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Solar System Unit
  Justin Wiedrick
(developed for EED 394)
Unit Overview
  The objectives of this project are to develop an interdisciplinary thematic unit plan on our solar system.  Our Solar System has many educational materials and displays many educational opportunities.
 The solar system is a very efficient way to incorporate all areas of study all while keeping the students interested and involved.  Our planets are very interesting and offer many questions that may lead children to forming their own opinion and using critical thinking.
  Guidelines will be offered for the effective implementation of this unit in the third grade level and will span a time period of 8-10 class periods.  Students will be able to recite and understand the names and labels of the planets, where they are and certain characteristics about each planets.  Students will also be able to display, in their own way, the thing in which they think they learned the best and/or was the most important

Parent Letter:
Dear Parent,
 In the next two weeks, the science part of our class will be covering the solar system.  We will be discovering planets and stars and their relationships to each other.  The sun will, obviously, have a great amount of significance to our unit.  We will not be getting into too much theory but the students will be expected to understand that we do not really know all that much about the solar system.  We will be using computers and learning centers to incorporate all kinds of learning.  The students will be encouraged to further explore the solar system on their own.
 The support you give to the school, myself and the students is greatly appreciated.  Any questions, comments on this unit or anything else, please feel free to contact me.

       Sincerely,
 

       Justin W.  Wiedrick
 
 

Instructional Overview
I intend to facilitate the instruction in these lessons inductively.  In giving the students direct instructional background and the means available for inductive and discovery learning, I hope to be able to help out when needed and guide the class or groups to a broader frame of mind for knowledge.
 Direct instruction with some deductive aspects would be used but only in giving the basic background information in the first lesson.  The completion of the unit will be conducted in an inductive way.  The solar system information will be conveyed to the students at first, and then they will be guided from there, and throughout the unit, to a general goal but one that will enable them to grasp all the knowledge set out for them.  This unit will try to deliver the knowledge of our solar system and all its parts to the students, with the students determining where the unit leads.  There are goals that the students have to achieve, such as measuring distances between planets, presenting characteristics of each planet to the class and comparisons between them, but this unit is designed to allow the students to lead to a deeper personal understanding of the Solar System.  A skeletal structure of the unit is laid out in the following, but it is the students that determine the direction of learning.  The majority of the learning will take place in partners or groups as to incorporate as many ideas as possible.  Cooperative learning will be the factor that allows the students to excel into a new way of learning and can help each other to better themselves.  Learning centers will be available in the classrooms, so, at different times during the unit, the students will be able to use them to better understand their knowledge.  Learning centers are a key factor in students being able to assert themselves in taking their learning separate ways.
 Early in the unit the students will watch a shuttle launch as to relate the unit to their real life.  This leads us into the unit with the students learning the size of many of the planets and stars and such in relation to things that they already know.  This leads to the students learning the order of the planets by using an acronym which leads the students to learning about the distances between planets and stars.  The distances leads the unit into talking about stars and especially the sun.  The unit will conclude with the students celebrating their learning by showing off what they know to the rest of the class in the best way they see fit.
 Overall, the teacher will conduct and facilitate the learning.  The teacher will give the students the information and give them ways to gather more of the information and allow the discussions, journal writing and eagerness of the students will decide where the unit truly leads.  The students will be guided by the teacher as opposed to being strictly taught.
 

Unit Goals
 In this unit students will be asked to complete a great number of tasks and will be assessed in varying ways.  The following are the overall goals of the unit:
 Students will be able to:
  1. name and label all the planets in our solar system
  2. find distances between planets and stars
  3. compare and contrast characteristics of planets
  4.  research and report information on given planets
  5.   create displays of given planets
  6. celebrate their learning by presenting it to the class
  7. appreciate the size and uncertainty of the Solar System.
  8. collaborate in order to secure a further understanding of space, science and learning in general.
 

Lesson 1
Topic:  Relative size;  Solar System Opener

Time:  40-50 minutes

Behavioral Objectives:
 1.  Students will be able to illustrate the size of the Earth in relation to other planets.
 2.  Students will be able to relate the size of the Earth to the sun.
 3.  Students will be able to relate the size of the Earth to other planets.
 4.  Students will be able to illustrate the size of our universe overall, comparing planets, stars and distances.

