Up, Up and Away... The Planets of the Solar System Lesson
written by: Keren Perles
• edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom
• updated: 3/2/2012
Wondering how to motivate students to learn about the planets of our solar system? These activities will teach you how to do exactly that. Hands-on activities like these can encourage students to become actively involved in learning about the planets beyond Earth.
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Let's Read About Planets
To start the lesson, brainstorm a list of facts that your students know about the planets in our solar system. These facts may be about the planets in general or about a specific planet. Then read The Magic School Bus: Lost in Our Solar System or The Planets in Our Solar System, and discuss what new facts you learned by reading the book.
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Building the Planets
Draw each planet of the solar system on the blackboard, writing some short facts about each one as you draw it. Then, give your students long pieces of butcher paper and have them work in groups to make models of the solar system. They can cut out each planet from construction paper or draw it on the paper, but encourage them to use the right colors and approximate sizes. Encourage them to write their own favorite facts about each planet, using the phrases you had on the board, or the books that you’ve read, as resources. Display their creations in a prominent area of the room and let them describe their projects to the rest of the class.
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Which Planet Are You?
Write the names of each planet on the board, leaving space between each one. Then hand out note cards to students, each containing one fact about a planet in the solar system. Have students stand beneath the planet that they think their fact describes. Then ask students to read their note cards aloud, and discuss which facts could apply to more than one planet. If you’d like, you can give each student several note cards and have them place the note cards beneath the planet they think each one belongs to. This will prevent students from feeling “put on the spot" when they need to defend their choices.
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Create Postcards from the Outer World
Pass around a box of folded scraps of paper, each scrap containing the name of a planet. Instruct students to write a letter to someone about their trip to that planet. Encourage them to use facts that they’ve learned from the day’s lesson. You may want to consider reading the book Postcards from Pluto to give the kids some ideas of how to write their stories. Then have students decorate the backs of their letters to look like postcards, or encourage them to draw pictures of the different things that they saw on the planet that they visited.
These activities are the perfect way to introduce the planets to your students, and the multi-sensory teaching methods used in this lesson plan will enable your learners to gain from it in different ways. Using this type of hands-on learning can encourage students’ curiosity about the planets in our solar system and help them to review what they've learned.