Students will learn about space with these leveled activities and lessons for different skills and grade ranges.
Unit Plan: Solar System for Young Learners
I've divided this list into books, other materials, and Web sites.
Black Holes and Other Space Phenomena by Philip Steele
One of the Young Observer books, this book has facts and quizzes throughout. There is an index which is helpful to children doing research.
Classroom Tip: I make copies of the index page and use it to teach small groups how to use an index.
The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System by Joanna Cole
Ms. Frizzle and her class are out of this world and on a voyage through the solar system. This well-loved book charms children and teaches them at the same time.
Classroom Tip: I use this book as a read-aloud at the beginning of the unit and read it more than once. I offer it to students during independent reading time. Some 2nd graders can read it and others enjoy the drawings. I also show the companion video (see below).
The Magic School Bus Chapter Book #4: Space Explorers by Joanna Cole
This 76-page fantasy/adventure book is just for fun!
Classroom Tip: Students who are beginning to read chapter books will enjoy this book!
Magic Tree House Research Guide: Space by Will Osborne and Mary Pope Osborne
A nonfiction companion to Midnight on the Moon by Mary Pope Osborne, listed below. This book has 132 pages of factual information, as well as bibliography, list of Web sites, and suggested list of museums and planetariums.
Classroom Tip: Many 2nd graders enjoy the Magic Tree House books. Their interest in Midnight on the Moon propels them through this book! Written for solid readers at grade 2 and up. Less picture support than other books. Includes index. I use this book for research and report writing.
Magic Tree House #8: Midnight on the Moon by Mary Pope Osborne
One of a beloved series in which heroes Jack and Annie travel through time and space. The fiction/adventure format makes this book accessible to second graders.
Classroom Tip: I have a basket of Magic Tree House books for independent reading time.
The Moon by Seymour Simon
Seymour Simon is the author of over 200 informational books. His book, The Moon, has plenty of text and large, gorgeous photos. Packed with information!
Classroom Tip: I use this book as a read-aloud because it was written for students in grades 3-5. I also read many of his other books, including Our Solar System, The Universe, The Sun, Destination: Jupiter, Destination: Mars, Earth: Our Planet in Space, Mercury, Saturn, and Venus.
Great author for author study!
Simon's books are so popular there's even a book with ideas for teachers to use in teaching his books: Exploring Space: Using Seymour Simon's Astronomy Books in the Classroom by Barbara Bourne and Wendy Saul.
Postcards from Pluto by Loreen Leedy
Children take a tour through the solar system and send fact-filled postcards back to earth. Ms. Leedy is author of familiar books, Fraction Action and 2 X 2 = Boo.
Classroom Tip: The story format makes this book an ideal read-aloud. The author uses humor to spice up the facts and children "get" the funny parts.
Rookie Read-About Space: The Solar System by Carmen Bredeson
An introduction to the planets and to other features such as asteroids, meteoroids, comets, and moons. Also available in Spanish.
Classroom Tip: One of a series of Rookie Read-About books. I love these books because they're designed for grades K-2. They're small, short paperbacks, yet full of information and vocabulary. There's a picture glossary in the back. The books have the feel of a real science book without being too much for younger readers. Some 2nd graders can read these books themselves, so I often use them for small group reading instruction.
Other Rookie Read-About science books that go with this unit include:
- Energy from the Sun
- Getting Ready for Space
- Living on a Space Shuttle
- The Moon
Solar System by Gregory Vogt
This book is one of a series of Scholastic Science Readers. It is written for 7- to 8-year-olds, more for the end of grade 2 and up. Again, it has beautiful photos, lots of facts, and large font size.
Classroom Tip: I use this book as a source of information for students writing reports.
Stargazers by Gail Gibbons and The Moon by Gail Gibbons
Primary students will want to get to know Gail Gibbons and her fantastic, informational picture books. Her drawings of constellations and diagrams of telescopes are understandable to young readers.
Classroom Tip: I use Gail Gibbon's books as read-aloud and reference books. She has so many books that you can easily do an author study.
The Magic School Bus: Gets Lost in Space by Joanna Cole
Video companion to the book The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System. VHS format.
Classroom Tip: I use this early in the unit as an introduction to the solar system.
Solar System Floor Puzzle
This 24-piece puzzle offers another way to get familiar with the solar system.
Classroom Tip: I use this in a center or for indoor recess.
Inflatable Solar System Set
This inflatable solar system comes with its own pump. Think beach balls!
Classroom Tip: I make my own models, but if you don't have time, this inflatable set is easy to use and you'll figure out a way to hang it from the ceiling.
101 Science Poems and Songs for Young Learners by Meish Goldish
A resource book for teachers. Several poems and songs fit this unit.
Classroom Tip: My students especially love "Planet Roll Call" and "Solar System in Motion."
25 Solve-the-Riddle Science Mini-Books by Kathleen W. Kranking
Cute little books for teachers to make and children to read and color. Each riddle has a flap to lift to find the answer.
Classroom Tip: This book includes solar system mini-books. What's nice is each child gets a book to take home. You also might like 25 Science Mini-Books by Esther Weiner.
There are endless numbers of Web sites about the solar system. Many are designed for older readers. Here are three for primary teachers and their students to check out:
American Museum of Natural History - OLogy Our Place in Space
Colorful and easy-to-navigate Web site, with both online and offline activities. There's even stationery you can download and print! Lots of fun!
Classroom Tip: Teach children how to use the Web site and show them the possibilities. Then let them have a go at it!
NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Star Child
Includes photos, information, quiz questions, glossary, and links to a galaxy of Web sites. This Web site is leveled and Level 1 is about right for 2nd grade. If you can only use one Web site, I recommend this one.
Classroom Tip: Keep children on Level 1. There is plenty to explore there. You may want to check out the links and suggest one or two additional Web sites.
NASA New Horizons Website about the Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission
The New Horizons probe was recently launched and won't get to Pluto for nine-and-a-half years!
There are games, activities, posters to download, and discussion about whether or not Pluto is a planet.
Classroom Tip: The information is up-to-date. Keep checking back to see if it changes as the mission progresses.