Modeling Day and Night

scienceteachermamaCause and Effect, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Crosscutting Concepts, Developing and Using Models, Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI), Earth and Space Science, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, MS-ESS1: Earth's Place in the Universe, Patterns, Resources, Science and Engineering Practices, Seasonal Change Unit, Systems and System ModelsLeave a Comment


day night blog image

Before we move on to understanding what causes the seasons, we find out what doesn’t cause the seasons. By 6th grade, most students know that earth moves in two ways: revolving and rotating. But most often, the terms are used interchangeably or students are confused which movement cause which effect. (A little hint: ro-tay-shun, sounds like ro-day-shun). The best way to find out where your students are in understanding the difference between revolution and rotation is to give them the Darkness at Night probe from Uncovering Student Ideas in Science, Volume 2: 25 More Formative Assessment Probes. A link to the PDF is located in the free Modeling day and night lesson planAs usual, these probes really get me to see what ideas my students come into the classroom with about the topic we are learning which allows me to differentiate my lessons more effectively. For this topic, the class is usually divided into thinking rotation causes day/night or revolving causes day/night. And they love to engage in argument from evidence! I find it most effective to have students use models to provide evidence of their explanations. This lesson focuses on getting students to understand that rotation causes day and night. After this lesson, by process of elimination, students understand that revolving around the sun must have something to with the seasons! This lesson also focuses on the science practice of developing and using models to predict and/or describe phenomena (observable events). A good resource for developing assessments that are three-dimensional assessment tasks is the NSTA Task Formats document. My final formative assessment for this lesson is based on this suggestion from the NSTA Task Formats document:

Present students with a textual description of an observable scientific phenomenon, then ask students to draw and label the model components, interactions among components, and mechanisms in the model, and ask students to write an explanation for the phenomenon, using the model as supporting evidence.

The attached free Modeling day and night lesson plan‘s main idea is: Patterns of the apparent motion of the sun, moon and stars in the sky can be observed, described, predicted and explained with models.

The performance expectations are:

Using a model, students will demonstrate and explain:

  • Earth’s counterclockwise rotation on a spin axis that is tilted at 23.5 degrees.
  • Sunrise, midday, sunset, and midnight for the “person” on their model.
  • Why it seems like the sun is going up and down when really it is in a relatively fixed position.


  • Books: 

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