In this lesson, students will analyze an informational text that highlights current research on high impact craters on the moon. Scientists have been studying the largest impact basins on the moon, such as the Orientale basin. Until now, how impact craters with rings form had not been well understood, but scientists have modeled Orientale's formation using data from NASA's GRAIL mission. This lesson is designed to support reading in the content area. The lesson plan includes a vocabulary guide, text-dependent questions, a writing prompt, answer keys, and a writing rubric.
Subject(s): Science, English Language Arts
Grade Level(s): 9, 10
Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Computers for Students, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Speakers/Headphones, Microphones, Computer Media Player
Resource supports reading in content area:Yes
Keywords: crater, lunar, lunar surface, geologic processes, impact basin, scientific model, modeling, gravity, moon, lunar maria, text complexity, informational text, Orientale basin, GRAIL mission
Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
Students should be able to:
- Relate how modeling is necessary to answer questions about formation of craters on the moon
- Explain that science is a process that involves investigating, modeling, and examining evidence before forming conclusions or making inferences
- Cite specific and relevant text evidence to support analysis of the text
- Use various vocabulary strategies to define academic and domain-specific words in the text
- Construct a written response that clearly establishes the main point(s), contains relevant textual evidence to support the main point, utilizes transitions to maintain flow, effectively uses domain-specific vocabulary, and provides an appropriate conclusion.
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
In regards to science:
- Students may have a simplified view of a model and how models are used in science. Have students read the information on the "Scientific Modeling" entry page from Encyclopedia Britannica. Discuss the models used as examples in the article and how they help to understand a process. Have the class make a list of models they know from science. They could then classify them into groups by type. Examples of models used: DNA double helix, the water cycle, a globe of the earth. Use this link to Carleton College's "Modeling Examples" to help you classify models.
- Students should know that the moon, while very different in composition, may show processes that are not visible on earth due to erosion from wind and seas.
- Students should be able to define and describe the concept of gravity and how it is used in various situations, such as the larger the mass of an object, the greater the gravitational pull, or conversely--the further away, the lower the gravitational pull (SC.8.E.5.8).
- In the case of this lesson, the concept of gravity is what is used to model the topography of the moon in greater detail. Students may need a simplified explanation, as well as a bit more details to show how scientists use gravity along with other tools to more accurately measure the elevation of an area. This resource from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo might help.
In regards to literacy skills:
- Students should have prior experience utilizing various vocabulary strategies to determine the meaning of unknown words in a text, including use of context clues and word parts. In addition, students should have some dictionary skills that will enable them to look up words with multiple meanings and determine the most appropriate meaning based on how a word is used in a text.
- Students should be aware of text features that can help them locate and learn information when reading a text. The text features in the article for this lesson include a title, headings, images and captions.
- Based on the writing rubric provided with the lesson, students should be able to respond to a writing prompt in a clear, organized manner that includes use of an introduction to establish the main point(s), a body paragraph(s) that support the main point(s) and includes relevant and specific textual evidence, and a conclusion that supports the main point(s).
- Students should have some awareness that use of transition words or phrases can help a piece of writing flow smoothly from one point or idea to the next. Teachers might wish to provide students with a sheet of transitions to help them. This site provides transitions teachers might provide.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
- What are models and how are they used in science?
- How is science used to answer questions?
- How is modeling used to determine how impact craters were formed?
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
- Ask students what they know about the moon. Discuss with students that people have only landed there a few times, probes have been sent there a few times, and satellites have been placed into orbit to study it, so how do we know so much about it? Explain to students that this what makes science so cool; we use what we know from our experiences on earth, collect new data, make observations, relate it to what we observe in areas we can measure, and then model the process or event to make inferences and predictions about the topic.
- Show students this short video titled "Tour of the Moon" (4:39, uploaded byYouTube user NASA Goddard) about research on the moon. Then review some of the points of the video:
- Why do scientists study the moon?
- To answer some of the questions about the origin of our solar system
- To learn about planet and moon formation throughout the solar system.
