Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Discovering Our Planets

Elizabeth Elliott
Colleges and Universities - Florida


In this lesson, the children explore through research and activities our solar system of planets. Using cooperative grouping and interactions, the students will gain an understanding of how the characteristics of the planets differ from one another.


The student knows that the planets differ in size, characteristics, and composition and that they orbit the Sun in our Solar System.

The student knows the arrangement of the planets and the asteroid belt in our Solar System.


-Resource books,
-Computers with Internet connection for Website research
-Water color paints
-Paint brushes
-Poster board (one per group)
-1 Roll butcher paper
-Copies of the activity sheet (see Associated File)


1. Set up the butcher paper and watercolors.
2. Set up computers so web page has a shortcut to the site.
3. Also have children's literature books and copies of the activity sheets available. (see Associated File)


STEP I: Activating the lesson

1. To begin the lesson, use the guiding questions below to assist students in brainstorming their present knowledge of the solar system:
1) What is the solar system?
2) What do you think your planet looks like?
3) How far is your planet from the sun?
4) How big do you think the solar system is?

2. Divide students into nine groups (one for each planet).

3. Using the Website provided in the Weblinks section as well as other books and research materials, have the students explore and answer the following questions (see associated file for question worksheet)
1. What is the size of your planet?
2. How far is your planet from the sun?
3. What is your planet made up of?
4. How much does your planet weigh?
5. What is another interesting fact about your planet or is there anything unusual about your planet?

4. When the students complete the research questions, have them write the answers on the activity sheet.

5. Each group then develops their group's perception of their planet in conjunction with the entire solar system.

STEP II: Applying Knowledge
1. Each group presents their representation of the nine planets.

2. In whole group discussion, allow time for the class to share and compare facts about the planets.

3. Instruct the class to create as a whole one representative model of the solar system using the butcher paper.

STEP III: Applying Knowledge (cont.)
Further the understanding of the concept of the solar system:

1. Divide the class into groups of about six.

2. Have four of the students in each group form a circle and hold hands. (They make up the sun.)

3. Each of the other two students in each group pretend to be planets and revolve around the Sun.

4. After a few minutes, have all students in each group join hands and rotate.

5. Alternate between revolution and rotation, switching group members to represent the planets.

6. To further the students' understanding of the planets have the students represent the sun and the earth, and then explain about the rotation and revolving of the other planets in relationship to the sun and the earth.


Circulate, observe and formatively assess students as they use the technology tools. Provide assistance for students who are experiencing difficulty and monitor accordingly. Make sure students remain on task while on the computers collecting information for the activity sheets. Check for answers in understanding as they develop their solar system posters. Assess each student's knowledge acquisition using the writing assignment on the activity sheet (see associated file).


1. Continue with study of solar system by defining composition and mass with a variety of resource materials.
2. Allow students to explore other Internet sites both in school and at home about the solar system.
3. Have children view the solar system at night time as a family activity.
4. For homework, have children write a story about their night viewing of the solar system.
5. The students could organize the planets by mass and composition.
6. Hold additional discussion on the inner and outer planets.
7. Hold discussion concerning Neptune and Pluto's cross-orbital patterns.
8. For further lessons consider relating the moons to the planets.

Web Links

Web supplement for Discovering Our Planets
The Nine Planets

Attached Files

An activity sheet.     File Extension: pdf

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