A really good reader to introduce the concepts of space, gravity, tides, orbits, galaxies, solar systems, comets, block holes and stars. I will include a page run down with some ideas for extra activities for the reading lessons. I will run through the pages so teachers can get an idea of the vocab and reading level, and can think of other activities for the session.
Sun Moon and Stars: Page breakdown.
Page: 4-7: Asks students to look as the sky and recognise the difference between day and night. Discusses the stars and distance and asks what they are made of. Explains that we live on a planet and how we move through space. It is worth saying how fast this is, and for fun ( kinda what would happen if the world suddenly stopped spinning) It also states that the sun is a star, if your classes are anything like mine that concept will be met with puzzled gasps, Word to explain: shining, huge, travels, planet, billions.
Page 8-11: These pages go further into explaining what a star is and introduces gravity, worth demonstrating this with a ball of paper and something else to show how the earth pulls us to it. ( and that they drop of at the same speed) It also introduces the Solar System, which would be a good time to get out an AR book or App. The planets are good for phonics instructions as well. It explains what the sun does to Earth and how it can give planets and animals energy (useful for talking about reptiles and hot and cold blood in other animal books. )Words to explain: gravity ( if you use it) gas, glowing, towards, Solar System.
Page 12 -15: These pages are a little tough and a globe will help explain. It covers the Earth spinning, and why we have day and night, and how long a full day is. It doesn’t explain why daytime and night time can be different, although it does mention the axis and that the Earth tilts. The pages also mention about season and how they happen. Words to explain: seasons, drier, causes, leaning, lean, imaginary, stick, axis, stuck, includes, faces
Page 16-19: The following pages cover the moon, our closest neighbour. It explains that other planets can have zero to over 60 moons, it also explains there is no atmosphere there so nothing lives there. We have discovered water since however, so not as dry as the book makes out. It covers why sometimes we can see it, and why sometimes only a portion of it and shows the different stages of the moon. It doesn’t mention eclipses but if you have one coming up you could use this opportunity to do an activity on it. Words to explain: rocky, bounces, shinning, curve, crescent, complete.
Page 20-23: Still continuing with the moon, if you have a piece it would be a good time to let the students look at it in during these pages. explains why the moon looks the way it does, with the craters and plains visible with the naked eye. IT also covers the missions to the moon, and its lack of gravity ( compared to Earth) if you have any Apollo realia it would be cool to use here. I have a mission patch and some metal from the lunar missions but its not essential. You can go further an explain how few missions there were and that we haven’t been back for a long time, maybe ask them why that is. Words to explain: astronauts, lighter, bounce, destroy, rocket, patches, craters, dent, crashed, plains, vast.
Page 24 – 27: The book moves on to stars and galaxies, this is a difficult concept to understand and it is where i use the video on star size comparison below. When the milky way appears we are on the bottom right of it about 3/4 of the way from the black hole. ( it matters but don’t get to hung up on exactly where!) It also explains why stars are different colours, white and blue are hotter than yellow and red etc. It doesn’t mention about neutrons or black holes, and i would definitely ask about black holes as there is usually a couple of students who know what this is ( as much as any of us really do) the is a black hole AR in the Carlton book, and also linked here a black hole weight comparison video which is really good to show them how big these things can get. It must be good they even have reaction videos to it!! Be warned it has slightly ominous music on it. Words to Explain: dwarfs, giants, milky, stripe, galaxy, billions, shines, gas
Page 28 -31: The ending pages of the books focus on how we look at stars and introduce some telescopes, land and space based, this book has the Hubble which will be replaced at some stage soon. Finally it has constellations, and very gently introduces the names we have given to a couple, The Great Bear and Pegasus. These can be called different things in different cultures so be aware. If you want to tell the story of how they got there name then google is your friend! i tend to finish the lesson by reminding them of an app i introduced the previous week, called Sky Map on android that allows them to point their, or their parents more likely, phone at the night sky and see the names of stars, and sometimes planets ( which has gotten great results from the whole family) Words to explain: constellations, imagine, join, pattern, telescopes, remote,
Other pre, during and post reading activties.
- Use Realia to show students.
As with the shark and dinosaur readers it is recommended if you can to show them real pieces of space, It is great to have students be able to touch a real piece of the moon as part of the reading. I actually put it on the floor and let them, CAREFULLY as its small, walk on it so they can go home and say to their parents that in class today they walked on the Moon!
I also us the meteorites for the same reason, i actually have a few like the picture, but also a bigger one charred so i can demonstrate what happens when it enters the atmosphere and so they can touch something that is really from space.
I actually have a moonwatch as well, but that was a gift and i do not recommend buying it for a class!!
- Youtube videos
There are so many i can’t list them all. So will just highlight a couple and list some others. I use Star size comparison video, it is great and really well made. It moves from the moon to the whole universe to give a sense of scale to things that young people don’t often have. I also recommend a similar one but in the form of a song. It is a video by Eric Herman ( who makes first rate children’s songs by the way) Called How Big and and like the previous video it tries to give a sense of scale. The words may be a little much for ESL students but the idea should come through.
- AR and VR activities
As mentioned in the Dinosaur days lesson Ar and VR are great mediums to present both space and dinosaurs. There is no other way ( well, for most of us to experience either) so these offer the next best thing. I will cover them both here. I use a VR application called Titans of space it does a guided tour of the Solar System with or without narration. It is free with In app purchases in that link, and is contains really useful information It flys through the solar system with head controlled movements and if you go for the full tour it includes star size comparisons as well. That can take some time though so not suitable for a large class. I use it as an activity at the end of the book to show them what they have been reading about.
With AR , there are plenty of apps out there on google and i will review some later, personally i use Carlton books again, just as they are so professional looking and they cover a lot more space related images. They have two, to my knowledge, Deep Space AR, and Solar System AR. I will link the books here, but also the Apple and Android apps as the one draw back is it can be difficult to find them among the other offerings. Deep Space in particular has examples of stars, a black hole ( very cool) space rovers and more. i use these as a station type activity so students can move around.
- Written tasks
I have a few of these and will all the downloads here. I also have a full Space lesson that i will update and post ( as its a few years old and the technology moves so fast now!)
- Mobile apps
Sky Map on Android and Sky View Lite on IOS are two stargazing apps that can be used on phones and tablets. I print off a little flyer for students to take home to give some encouragement to parents to download it and explaining they are both free. You can get it from this link at the end to save you some time.
I also give a demo on a tablet in the classroom or the playground to show what it does, of course as its daytime when i have my lessons it has to be the sun we point it at, but it gets the general idea across. They reason i like it is that most students are unaware that at least ( here in Hong Kong) a couple of those stars they can see are actually not stars but are likely to be Jupiter and Saturn. Its quite something to look at another planet with just your eyes.