- How have we learned about the moon? Can we only use information from what the astronauts have gathered, and the additional satellites that have examined the moon?
- Of course, this information helps a lot, but this is not all scientists use.
- Discuss with students that scientists develop models from information gathered to forecast and to fill in the missing pieces of what we don't know. Ask students:
- So what is a model? Can you think of other models?
- (Students may mention a globe of the moon. Most students only visualize 3-dimensional models, and forget that models can be of processes or events.) Remind students that models can be three dimensional like a globe, but they can also be of a process or event such as how water cycles through the atmosphere.
- Students may have a simplified view of a model and how models are used in science. As a class, read the information on this page before reading the article for this lesson. As a class, brainstorm ways scientists use models (for example: explaining a complex idea or process and to present a hypothesis). If you classified types of models in the prior knowledge section of this lesson refer back to it. Then as a class create a working definition of a model and use that as they proceed through the lesson.
- Go over with students some of the following. Models are used to help us understand a process or a structure that we can't physically see or manipulate. So in this case, the moon is far away and we can't get there often enough to really examine what could have happened in its history. We have sent probes and satellites there to examine the surface as much as possible.
- One way scientists can measure the structure of a crater is by actually calculating the gravity of each section. Gravity fluctuates based on the structure/material, which is caused by the thickness and the density. These gravity fluctuations actually can 'paint a picture' of the structure. These are then modeled by computers to give us a better understanding of the features and structures of objects such as the moon and the moon's craters.
- Show this video, titled "NASA's Moon-Bound GRAIL Mission" (3:22, uploaded by YouTube user NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory),on a research project and mission NASA researchers are working on to determine how the moon's craters formed.
- Next, in small groups, assign each group to read one section of the attached GRAIL Information fact sheet. Have students summarize the information in their group and share with the class. (There are 7 sections-- however two could be done by the teacher as they deal with all the partners working on the project and the section on MoonKAM, which is probably not relevant to the rest of the lesson at this point.)
- Ask students to think about how craters form on the moon. How are scientists answering this question? Tell students that in the article we will be reading shortly, the GRAIL mission was designed to help us find out how these craters, as well as the moon, formed.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
- Provide each student with a copy of the article "NASA Moon Mission Shares Insights into Giant Impacts." For class discussions that will follow, it might be helpful to have students number each paragraph within each section. They can also number the sections. (Section 1 follows the title, Section 2: The Importance of Orientale, and Section 3: Reproducing the Rings.)
- Provide each student with a copy of the attached vocabulary guide.
- Before students begin reading, direct them to pay attention to the text features of the article to help them learn and locate information:
- Title: NASA Moon Mission Shares Insights into Giant Impacts
- Headings: The Importance of Orientale, Reproducing the Rings
- Captions: Located under each image
- Display this guiding question for students: How is modeling used to determine how impact craters were formed? Ask them to keep this question in mind as they read the text for the first time.
- Have students fill out the vocabulary guide. This can be done individually, in pairs, or in a small group. The teacher should monitor students as they work and provide support and guidance as needed.
- Note: Based on the needs and skills of the students, teachers can decrease the number of academic or domain-specific vocabulary students will define on the note-taking guide.
- For academic vocabulary, students will likely be able to use a variety of vocabulary strategies to define the meaning of the words. For domain-specific (in other words, subject-specific) vocabulary, students will typically need to draw on prior knowledge and use a dictionary to define the words.
- Students can then use their completed vocabulary guide to reread the text and then discuss their initial response to the guiding question.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for student understanding?):
- Teachers can have students share out their definitions on the vocabulary guide and the teacher can provide verbal corrective feedback, allowing students to make corrections to their work during the discussion. The teacher can use the sample answer key provided at the end of the attached vocabulary guide to assist with this process. For discussion on students' answers to the defined vocabulary words, teachers are encouraged to not only ask students to explain the meaning they determined for a word, but the strategy they used to arrive at that meaning. This will allow the teacher to provide alternative suggestions as to how the student could have arrived at the correct meaning of the word.
