2 : Using stories and observation to think about the moon

People sometimes refer to the moon when writing or speaking: they use expressions like ‘once in a blue moon’, ‘moonstruck’ and ‘harvest moon’. What expressions do you know that use the word ‘moon’? What expressions do your pupils know? You might make links with literacy work here.

In Activity 2, your pupils observe in detail the shape of the moon over several weeks. You then build on these observations by using everyday objects to model the changes in the moon shape. This will help pupils to understand the pattern in the phases of the moon. Try the model part of the activity yourself before using it with the class.

Using traditional tales about the sun and moon is another way to stimulate pupils’ interest. You could use your own traditional tale instead of the one used in Case Study 2.

Case Study 2: Science, the moon and storytelling

Mr Lowassa decided to read a story to his Standard 2 class about the sun and moon to stimulate their interest before studying the moon as a science topic. He used the story in Resource 3: Sun, Moon and Water , which talks about the sun and moon as being man and wife and living on Earth. His class enjoyed the story, especially as Mr Lowassa read it in a lively way, using different voices for the characters.

After discussing the story, Mr Lowassa asked his class to tell him what the moon looks like in the sky. (He reminded the pupils never to look straight at the sun as it could damage their eyes).

He drew their ideas and then showed them a model he had made of the phases of the moon to help them understand why the moon has different phases.

Activity 2: Phases of the moon

Ask your class, if they can, to look at the moon in the evening when they go home and pay particular attention to its shape. The next day, pupils draw the shape of the moon. Ask them if the moon is always this shape? If not, why not? If not, what other shapes does it take? Are they always the same? Is there a pattern to the shapes?

Set up a roster of pupils to look at the moon each night over several weeks and record its shape on the chart you have prepared for this task (see the template towards the end of Resource 4: The moon and its relationship to the Earth and the sun).

After a month, ask pupils to discuss and answer the following questions:

  • How does the moon’s shape change in a week?
  • How would you describe the shape(s) of the moon?
  • Why does the shape change?

Next, help the pupils develop their understanding by modelling the phases of the moon using the approach in Resource 1 using balls or mud to see how the moon appears to change shape. Resource 4 gives you further information on the moon.

1. Using models to explore night and day

3. Representing the solar system