Activities and Content:
 1.  Teacher will start discussion on the size of certain things.
 2.  Teacher will lead the discussion into where these things live.
 3.  Questions will be asked about what the students think the size of the Earth and the planets.
 4.   Questions will be asked about what the students think the size of the sun and stars.
 5.  Students will perform(outside) the tasks to show the relationships of the sizes of the planets compared to the sun.
 6.  Students will trace paths of the planet orbits by walking around the school, which will be used as the sun.
 7.  Comparisons will be made showing that other towns can be other galaxies and that stars can be the size of the entire Earth.
 8.  Students will be read a book called Is A Blue Whale The Biggest Thing There Is? , and a discussion will ensue concluding with journal writing for a reaction.

Teaching Methods:
 Teacher facilitates size differentiation with class discussion, allows the class to take the discussion where it may, with leading questions; organize the planet formations with the students, and use every teachable moment.

Materials:
 The book Is A Blue Whale The Biggest Thing There Is? ;  a large area outside;  symbolic representations of planets; journals.

Evaluations:
 One will be able to see that the students are “getting it”  by reading thier Reactions and discussions, observing thier actions carried out by students outside, asking and answering questions and thier journal entries.

Assignment:
 Draw a solar system on a large sheet of paper to the correct scale.
 

Lesson 2
Topic:  Solar System

Time:  30-40 minutes

Behavioral Objectives:
 1.  Students will be able to produce an instructional discussion on John Glenn and the space shuttle launch.
 2.  Students will be able to name all the planets in our solar system on paper and orally.
 3.  Students will be able to summarize information about the planets.
 4.  Students will be able to name the planets in order from the sun, out.
 5.   Students will be able to demonstrate and modify the function of an acronym.
Activities and Content:
 1.  Teacher will initiate a class led discussion talking about John Glenn.
 2.  Teacher will display and label the nine planets of our solar system to the children.
 3.  Teacher will explain some characteristics of  the nine planets of our solar system to the children.
 4.  Teacher will show and explain the acronym that helps one to remember the names of the planets(My Very Elegant Mother Just Sat Upon Needles and Pins).
  A.  Teacher will also explain that this is the order of the planets from the sun, out
 5.  Students will write down this acronym with their own words filled in.
 6.  All the information will be erased and the students will be asked to remember the acronym in order to remember the planets and their order.
 7.  Students will have to start and keep a solar system journal throughout the unit.  There will be and entry everyday and it will be checked at the end of the unit.  It will just be reactions and reflections.
Teaching Methods:
 Teacher facilitates and displays planet information with manipulatives, whole group discussion initiated by the teacher but carried out by the students, group work with the teacher for those who could not get the acronym correct, correction and feedback of their work.
Materials:
 Posters of planets, models of planets(if available), computer supplementation(CD-ROM, internet), science textbooks, dittos
Evaluations:
 One will be able to see that the students are “getting it”  by reading thier Reactions and discussions, observing the entire group comprehension, correcting thier ditto work and reacting to thier solar system journal.
Assignment:
  Study the acronym and repeat it in class.  Practice the acronym and its meaning and be able to repeat it with names of planets.  Be able to know that the planet acronym is the order of the planets from the sun, out.  The students are to come up with three to five acronyms from home or the newspaper.  Then the students are to come up with their own acronym, consisting of six or more letters, having to do with Thanksgiving or Christmas and dealing with a subject of their choice.
 

Lesson 3
Topic:  Distances
Time:  30-40 minutes
Behavioral Objectives:
 1.  Students will recognize the distances from the earth to the sun.
 2.  Students will label the distances from the earth to the other planets.
 3.  Students will restate the meaning of a light year.
 4.  Students will be able to compare the distances between Earth and other objects in our solar system.

Activities and Content:
 1.  Teacher will display and label the nine planets of our solar system.
 2.  Students will be asked to label the planets.
 2.  Teacher will explain what a light year is.
 3.  Teacher will explain how long a light year is.
 5.  Students will be given examples of light year distances and times.
 7.  Students will use manipulatives(planet models), shut the lights off, and use flashlights to observe and record light speed and distance.

Teaching Methods:
 Teacher facilitates and displays planet information, whole group discussion, group activities, seat work.

Materials:
 Posters of planets, models of planets(if available), science textbooks, dittos

Evaluations:
 One will be able to see that the students are “getting it”  by reading thier Reactions and discussions, entertaining the whole group comprehension and correcting thier ditto work.

Assignment:
 Light year and distance handouts, math work with numbers and rounding, true/false on board with light year distances, recorded information from lab demonstration(flashlight).
 
 
 

Lesson 4
Topic:  The Sun and Stars
Time:  45-60 minutes
Behavioral Objectives:
 1.  Students will be able to describe how far away the Sun is from Earth.
 2.  Students will be able to describe how large the Sun is compared to the Earth.
 3.  Students will be able to describe how old the Sun is.
 4.  Students will be able to list the two things that the Sun gives the Earth.
 5.  Students will be able to infer that the Sun is only an average sized star.

