Lunar Phases Lesson Plan

With next week’s full moon approaching quickly and school just back in session, we decided to share our a lesson plan for our Lunar Phases learning objective. The accompanying learning objective has eight games in total, so check them out.

Lunar Phases Lesson Plan Objective

Students will be able to:

  • Name the phases of the moon and identify them based on a model.
  • Identify which phase of the moon occurs in various locations in its orbit around Earth.
  • Describe why only one side of the moon is visible from Earth.


Time Required:
65 minutes

Materials Needed:

  • Teacher with computer/internet access
  • 1 computer/laptop/iPad per student with internet access
  • Styrofoam cups (9 per group)
  • Black marker
  • Blue marker
  • Phases of the Moon Worksheet

Teacher Preparation

  1. 1. Create Playlist 1, a 30 minute playlist, in Legends of Learning with the following game found in Lunar Phases: Lunar Wolves, and Ms. Rose and Lunar Phases.
  2. 2. Create Playlist 2, a 10-minute playlist in Legends of Learning with 5 assessment questions from the Lunar Phases learning objective.
  3. 3. Prepare 9 styrofoam cups (1 set of 9 per group) by coloring in the bottoms to represent the lunar phases. Use the blue marker to completely color the bottom of the ninth cup to represent the Earth.
  4. 4. Make copies of the Phases of the Moon Worksheet (available on the PDF version of this lesson plan) for each student.

Engage (5 minutes)

  1. 1. Students are divided into groups of 4-5. Each group is given a set of 9 cups. The bottoms of the cups are shaded with marker to represent the various lunar phases. The blue cup is the Earth.
  2. 2. Groups are instructed to place the blue cup in the center (bottom up) and surround the “Earth” with the cups showing the lunar phases in what they think is the correct order.
  3. 3. Students will keep their model on their table to be revisited later after playing the games.

Explore (30 minutes)

  1. 1. Hand out the Phases of the Moon Worksheet to each student.
  2. 2. Have students sign into Legends of Learning and enter your teacher code.
  3. 3. Launch Playlist 1 to the students.
  4. 4. Pass out the Phases of the Moon Worksheet.
  5. 5. While students are working through this game they will complete the worksheet.

Explain (15 minutes)

  1. 1. Students will get back together in their groups from the Engage activity and re-arrange their phases of the moon model based on the new knowledge they have gained.
  2. 2. Teacher will check that each group has an accurate model prior to moving on.
  3. 3. Teacher will review the answers to the Phases of the Moon Worksheet by drawing diagrams on the board. Teacher will ask students to come to the board and shade in what the moon looks like for each of the phases.

Elaborate (5 minutes)

    1. 1. Explain to students that no matter when we look at the moon, we are always seeing the same side of the moon. On Earth, we never see “the dark side” of the moon.
    2. 2. Show this video to students to help them understand the reason why:

  1. 3. Ask students: How do we know what is on the other side of the moon?

(Answer: Satellites have been sent to take pictures of the other side of the moon so we know what it looks like.)

Evaluate (10 minutes)

  1. 1. Launch Playlist 2 to your students. When they finish the assessment questions, any time left is freeplay.
  2. 2. Analyze student results to determine what concepts need to be a focus for reteaching.

Implementing NGSS in the Classroom

Since states began deploying Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) standards seven years ago, 18 states and the District of Columbia adopted the standards in full. Now many schools and teachers are just beginning their NGSS journey. Finding actual curriculum and content challenges implementation.

NGSS Standards & Content

The NGSS standards seek to create engagement in the classroom. With the NGSS teachers make science learning an active exercise, but finding engaging NGSS content and exercises to achieve that? Now that’s a challenge.

Many teachers visit Legends of Learning for its NGSS content. There are few wide ranging series of content and lesson items for the entire NGSS suite, much less the entire middle school suite (Earth and Space, Life, and Physical sciences). Others are looking for more depth to help students get a grasp of the content.

“For me, the hardest part of implementing NGSS has been that at times I feel like the standards ‘gloss over’ certain topics, then dive straight into others in a lot of detail,” said April T., a Legends of Learning Ambassador. “Sometimes when I feel like if I follow the standards as they are written (with the instructional boundaries/limits), that my students might not have the background they need to learn new material later in the year or in the next grade level.”

Implementation Requires Science, Engineering & Crosscutting Techniques

NGSS LogoWhile there is great content built off of the NGSS DCI content system available, there is still a wide range of activities that teachers need to take on. Successful implementation requires a multidimensional approach to teaching to be the norm in every science classroom. This requires extending beyond the traditional content first approach. Now teachers must focus on science and engineering practices (SEP) and crosscutting concepts (CCC) requires different ways of thinking, lesson planning, and daily instruction.

In the case of SEP, teachers need to implement exercises that help students embrace the principles of scientific inquiry. On the engineering side, teachers challenge students to define a problem and resolve it via a solution. Other principles involved in NGSS’s view of SEP, include:

  • Developing and Using Models
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
  • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

About Those Cross-Cutting Concepts

Though more intuitive, CCC teaching challenges educators in different ways. Traditionally, teachers give lessons in an isolated, linear fashion. NGSS assumes that various aspects of science and its topics cut across lessons.

For example, one might learn that seeds germinate and produce plants (Life Science), but weather and climate changes may create new challenges that prevent the plant from successfully growing.

NGSS recommends teachers make sure that students understand the following crosscutting concepts:

  • Patterns
  • Cause and Effect
  • Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
  • Systems and System Models
  • Energy and Matter
  • structure and Function
  • Stability and Change

“There is a big push to make sure that our students are becoming comfortable identifying and explaining the SEPs and CCC’s that are being presented in our different units and activities,” added April T. “We were given 1/2 day PD time this year to plan with our grade level cohort (or as a department, schools go to determine how they wanted to use their time). We came up with an activity or a system (it was pretty open ended) to make sure the SEPs and CCCs are being embedded into our instruction.”

Learn More From An Experienced Online Educational Game Company

NGSS challenges teachers to create lessons that address all three principles; DCI, SEP, and CCC. Many teachers actively seek out the resources and getting the training to succeed. To help, our next blog in our series will offer a series of content and lesson plan resources to help teachers bring the new standards to the classroom.

For more information call Legends of Learning at 888.585.1317 or by contacting them online.

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