 — What words do we know about night and day?

The focus of this sequence will be to develop a word bank that will be used to support the students with their writing throughout the unit. The first part of the sequence will be the whole group brainstorming words and vocabulary relating to day and night. Your role will be to guide and support vocabulary choices and to provide more technical language if required. The students may need to be supported in understanding the differences between everyday words and technical or scientific words that can be used to describe day and night.

Activity 1: Night and day words

Show the students Vincent van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night. Ask the students to identify features of the painting that illustrate the painting’s title. They should identify aspects such as the use of colour (black for the buildings with pinpoints of light in windows, dark blue for the sky and yellow for the moon and stars) and techniques (swirling brush strokes to show the light coming from the moon and stars, and sweeping brush strokes for the Milky Way). They can also discuss which aspect of the painting first attracted their attention and the mood or atmosphere created by the work.

The Vincent van Gogh painting 'The Starry Night', showing a deep blue swirling night sky with a yellow moon and stars over a village dominated by a spired church tower

Above: The Starry Night (1889) by Vincent van Gogh, public domain image, no copyright

Ask the students to close their eyes and visualise the night sky. (You may ask them to recall the class barbeque.) They then open their eyes and contribute to a brainstorm of all the words they know about night-time. Support the brainstorming with some technical language as required, then record and display the brainstormed words. The words may be grouped (for example, words about what we see in the night sky [everyday and technical] and words that describe the night sky [everyday and technical]).

Show the students van Gogh’s painting Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun. Follow the same process as above for discussing the painting and making links with the students’ own experiences and knowledge. Have the students brainstorm all the words they know about daytime.

The Vincent van Gogh painting 'Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun': gnarled olive trees with mountains in the background and a midday sun turning the sky above yellow

Above: Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun (1889) by Vincent van Gogh, public domain image, no copyright

Support the brainstorming with some technical language as required, then record and display the brainstormed words. The words may be grouped. For example, words about what we see in the sky during the day (everyday and technical) and words that describe the sky during the day (everyday and technical).

Activity 2: Sun and Moon

Organise the students into small groups of three or four using a grouping strategy such as ‘Barnyard babble’ or ‘Milling to music’.

Barnyard babble

Equipment: Prepared strips of paper with animal names written on them. Have multiples of each animal, depending on how large you want each group to be. If you wish to have three students per group, have three of each animal in the pile.

Directions: Each student gets a card or strip of paper. They are not to speak or to let others know what is on their card. When you signal, the students make the noise of the animal on their card. The object is to find other students making the same sound and to join together with these students in one group.

The focus for this part of the session is on brainstorming descriptive language rather than scientific language. Encourage the students to think of words that describe colour, size, feelings and so on.

Display this photo of the Sun and ask each group to come up with ten words to describe the Sun, using the Our words: Sun worksheet.

Display this photo of the Moon and ask each group to come up with ten words to describe the Moon, using the Our words: Moon worksheet. Next, allow the small groups some time to share their words with the whole group, using the Our words: Sun and Moon worksheet.