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3 — Sun up, Sun down

The solar system showing the sun and planets, with the orbits of planets depicted in circular blue lines

Above: The Solar System, image created for NASA by Harman Smith and Laura Generosa,
public domain, no copyright.

The key ideas students need to understand in relation to the science content description are:

You should use your own judgment as to whether or not the exact timings (bracketed) are used or the approximate times. The first activity in this sequence is designed to identify student understanding regarding the topic so that the teaching and learning plan can be modified to suit these understandings. It will also provide background for teaching the language of science so that the students can comprehend and use scientific language. For extension in the area of teaching the science concepts, the Primary Connections ‘Spinning in Space’ unit can be used. ACSSU048

Activity 1: True or false

This activity can be conducted with the whole class or in small groups, or by having the students independently complete The Sun and Moon: True or false worksheet and collating the answers. At this point it is not necessary to correct misconceptions, as the students will be researching the topic in the next sequence. The students should be encouraged to make statements and to justify their ideas as part of their oral language development. Explain that in the following activities they will be learning more about the Sun and Moon and will have opportunities to check whether their initial ideas were correct or not.

Have the students brainstorm their ideas about what causes night and day. Reword the true and false statements in the The Sun and Moon: True or false worksheet and use these as Questions for class discussion.

Now have the students work in pairs to discuss their ideas about what causes day and night. Ask them to complete the true or false activity either on the whiteboard or using the The Sun and Moon: True or false worksheet.

At the end of either task, have the students pose questions about night and day that they would like answered. Encourage them to pose questions that are scientific in nature and directly related to the topic. These can be recorded on a chart or in their workbooks and kept for further reference. ACSIS053

Use the information gathered from this activity to direct your planning on this topic. Identify what the students know and what they misunderstand and plan to address any misconceptions.

Activity 2: Fact finding

Using the questions created by the students or the What we want to know about night and day worksheet, have the students use the resources available to research the answers. Assemble a collection of resources, including appropriate factual texts from the school library and other sources on the topic of day and night, the solar system and the Sun, as well as online resources such as NASA’s StarChild learning centre, the Melbourne Planetarium and the Nine Planets website. These texts should be made available for students during guided and independent reading sessions. During modelled reading sessions, make explicit the reading skills necessary for reading technical texts and researching information (for example, using contents pages and glossaries, predicting content from headings and sub-headings, and skimming and scanning for specific pieces of information). Encourage the students to read several texts and to access appropriate online content as they formulate their answers.

Appropriate online content

It is important to teach students about digital literacy and how they can identify appropriate online content. The Australian Communications and Media Authority manages the Australian Government’s Cybersmart initiative. This website contains information for teachers, students and families regarding cyber safety and digital literacy. It is recommended that before students use the internet as a research tool they engage with the online unit ‘Finding and identifying appropriate online content’.

Class poster

At the end of the research sessions, have the students share their findings and create a class poster of facts about day and night. As a class, jointly construct a labelled diagram illustrating the students’ new understandings about how night and day occur. Include in the diagram a title or caption stating what it represents, and labelled images. Any movement should be shown and annotated on the diagram. This diagram can be used as a model for diagrams to accompany Assessment task 1, the information report on the Sun, at the end of this section. ACSIS060

At this point, it would be useful to access activities from Primary Connections ‘Spinning in Space’ unit to reinforce and embed new understandings.