What Shape is the Moon Tonight?

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Science, Earth and Space Science

Grade 2- 5


Students will gather data about the phases of the moon._


Make a transparency of the Classroom Moon Record and project it onto the black paper. The diameter should stretch at least two feet (60 cm). Use white crayon to trace the arc and pencil to make the small marks. These represent the positions of the moon during half the month.

Pre-activity (Begin this lesson two days after the new moon. Check the weather section of the newspaper or a calendar for this date.)

  1. Distribute the parent letter and Student Moon Record. Discuss these with the students so they understand how to record the phases of the moon every evening at the same time.
  2. Show them the Classroom Moon Record and say that each day you will place a moon shape there showing what they report in the evening sky. Point out where the sun is shown on the record.
  3. As students report the moon shape each day, cut an adhesive dot into that shape and place it on the chart. The first one will be on the first or second mark, depending upon how many days past the new phase this record is begun.
  4. After three days of recording data, have students predict how the next day's phase will look. Draw all predictions on the board and check them the next day. If a night is cloudy, have students predict what the shape of the moon was, based on the phases before and after.
  • Review the positions and phases of the moon relative to the sun's position. Repeat the activity with the balls and light so students can see how this represents what they are recording.
  • About two days after the moon is full, look for it in the morning sky in the west. Its phase will change to gibbous, quarter, and then a crescent as it gets closer to the sun each day. Be sure they see that it is now the left side of the moon which is illuminated by the sun.

Make a daytime record of moon phases after the full moon. Project the moon record on blue paper and make the same markings. Since this is a day view, the sun should appear in the east (sunrise). Even though students will view the moon after the sun has risen, the sun can be in the east. The full moon would be in the west as the sun is rising. As the moon changes to gibbous, circles can be cut according to views seen and glued along the arc, continuing west to east, as the moon moves around Earth. The last quarter phase would be 90° between the east and west; the final crescent would be very close to the sun as it rises in the east.


  • copies of Student Moon Record sheet
  • parent letter
  • Classroom Moon Record
  • glue
  • small bulletin board covered with black butcher paper
  • 16-3/4 inch (2 cm) white, self-adhesive dots
  • white and orange crayons
  • pencil

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