The first lesson of the unit asks students for their ideas about Earth’s shape. I was surprised to find out how many misconceptions students had about this topic. They could tell me Earth is a sphere but when asked why Earth looks flat to us on the surface, or what would happen if people dropped a rock from different parts of the world the responses became more layered in what students really understand about the shape of our Earth and the forces of gravity. I came across this idea from this article. One of the authors of this article, Cary Sneider, also contributed to one of my most favorite resources for encouraging science discourse in the classroom, NSTA’s Unconvering Student Ideas series. The book that specifically covers the topics in this lesson plan can be found on Amazon Uncovering Student Ideas in Astronomy: 45 NEW Formative Assessment Probes – PB307X *. A preview of the specific questions and the research behind students ideas’ about the topic can be seen here.
The majority of my students have limited exposure to maps and globes. These models are designed to tell us about different characteristics of Earth and it’s important that students understand their features and uses. Why use one tool over the other? What do they tell us? Specifically, what can they tell us about Earth’s daily and seasonal cycles? My inspiration for this part of the lesson came from here.
This lesson is designed to elicit students preconceptions about Earth. By listening closely to students responses and asking probing questions, I can determine which concepts might need some reinforcement before we tackle the “reasons for the seasons”. You can download the free lesson plan with this link: Exploring earths shape and earth models.
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Student sheets below are included with the lesson plan. Use the link above to download the free lesson plan.