Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Understanding Rotation

Dunia Fajardo


This lesson helps students develop a better understanding of the rotation of the earth through a hands-on experiment.


The student knows that night and day are caused by the rotation of the Earth.


-Book, [Where Does the Sun Go At Night?] by Mirra Ginsberg, Greenwillow (October 1980)
-Sidewalk chalk
-Globe or model of the earth
-Paper (one for each students to write on)
-Figure or small object that can be attached to the globe
-White construction paper (long sheet) - 1 per child


1. Make sure to have all material ready before class. (sidewalk chalk, flashlight, model of earth, paper, pencil, figure or small object that will be attached to the globe, white construction paper, crayons)
2. The area you will be using outside whether it is a sidewalk or part of the playground should be available to you throughout the day.
3. Be familiar with the lesson.



1. Begin by asking the following questions: Where does the sun go while we are sleeping? Why can't we see the sun at night? Discuss and then read aloud [Where Does the Sun Go At Night?] By Mirra Ginsberg

2. Discuss story and ask questions to monitor student comprehension.

3. Turn off lights and turn on flashlight.

4. Have one student hold the flashlight and let students know that the flashlight represents the sun.

5. While the student holds the flashlight the teacher will hold the model of the earth (place a small figure to represent the students’ position on earth).

6. Rotate the model of the earth and explain how night and day, sunrise and sunset, occur. Have them estimate the time of the day as you turn the globe.

7. Ask questions throughout the demonstration to monitor comprehension. Examples: If this side of the earth is receiving light then what is happening to the people on the opposite side? How long does it take the earth to complete one rotation? What do you think would happen if earth would stop rotating? Are we rotating right now?

8. Explain that the rest of the lesson will be done outside and in pairs.

9. When outside begin by asking the students to point to the sun, without looking directly at it. Have them describe what they see in the morning. Point out where the shadows of the trees and any structures around them are by.

10. Choose one student to do demonstration. Have the child stand very still while you trace the complete outline of the child’s shadow. Be sure to trace around the child’s shoes.

11. Have students stand next to each other to make sure their shadows don’t overlap.

12. Now, have students trace their partner’s shadow. Make sure the students write their name inside their shadow.

13. Return to classroom.


14. After a few hours return outside. Point out the differences from the morning light to the afternoon and the location of the sun. Let students predict what will happen when they step on their shadow. Have students stand on their shadow and once again outline their shadow. Have students explain what happened to their shadow from the morning to the afternoon. Ask questions to monitor comprehension.

15. Explain that this process occurs everyday and as a result we get day and night, sunrise and sunset. Ask students where will their shadow be if they were to come back and stand on their shadow at 8pm? How will the lighting be different from the morning? Also, ask students what will the see at night that they can’t see in the morning?

16. Return to classroom. Give each student a white construction paper and crayons. Have them fold it twice to create three columns. In the first column they will draw a picture of where they sun was at in the morning and how their shadow looked at that point. In the second column they will draw a picture to show where the sun was located when they went outside in the afternoon. In the last column they will draw a picture of how things will look at 8pm. Encourage them to use details and shades to demonstrate the changes throughout the day.

17. Collect students’ work and once again demonstrate the earth’s rotation.


Assess students orally throughout the lesson as they give answers to guided questions. In addition, require students to complete a drawing that is divided into three columns. Formatively assess the students drawings that show the rotation of the earth. Specifically look for: 1. Drawings must include shades that illustrate the differences between the different times of the day. 2. Students must show that as the day progresses the earth rotates and day turns into night. 3. In the last column the moon should replace the sun and stars may be added. All three columns must be completed in the time provided by the teacher.
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