Scope on the Skies: Moon phasesby: Bob Riddle

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When teaching Moon phases, the focus seems to be on the sequence of Moon phases and, in some grade levels, how Moon phases occur. Either focus can sometimes be a challenge, especially without the use of models and observations of the Moon. In this month’s column, the author describes some of the lessons that he uses to teach the phases of the Moon with models.

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Reviews (7)
  • on Tue Sep 03, 2013 1:49 PM

Are your students confused about waxing or waning? Do they know about the moon’s cusps or points? This journal article by Bob Riddle provides helpful tips for teaching students about moon phases. It starts out with a brief historical summary about the different names given to a full moon at various times of the year. Then there is an explanation about how to teach the moon phases by understanding the positional relationships between the sun, earth, and moon. The article includes a moon clock pattern that students can assemble and a 3-D modeling activity to help them visualize each moon phase. Finally, the author provides a kinesthetic way for students to use their hands and elbows to show waxing and waning. I enjoyed reading about all of the neat activities to help my students better understand moon phases.

Carolyn M  (Buffalo Grove, IL)
Carolyn M (Buffalo Grove, IL)

  • on Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:02 PM

This article is an excellent introduction to teaching students about the phases of the moon. In addition to explaining why the moon has different phases, the article provides practical ideas for modeling the phases for students. The article includes an example student data recording chart and questions for students to answer. The author also briefly addresses the cultural importance of the moon and identifies some of the names used by different names for the monthly full moons. I plan to use the activities in this article in conjunction with the 2011 International Observe the Moon night.

Maureen Stover  (Seaside, CA)
Maureen Stover (Seaside, CA)

  • on Sun Mar 27, 2011 4:46 PM

This article describes several activities that the author uses to teach students about the Moon, it's phases, the timing of its movement, as well as resources to use with students. It is a capsule unit for teachers able to fill in the details about how to complete each of the activities.

Bambi Bailey  (Tyler, TX)
Bambi Bailey (Tyler, TX)

  • on Fri Jul 20, 2012 11:31 AM

What middle school student struggles to memorize the phases of the moon? That is the problem. Memorizing is not the answer. Understanding is the answer and this article is the path to use to help students achieve that understanding. The explanation is very good and there is the construction of a moon clock which is easy to do and very visual for students and sometimes teachers. Furthermore there is a kinesthetic trick with your arms that will help as well. This is a must read article.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Wed May 09, 2012 9:43 AM

This article gives a good overview of how to teach moon phases to students. It gives some history about the names for a full moon which makes a nice link to literature. The moon clock is very useful also. Some of the descriptions about the moon phases would have been clearer with diagrams rather than words.

Betty  (Kansas City, MO)
Betty (Kansas City, MO)

  • on Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:56 AM

This activity includes a pape rmanipulative that shows phases of the Moon on a disk that can be positioned to show where the Sun and Moon phases are located relative to the horizon. Using this model students fill in a data table. Helps students to see times of day and night moon rises and sets. Can be used with sky observations to verify. For timing in three hour intervals this Moon Clock works best around equinox.

Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton

  • on Sat Apr 09, 2011 5:01 PM

This author focuses not only on how to teach the sequence of moon phases, but goes to a deeper understanding of relationship between direction, general time of the day and the phase. The moon clock from the Lowell Observatory is a great took. It took me a while, though, to figure out the author's description of his way of modeling the relationship between the phase , direction, and time. A picture would have been worth the hundreds of words he used to describe it! Overall, a very useful article with some great ways to assess student's understanding.

Wendy R  (Pocatello, ID)
Wendy R (Pocatello, ID)

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