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Space Science: Notebooks, Flipbooks, & Writing Extensions

Earlier today, I was sitting at a coffee house, working on my laptop. My brother called and said, “Hey, what are you doing?” I said, “I’m working at a restaurant.” 
He said, “Oh, the Starving Teachers Catering Company?”
Ha. Ha. 
I corrected myself. “I am at a restaurant, working on my laptop.” 
“Sure you are. Do you need me to let you go so you can bus tables?” 
Everybody’s a comedian. Anyway…

I love notebooks. Each year, my kids had a notebook for science, social studies, math, reading, and writing. And language conventions. And their home-school writing-reading connection. Yipes. That was a lot!

For our solar system unit, we used our notebooks a lot. There are fewer hands-on activities to do with the solar system than there are with physical science, so we relied heavily on diagrams, flipbooks and writing to understand the complex scientific ideas.

To get started, I thought it was very important for students to understand Earth’s movement in space. Earth moves in more than one way around the sun.  It rotates on its axis, and it also revolves (or orbits) the sun. To make the distinction between those two words, we did a little acting out (kids think it’s hilarious to watch you try to rotate on your axis while orbiting a student) and then we made this little folded flipbook.

(This is in the freebie below)


On the front, students recorded the two ways Earth moves, and they drew a labeled diagram. (I always required labels. If not, it looks like some sort of insect is flying around a sunflower. And that’s not exactly scientific.)

On the left side, under “rotates”, students explained the way the Earth rotated on its axis.  This included what an axis was, how the Earth was tilted, and how long it took to make one rotation (one day).




On the right side, students wrote about the Earth’s revolution around the sun. They explained the orbit and how long it takes for the Earth to make one revolution – one year.




Once kids understood that basic information, we were ready to move on to the big stuff. Our next entry is about how seasons happen, or THE REASON FOR THE SEASONS! 
I loved using interactive notebooks with my kids. It took me a little while to get used to planning my lessons this way, but once you understand that the right side=input= information, and the left side=output=kids’ processing, applying, manipulating, remembering, learning the information, it was pretty easy.

On the right side, we read a bit about the Earth’s movement in space from our textbook and sketched a diagram of the Earth and sun to show how the title of the Earth is responsible for the seasons. The kids labeled the diagram with the first day of each season to show the relative position of the Earth to the sun at that time.


Then we watched a BrainPop. Of course, because I basically watched every BrainPop relative to the science we were learning. My kids LOVED BrainPop.

After that, we made a little folded flapbook by folding the outside edges into the inside. We added the names of each season and the kids sketched the sun in the middle and the Earth orbiting the sun, tilted on its axis.


To have kids use the information they had learned from the textbook and the BrainPop, I’d made little tiny cards with different characteristics of each season. The kids sorted the characteristics into each season and glued them in.


It was a great little assessment and gave kids a chance to talk to their teams as well to discuss the correct sorting of the cards.


As I was planning our learning about the planets, I realized there was tons of information and the kids weren’t going to get much out of simply filling out a form, or a cloze activity, or watching a million videos without any opportunity to do anything with the information.
So, in response to that problem, I created my favorite science writing activity EVER. 
It’s my “I Am the Solar System” book, and it’s part of my new product, too.
The kids liked it, too. It appelaed to the writers and the illustrators in my class, as well as my science nerds (who loved Bill Nye as much as me.) I made them about a million circle-shaped pages with lines. One page was the cover, and the other 11 pages were the following space objects, in this order:
The Sun
Earth’s Moon
Pluto (so they had to explain the whole not-a-planet thing, which was all the rage at the time)
On each page, they wrote an “I Am” poem. They used this poem to include the important information we’d learned about that planet, sun, or moon. At the bottom of each page was a reference to the next space object to come in the book. It sounded like, “But I’m not made of layers of rock, because Mercury is” and then Mercury was the next page.

The kids illustrated the edges of each circle to look like that planet or object. In the case of the sun, Uranus, Saturn, etc., where there are parts jutting out into space, they illustrated those first and then cut around them so they’d be part of the book. It looked pretty cool when it was all assembled. 

I can’t tell you how sad I am that I have no pictures of my kids’ actual books from this project. Instead, I had to recreate a sad version (because my kids were always SO much more incredibly creative than I am).
I spent a nice chunk of time this summer looking back through my kids’ science notebooks from my last year in fourth grade. Do you ever have those moments where you look back at your stuff and think, “Man, that was awesome!”? Well, that’s what happened to me. And I thought, “Seriously, this needs to be TPT-ized.”So I did! I took these activities and many others that I used (plus a few new ideas) and complied them into a new product!

You can get the 2-fold flipbook for free, and you can grab the whole pack from TPT, too!

Earth’s Movement in Space 2-Fold Flipbook




Grab the whole pack at TPT
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