Activities and Content:
 1.  Teacher will talk about and review the book that was read called Is A Blue Whale The Biggest Thing There Is?.
 2.  Teacher will ask questions about the size of the Earth compared to the size of the Sun and lead a discussion.
 3.  Leading questions will be asked in order to help students remember how far away the Sun is from the activity we did outside previously.
 4.  Teacher will enter into the discussion facts like how much time the Sun has left and how old it is, what the sun gives us and how we use it, and that the Sun is only average sized compared to other stars.
 5.  The teacher will tell how other stars are small like van Maanen’s and large stars like Betelguese and their relationships to the Earth and the solar system in terms of size.
 6.  Students will read aloud the book Where Do The Stars Go at Night., and discuss its significance to this unit.
 7.  Students will be asked to do two worksheets while others are selected to work on the computer doing puzzles, fill-ins and other exercises while still other students will be at the learning center.

Teacher Methods:
 Teacher facilitates Sun and star importance with class discussion, allows the class to take the discussion where it may, with leading questions; keep all students on task with the many different learning devices, and use every teachable moment.

Materials:
 The book Is A Blue Whale The Biggest Thing There Is?  and Where Do The Stars Go at Night.; worksheets;computers and solar system programs and/or CD-ROMS;  symbolic representations of planets and Sun; journals.

Evaluations:
 One will be able to see that the students are “getting it”  by reading thier Reactions and discussions, grading thier worksheets, asking and answering questions, reacting to journal entries, correcting thier work produced on the computer and making teacher observations(kid-watching).
 

Lesson 6
Topic:  Celebration of Learning(unit wrap up)
Time:  2-3 class periods of science days in a row
Behavioral Objectives:
 1.  Students will be able to organize and produce learned material in front of class
 2.  Students will be able to research and gather information.
 3.  Students will  teach each other information by showing off their work(show appreciation of what they learned).
 4.  Students will be able to apply one aspect of the knowledge they have learned and defend it in a presentation to the class.
Activities and Content:
 1.  Teacher will explain, in the beginning of the unit, that there will be a final presentation given by everyone, in groups or pairs, on one thing they learned in the unit.
 2.   Towards the end of the unit the teacher will get them started on finding topics and researching them.
 3.  Students will be given criteria that take them through what they have to accomplish as not to confuse them.
 4.  Students will present what material they learned, to the class, in a two to three day span.

Teaching Methods:
 Teacher allows the students to show off their learning and interjecting with comments on how and why they learned what they did.  The teacher will also relate the importance of displaying their learning and the importance of understanding what they have learned.
Materials:
 The students bring to their presentation what they need, including any of the materials used during the unit.

Evaluations:
 There will be holistic rubric containing the necessary criteria to grade the presentations.
 

Lesson 7
Topic:  Learning Center
Behavioral Objectives:
 1.  Students will be able to work individually or with 1 or 2 others in a different setting
 2.  Students will be able to complete supplements important to learning.
 3.  Students will be able to use manipulatives to advance learning.
 4.  Students will be able to work and review previous materials that are specific to their learning.
 5.  Students will be able to explore certain areas of interest that are not covered or partially covered in class.

Activities and Content:
 1.  Teacher will explain to the students early in the unit what a learning center is about.
 2.  Teacher will explain that the learning center is not to get out of class or play but to extend learning.
 3.  Teacher will explain that the teacher will tell students when to go to the learning center.
 4.  Teacher will explain the importance of a learning center.
 5.  Teacher will explain the way to get the most out of the learning center
 6.  Teacher will let the students know that they have to write in their journals what they did and be graded on it every time.

Teacher Methods:
 Teacher uses specific work times and opportunities to send the students to the learning center in order to complement their learning.  The teacher will also have different students cover different topics and materials; those which help the students to progress in their learning.  Teacher will have to have a great deal of information and materials at the learning center and will have to be able to know how to get more materials and information.

Materials:
 A display of the solar system and the planet paths will be set up in the background.  Planet models will be set up.  A computer with CD-ROM and software will be placed next to the display and be a part of the learning center.  Extra worksheets that are used for enrichment will be put at the learning center after each lesson.  Groups will have certain projects to accomplish such as making a comet, rocket, planets,etc., that will be worked on at the learning center.

