Grade 2: The Orbit Lesson

Almost assuredly the most successful, well-planned, and well-executed lesson of my Grade 2 internship came at the very end - a nice way to finish off. The end of my Grade 2 engagement was the beginning of their Solar System unit. I had been involved in the same unit with the Grade 2 class the previous school year, and I recalled being disappointed that many of the students ended the unit still holding on to some fundamental misconceptions about how motion, gravity, and orbits work. So, I was determined that this year, things would be different.

Armed with lesson plans that I originally wrote as part of the field work for my EDUC 514 (teaching science) class at GMU, I taught three concurrent lessons in three days: the first on motion, the second on gravity, and the third (bringing motion and gravity together) on orbits.

The first lesson was heavily laced with a lot of physical involvement, including having the children go outside to do a "running stop" experiment, and culminating with them "rediscovering" Newton's First Law of Motion (that an object in motion will tend to keep going until something stops it). The second lesson also had "hands on, minds on" action, with the students following the scientific method to (1) make predictions, (2) perform Galileo's classical experiment (this time with a shoe and a pencil) to see if objects of different mass fall at the same rate, and (3) finally come to a conclusion about falling objects.

This lesson brings motion and gravity together to explain, in very basic terms, why an object like the Moon orbits the Earth. Unlike the other lessons, it does not involve much physical activity for the students; instead, they are encouraged to engage in the same "thought experiment" that Newton engaged in hundreds of years ago to figure out what makes the Moon orbit the Earth. Fortunately, a very cool virtual manipulative from the NASA website is brought into play on the interactive whiteboard, bringing Newton's thought experiment to vivid life in a brilliant little animation.

A particular concern of mine in this conversation-laden lesson was that I might leave the beginning ESL students behind. While to some extent that may have occurred, I consciously did things like add a big picture of a cannon to the lesson, along with using my voice and body language to get across the role that a cannon and gunpowder play in Newton's thought experiment. The final assessment differentiated for beginning ESL students in that they were allowed to rely more extensively on pictorial representations rather than written explanations.

As you watch the video embedded here, you will note that I am keeping only a very loose "lid" on some of the excited chatter in the room. This is in keeping with my preference (as I state in my section on classroom management) to err on the side of allowing for a bit of disorder if I perceive that everyone in the class is actively engaged in the inquiry.

Please click here to download the complete set of lesson plans, the third of which is the lesson plan for the lesson shown in the video below (the Orbit lesson).

Click the images below to see examples of worksheets that the students completed at the end of the lesson.

Daniel Vimont,
May 3, 2012, 6:44 PM
Daniel Vimont,
May 18, 2010, 2:54 PM