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Solar System Unit

NSTA Standards

The Solar System has a sun, moons and eight planets. Earth is the third planet from the sun. Our earth has one moon; other planets have none or more than one. Planets are in constant motion of rotation on an axis and revolution around the Sun. Gravity and energy affect our solar system. Smaller objects such as asteroids and comets are in our solar system.

Key Concepts

Inner planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars) are rocky planets closest to the sun.
The asteroid belt is located between Mars and Jupiter and separates the inner and outer planets.

Outer planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) are large “gas giants” that are farther from the Sun. Plutoids are small rocky objects that orbit the sun, but are too small to be planets.

Teaching Ideas and Tips

Print copies of Blast Off Through Space – A chart with sizes of the planets and their distances from the sun.

Print copies of The Rocky Planets for students to use in their research.

Print copies of Our Solar System chart with planet information.

Provide students with charts, books and information about the planets. Draw two large intersecting circles (Venn Diagram) on chart paper, the chalkboard or the white board. Label one circle “Inner planets” and the other circle “Outer planets.” Help students use Printables reproducibles to identify characteristics of each of the types of planets. (Inner planets: small, rocky, close to the sun, short “years,” warm or hot temperatures, few moons, no rings. Outer planets: large, gas giants, far away from the sun, long years, cold temperatures, lots of moons, sometimes have rings.)

Record the information in the appropriate circles. Then see what all of the planets may have in common. That information goes in the small space where the two circles intersect.

Ask children to create a “Parent Letter” about the planets by using this information and other information from their resources. See the send home letter in the Home Extensions Tab.

Classroom Management

Writing Instruction Tips

If your students are not already capable writers, you may want to run copies of the parent letter and have students fill in the blanks and add supporting details. If you have writers who are really struggling, do the writing activity as a whole group exercise. You should write the first sentence and have them copy it. Then discuss as a group how to add two more sentences to this introduction.

Then, write the first sentence for the second paragraph – which is the topic sentence for the inner planets. The students should copy this and then add supporting details by getting information from the Venn diagram. They can add more depth by including temperatures, distances and other descriptions, and information from books or charts.

Repeat this with the third and fourth paragraphs and help students write a conclusion by referring back to information in the introduction paragraph. (We call this “writing in a circle.”)

After students have learned about the planets and written the parent letter, which is actually an essay about the planets, don’t waste these! Allow students to create art work that can be used as a cover for the completed essay. The reports can then be displayed in the hallway or on a bulletin board.

Use written work for several purposes: The essays can yield a science grade, a handwriting grade, they can be used for practice with using the computer keyboard (if you had them type instead of write the information), or even for a grammar and/or conventions of print grade. Save them to share during a parent conference or to show growth from the beginning of the school year to the end.

Vocabulary

Planet – A planet is a body that orbits a star and does not shine with its own light.
Inner Planets - The inner planets are those that are inside the asteroid belt.
Outer Planets - Outer planets are those that are outside the asteroid belt.
Gas Giant - A gas giant is an outer planet that is primarily gas.
Plutoid – A Plutoid is an object that orbits the sun, but is too small to be called a planet.
Comet - A comet is an occasional visitor to our solar system. It is made of dust and ice and has a “tail” streaming out behind it.
Asteroid - An asteroid is an irregularly shaped rock that orbits the sun.
Asteroid Belt - The asteroid belt is a ring of asteroids between the planets Mars and Jupiter.

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
Blast Off Through Space

Developing Science and Reading Skills
Space Fun
Stars and Planets - word search
Stars and planets – flash cards
Stars and Planets - crossword
Stars and planets crossword (advanced vocabulary)
The Eagle Has Landed
Planet Particulars
Blast Off

Developing Math Skills
Planet Fractions

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.
Exploring Our Solar System
Blast Off Through Space
The Rocky Planets
Our Solar System
Out Of This World

Stationery for Send Home Letters or Student Illustrations
Outer Space Stationery

Clip Art
Check Out this Space
Galaxy with Starts and Planets

Art or Homework Project
Your Weight On Other Worlds – Internet scavenger hunt

Flash Cards and Learning Games
Crossword Puzzle
Bingo
Flash Cards
Word Search

Assessment

Make copies of the Out Of This World activity page. Students can complete this page to demonstrate their knowledge of the planets.

More advanced students can complete the "Blast Off" Activity Page as an assessment.

Print copies of “Blast Off Through Space” – a chart with sizes of the planets and their distances from the sun. This page also has questions for students to answer using the information on the chart.

Optional: Solar System: Lesson 2 Crossword Puzzle

Send Home Letter

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

Dear Family,
Our class has been learning about the Solar System. We learned that the inner and outer planets are very different, but that they are alike in some ways.
The inner planets are those that are closest to the sun. (Now the child adds information about the inner planets. This should be at least three or four sentences long.)
The outer planets are those that are farthest from the sun. (Now the child adds information about the outer planets. This should be at least three or four sentences long.)
The inner and outer planets are separated by the asteroid belt. The planets have several things in common. (Now the child adds information about how the planets are all the same. This should be at least three or four sentences long.)
We think the solar system is interesting and we are excited to learn more. I would like to learn more about the planet ____.

Homework

As a review, or as preparation for a formal assessment, have students complete the Stars and Planets crossword.

As a review or as preparation for a formal assessment, have students complete Stars and Planets word search.

For advanced students, try this Printable crossword puzzle:
Stars and Planets Crossword Puzzle

Your weight on other worlds – Internet scavenger hunt

NASA Kids Internet scavenger hunt

Optional: Solar System: Lesson 2 Crossword Puzzle

More to Explore

Instant Internet Activities

The Nine Planets – for Kids
Great source of information on inner and outer planets– easy to use.

NASA Dictionary
Picture dictionary with actual photographs and easy to read definitions

How do scientists know the distance between the planets?
Dr Marc Archives – reads out loud the history of how scientists calculate this.

What’s really inside of a comet?

Sliding Puzzle
Students in create a puzzle of a planet and then put it together again.

Word Searches

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