Evaluations:
 Kid-watching, journal entries, worksheets, final project(ie. comet)
 

Assessment Overview
 Student assessment is an integral part of the teaching process.  This unit will intend to attain assessment by interacting and observing.  The teacher will lead the class in instruction and/or have instructions displayed.
 As the students are working through their situations, the teacher will kidwatch and observe to make sure that the students are correctly making use of the worksheets, learning centers, group work and keeping on task.  The teacher will talk with each group and/or group member in an informal way to find out the understanding of the material and application.  There will be no formal assessment at this juncture but the teacher retains and idea of what is going on and has a basis for further assessment.  The students will write journals on each of the lessons in the unit.  This will be the way in which the students will be evaluated at this point, and will allow the teacher to know where the students are learning wise and where they want to go.  The students do not feel pressured and are allowed to explore new avenues if possible.  The next assessment technique will be observation of the gathering of information.   The teacher will grade the gathering by a checklist to see if they have a given number of pieces of information, with visuals.  A learning center will be set up and have many materials added to it throughout the unit.  This will be assessed by observations taken by the teacher during the time the students are at the learning center and the entries that they write in their journals.  This technique allows a way for the students to select a learning tool that will enable them to go farther with a topic than the class will and will also allow them to pick a well involved, pertinent to the class, form of learning that they can present at the end of the unit.   The papers on comparisons between planets and research will be assessed on the content and criteria with a number grade, but also on how well they gathered the information, worked cooperatively and relayed the information in their way.  There will be worksheets given for every lesson assessment but will be graded as a homework type of grade, which will be a checked off in a plus-minus format.  This is the only traditional assessment technique of the unit but is the most effective way to assess the papers and their construction.
 A rubric will be used to assess the presentations(see Assessment Instrument).  There will be certain techniques and aspects that the students will be expected to demonstrate, and they will know this ahead of time.  The grade will be determined by whether or not they have displayed the required criteria in the correct format.  Also, the students will be given feedback by their peers on their final project.  It will be constructive and given to each group after their presentation.  This truly shows how much the students learned and how well they enjoyed it.  The rubric allows the teacher to look for specific actions and aspects of the student presentations that will be graded.
 

Celebration of Learning
 In our unit on the Solar System we have learned a great deal.  To prove to everyone how much we have learned, we are going to have make have time to show the class what we each of us learned.  Get into groups of 2 or 3 and choose one topic from the choices below.  If you have a different topic you would like to use, please see the instructor
 

To show that I have learned ____________,
 I will:

  1.  make a video
  2.  tell a story
  3.  make a book
  4.  write a play
  5.  make a display
  6.  be a teacher for a day
  7.  write a song
  8.  talk about a certain planet
  9.  talk about a certain star
  10.  talk about any aspect of the solar system, ________
  11.  other:___________________________
 
 

Information Check-List

 __   information is gathered productively

 ___   students conduct themselves correctly in library

 ___ students start work on their presentations

 ___ students gather visual representations

 ___ students remain on task

 ___ information that is selected is on the solar system only

 ___ students work well in their groups

 ___ students are interested/involved in their topic

 ___ students make the most of the time for research

 ___ students make the most of the resources available
 

9 or 10 items checked off is an A -- worth 10 pts.
8 items checked off is a B -- worth 8 pts.
7 items checked off is a C -- worth 6 pts.
6 items checked off is a D -- worth 4 pts.
5 items or less checked off is an F -- worth 0 pts.
 
 

Unit Breakdown

 The entire unit will be worth 55 points.  The learning center will have the grades of the journals.  The journals will be worth a total of ten points.  The dittos will be worth 1 points a piece out of 10 dittos so the entire amount of worksheets will be worth 10 points.  The computer programs will be graded on a scale similar to the dittos, each printout will be worth 2 points and there will be five total, so the entire computer work will be worth 10 points as well.  The final celebration of learning will be worth 35 points and will weigh the heaviest on a students grade.  The reactions and discussions along with the question and answering period and student actions will be graded in a pass/fail kind of way that will be marked in the book as a check, check minus or plus.
 

Bibliography

 -http://ericir.syr.edu
  Askeric lesson plans

 -http://www.nasa.com
  Nasa Homepage

 -http://www.quia.com
  quizzes and games

 -http://www.seds.org/
  Students for Exploration and Development of Space

 -Is A Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is, Robert E. Wells
  Albert Whitman and Company,  1993

 -Where Do The Stars Go At Night,  Melvin and Gilda Berger
  Ideals Childrens Books, 1993

 -Solar System Grades 2-4
  activity book,  A Kelley Wingate Publication
 
 

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