- The teacher can use whole class discussion to gauge students' initial response to the guiding question. The teacher should be careful not to give too much corrective feedback at this point, as the students will read the text again and work through a series of text-dependent questions to deepen their understanding.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond:
- Students sometimes confuse models as being only a three-dimensional object. They forget that models can be a mathematical formula, an event, or some other process. In this research, the models that are developed relate to the process of crater formation and being able to understand the intricacies within. Remind students to think about other models they are aware of that are not based on a physical three-dimensional object. If they have difficulty, remind them of weather forecasting. This is based on all of the parameters we know that affect weather: wind speed, temperature, humidity, air pressure, etc. Other examples of process models include the earth orbiting our sun, how the solar system formed, and even the process of chemical reactions.
- The idea that gravity is used to measure the elevations or makeup of a structure such as a crater might be difficult for students to understand. Scientists use the fluctuations in the gravity of an area to determine the structure of a surface or perhaps even the makeup of the material. The gravity effect from a mountainous area on an orbiting probe would be larger than the gravitational pull from a low lying area such as a plain. Review the content in the prior knowledge or continue with other examples such as this explanation from NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio of how gravity changes are used to map the surface of Mars.
Independent Practice: What activities or exercises will students complete to reinforce the concepts and skills developed in the lesson?
Provide each student with a copy of the text-dependent questions to complete. Students should be reminded to continually refer back to the text and to use relevant and specific evidence from the text to support their answers.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for understanding?):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting students' answers to the text-dependent questions, checking their work, providing written feedback, and maybe grading the assignment. Or, teachers can have students share out their responses and the teacher can provide verbal corrective feedback, allowing students to make corrections to their work during the discussion.
- Teachers can use the sample answer key provided at the end of the text-dependent questions to help them assess students' answers.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond: Please see the text-dependent questions sample answer key.
Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the lesson?
- Before students complete the writing prompt for the summative assessment be sure to review responses to the text-dependent questions as a class, including covering the misconceptions and key points described in the sample answer key.
- After students' written responses have been graded and returned with feedback, teachers might wish to use the provided sample response with the class. Students who are struggling writers can benefit greatly from seeing a well-organized, detailed written response.
- Point out the last sentence of the introduction and how the writer made the main point clear. Direct the students back to the prompt and remind them the prompt asked them to explain how the GRAIL mission is using data collected to model the formation of large impacts on the moon.
- In paragraphs two and three, have students identify use of specific textual evidence.
- In the final paragraph, point out how the concluding sentences support the main point. Brainstorm with students additional ideas about how to wrap up the piece.
- Throughout the sample response, have students identify the effective use of domain-specific vocabulary, including impact crater, multi-ringed basin, gravity. Have them identify the use of academic vocabulary such as ejected, fracturing, forged, model.
- As one final option, teachers might want students to use the rubric to provide a score for the sample written response and have them justify the score they gave, possibly providing revision suggestions for any categories they scored lower than a 4.
- As a science closure for the lesson, students can respond in writing to the three guiding questions for the lesson in the form of an exit ticket.
- Students will individually respond to the writing prompt. They should be directed to respond with a multi-paragraph response, with a clear introduction, body section, and conclusion. They can refer back to the text as they construct their response.
- Provide students with a copy of the rubric and go over the rubric with them so they will know how their written response will be assessed.
- Go over the writing prompt with students and make sure students understand what the prompt is asking them to address.
The prompt: How has studying Orientale helped scientists understand the formation of the moon? Explain how the GRAIL mission is using data to model the formation of large impacts on the moon. Use evidence from the text to support your explanation.
- Teachers will use the rubric to assess students' written responses.
Specific suggestions for conducting the Formative Assessment can be found in the Guided Practice and Independent Practice phases of the lesson.
Feedback to Students
Specific suggestions for providing Feedback to Students can be found in the Guided Practice and Independent Practice phases of the lesson.
