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Solar System Unit

NSTA Standards

Earth is the third planet from the sun. Solar System has a sun, moons and eight planets. Our earth has one moon. Other planets have none or more than one. Smaller objects such as asteroids and comets are in our solar system. The planets revolve and rotate around the sun.

Key Concepts

Students should be able to name the planets in order from the sun. Students should know that there are other objects in our solar system such as comets and asteroids.

Teaching Ideas and Tips

Print “Our Solar System” reference page and display it in the classroom.
Read “Exploring Our Solar System” for extended activities with this lesson.

Provide your students with a memory device to help them remember the names of the planets in order from the sun. Many teachers used to use “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas,” using the first letter of each word to represent the name of a planet. (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, etc.) Since Pluto is no longer considered a planet, have your students come up with their own mnemonic device to help them remember the planet names. When students create their own memory devices, they will not only learn the material, they will learn the valuable skill of devising ways to recall important facts.

You may or may not want them to include a word beginning with the letter “A” to insert between the planets Mars and Jupiter. This “A” would represent the asteroid belt and inserting it can help students remember where it is located.

Classroom Management

It is great fun to play in the classroom until you can come up with a mnemonic device that can be used by the whole class. Write the letters on the chalkboard (MVEMJSUN) and allow students time to think and create nonsense or meaningful sentences. Write several sentences and choose one for the class to use. (OPTIONAL: Teach them other devices too, such as HOMES to remember the names of the Great Lakes. Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior)

Make sure you display the new sentence in the classroom for everyone to use as a reference and have students record the sentence in a science notebook.

For a change of pace, or on a short week that you do not use a regular spelling list, have students use the names of the planets (and words like comet, meteor, asteroid) as spelling words.

Vocabulary

Sun – Our sun is a star at the center of the solar system.
Planet – A planet is a body that orbits a star.
Asteroid – An asteroid is an irregularly shaped rock that orbits the sun.
Asteroid Belt – The asteroid belt is a band of asteroids that orbit the sun between Mars and Jupiter.
Solar System – The solar system is the body of planets and other objects that orbit the sun.

Use this Solar System Vocabulary list as a start—add more of your own—and use Make Your Own tools to create your own flash cards!

Solar System: Lesson 2 Flash Cards

Printables Resources

Bulletin Boards
Our Solar System chart

Developing Science and Reading Skills
Space Word Search
Planets Word Search

Developing Math Skills
Planet Earth – Adding 2 and 4 digits
Take Off - Two-digit addition
Take Off – Two Digit Addition without regrouping
The Sun’s Family - Three digit subtraction without regrouping
A Place in Space - Subtraction practice with planet facts

Lesson Plans and Smart Board Activities
Note: to use a resource with your interactive whiteboard, click on the "VIEW FULL SCREEN for use with interactive white boards" button below the preview window.
Discover the Planets
Fall – Saturn - activity pages
Our Solar System
Exploring Our Solar System
Neighbors in Space

Stationery for Send Home Letters or Student Illustrations
Outer Space

Clip Art
Outer Space

Art or Homework Project
Astronaut Wheel

Assessment

Neighbors in Space

This page contains an illustration of the solar system. Students are asked to write the names of the planets in order from the sun. A list of definitions and hints is provided to assist them. Award extra credit if students can add any “extras,” such as moons or rings around some planets, or comets, and/or the asteroid belt.

Optional: Solar System: Lesson 2 Crossword Puzzle

Send Home Letter

Here are two parent letters. You may decide to use the first one and have students fill in the blanks and add their own sentences or they can use the second one that has been written for them.

Try printing this letter on Outer Space Stationery. Or you can also print this list on your own - copy/paste the list below into a Microsoft Word document. You can add or remove text and customize the letter to your liking.

Dear Family,

Our class is studying the _________ ______. This week we learned how to say the names of the planets in order from the sun. I have a sentence to help me remember this:
____________
(Write sentence here)

Help me to remember how to say the names of the planets in order from the sun and how to spell the names of the planets correctly. Here is where I have been practicing:
___________, ___________, ___________,

We also learned there are other things in the solar system. One thing is ____________.
They are really just big rocks, but there are lots of them between the planets of _____ and ___.

Thanks for your help.

__________

Try printing this letter on Outer Space Stationery. Or you can also print this list on your own - copy/paste the list below into a Microsoft Word document. You can add or remove text and customize the letter to your liking.

Dear Family,

Our class is studying the solar system. This week we learned how to say the names of the planets in order from the sun. Ask me about the trick I have learned for remembering this!

Help me to remember how to say the names of the planets in order from the sun and how to correctly spell the names of the planets.
We also learned that there are other things in the solar system. One thing is the asteroid. Asteroids are really just big rocks but there are lots of them between the planets of Mars and Jupiter.

Thanks for your help,

________

Homework

Make copies of “The Sun’s Family”

This homework page asks students to complete 10 problems with three-digit subtraction WITHOUT regrouping. When they have finished the problems, they are to match the names of the solar system object with the definition. At the bottom of the page they will complete a number pattern. Using this page is a great way to integrate your science and math lessons.

ALTERNATE

Make copies of “A Place in Space: Subtraction practice with planet facts"

This homework page asks students to complete 10 problems with three-digit subtraction WITH regrouping. When they have finished the problems, they are to match the names of the solar system object with the definition. At the bottom of the page they will complete a number pattern. Using this page is a great way to integrate your science and math lessons.

Optional: Solar System: Lesson 2 Crossword Puzzle

More to Explore

Instant Internet Activities

Word Searches
This site has both easy and difficult searches. It also contains pages for matching words with definitions. Appropriate for students in grades 2-5.
Astronomy Quiz
Fun quiz for students in grades 2-5
Space Puzzles
Click and drag puzzle pieces to complete any of 6 puzzles
Space Jokes
Funny space jokes for students in grades 2-4
Astronomy Space Adlibs
Wacky ad-libs for students in grades 2-4

Follow-Up Activities:

Got some parents that are eager to provide their children with extended activities to go with the solar system? Provide them with this list! Of course some of these suggestions, such as actually visiting a NASA center may be impossible, but most of these ideas can easily be completed by visiting a library or by searching the internet.

Try printing this list on Space Stationary! Or you can also print this list on your own - copy/paste the list below into a Microsoft Word document. You can add or remove text and customize the list to your liking.

  • Visit a science center planetarium to view the deep space exhibit.
  • Visit the space center to see the launch pads – even attend space camp – ride the simulated space shuttle launch.
  • Build a model of the shuttle.
  • Learn about the suits the astronauts are wearing while they repair the telescope.
  • Find out about future planed space missions – to the moon, to Mars. What are the problems with space travel?
  • Go on line to read about the discoveries of the Hubble telescope over the last 19 years.
  • Read about the history of the telescope.
  • Learn the parts of a telescope and how Hubble is different from a telescope.
  • Read about deep space and view the galaxies that Hubble has discovered
  • Find out – Who was Hubble???
  • Create art projects that show the most beautiful galaxies
  • Have a Perseid meteor shower sleepover! Make it an “out of this world” party and stay up late enough to see the meteors. Have glow in the dark decorations and a craft activity.

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REMINDER! Make Solar System Flash Cards and Other Puzzles with Make Your Own Tools