Accommodations & Recommendations
- Show this video, titled Tour of the Moon (4:39, uploaded by YouTube userNASA Goddard), for students that need more support understanding the moon.
- Allow students to explore factors in creating craters. Set up containers of flour and cocoa powder to simulate regolith of the moon. Have students try to recreate some of the crater types they can see from images of the moon. Have them use various small rock sizes, marbles and golf balls to determine the formations. Have students drop them from different heights to measure the different forces. Students should then write up a description as a model of how specific craters may have been formed.
- For students still struggling with understanding the concept of models this video titled "What is a Scientific Model?" (3:26, uploaded by YouTube user John Mark Aiken) might help.
- For struggling readers:
- It might benefit students to chunk the text. Have students independently read section one, and then have several strong readers read that section aloud.
- The students could work together to mark up the text during or after the first reading of the article. The teacher can decide specifically what they want students to mark the text for during this initial reading. Class discussion with feedback from the teacher can follow to help students know if they marked up the text correctly and sufficiently.
- During the reading of each section, students can also highlight selected vocabulary from the vocabulary guide. The teacher might choose to model how to define a few words before having students work together to define additional words in a section.
- The following academic vocabulary was not included on the vocabulary guide but may pose a challenge for struggling readers: mosaic, preserved, obliterating, enigma, correlate.
- For struggling writers: It might help struggling writers to provide them with an outline to help them structure their response for the summative assessment. The outline might include places for them to record:
- Ideas on how to introduce the topic
- A few specifics from the text they might want to use to support or explain the topic
- A place to write down their main point(s)
- Topic sentence (the first sentence of each body paragraph that will reveal the point of the paragraph and will connect to the paper's overall main point)
- Specific evidence from the text for support in each body paragraph
- Ideas for transition words
- Ideas for use of selected vocabulary
- Ideas on how to wrap up their piece and connect back to the main point(s)
- If you have access to student computers, have students utilize Google Moon (an additional portion of the free Google Earth). Download for free on all computers if necessary. Students can findOrientale basin as well as other large crater areas discussed in the article to look for details.
- Re-read sections of the article as they zoom in on Orientale, looking at the multi-ring basin and discussing how it ejected material "153 times the combined volume of the Great Lakes."
- Students can take screenshots and relate what was read in the article to the formations they observe on the moon. Have them find images of areas of maria, highly cratered areas near the 'dark side of the moon' and more.
- Students can make a video tour of their moon walk. They can mark each spot on their moon walk and can narrate the tour stop. They can upload videos to the tour stop and save the file as a .kmz file to share with the class. For information on making video tours using Google Earth/Google Moon check out this site.
- Visit the GRAIL mission website for updates on the findings.
- Download the NASA teacher resource guide "Exploring the moon" PDF. There are many activities that will extend the lesson and help students develop a deeper understanding of the moon.
- Read fiction or non-fiction books centered around the moon. Assign students to choose one title to read and then create a book jacket about the book they read.
- Show the Magnificent Desolation film. This is a 40-minute documentary centered around the book. It was originally shown in IMAX theaters around the U.S. There is also a resource of activities to accompany the video or book.
Suggested Technology: Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Computers for Students, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Speakers/Headphones, Microphones, Computer Media Player
Special Materials Needed:
If conducting the experiments in the accommodations section, you may need:
- marbles of various sizes
- golf balls
- gallon size or larger deep plastic bins (1 per group)
- cocoa powder
- cm rulers
For extension activities:
For teachers who would like more support in understanding and implementing Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects into their science curriculum, please see the teacher tutorials featured in the section of this lesson's CPALMS resource page labeled "Attached Resources."
The text's grade band recommendation reflects the shifts inherent in the standards and is based on a text complexity analysis of a quantitative measure, qualitative rubric, and reader and task considerations.
Source and Access Information
Name of Author/Source: Maggie Molledo
District/Organization of Contributor(s): Brevard
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.