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Science - Exploring the Phases of the Moon - Grade 2

Subject: Science

Grade: 2

Learning Objective: To learn the 8 phases of the moon cycle

Common Core Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.2.4.E Use glossaries and beginning dictionaries, both print and digital, to determine or clarify the meaning of words and phrases.


  • A4 Card or paper
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • scissors


Read the poem "Night Comes" by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers.

Night comes


out of the sky.

Stars come


Moon comes



Who is



Who is afraid

of the night?

Not I.

Say: Who can tell me the two things we see in the night sky that this poem mentions? 

Do: Allow students to answer (stars and the moon).

Say: Now, can you tell me some differences between stars and the moon?

Do: Allow for a brief discussion to take place.

Say: Great ideas! What I see to be a major difference between stars and the moon is that stars, for the most part, always look the same. They shine brightly in the sky, they twinkle, and we can't see how they may change shape. The moon, however, is always changing its appearance, and we can see it every night.


Do: Draw the sun on the board, followed by Earth and its moon next to it. This is to show students the relation of the sun to Earth and the moon, so you don't have to be too detailed.

Say: We know that all the planets, including Earth, orbit the sun. But the moon both orbits the Earth and rotates or spins while this is happening. Let's see what I mean. I need three volunteers.

Do: Call three volunteers to the front of the classroom. One will be the sun, one the Earth, and the other, the moon.

Say: The sun stays still. The Earth both orbits and rotates around the sun.

Do: Have the Earth walk around the sun while slowly and carefully spinning.

Say: While the Earth is doing this, the moon does the same thing around Earth.

Do: Have the Earth stop where it is and call the moon over. Have the moon walk around the Earth while slowly and carefully spinning. Return the volunteers to their seats and ask if anyone has any questions so far.

Say: Because the moon is spinning, the sun lights up different parts of the moon every couple of nights. Our moon takes 28 days to make a complete orbit around the Earth. That's 14 days to go from a new moon to a full moon and then another 14 days to become a new moon again. This creates the changes you see in the moon from night to night. We call these changes phases.

Do: Draw the complete cycle of the moon on the board and write out the name of each phase:

  • new moon
  • waxing crescent
  • First-quarter
  • waxing gibbous
  • full moon 
  • waning gibbous
  • third quarter
  • waning crescent

Say: Who can guess which is the first phase? (new moon)

Say: Can you describe how the moon looks in the sky when it's a new moon?

Do: Allow for a brief discussion (You can't see it! The moon is completely dark. The sun doesn't light up any part of it).

Say: The only time you can see a new moon is during a solar eclipse. An eclipse happens when the sun, the Earth, and the moon align. Remember when (call out the names of the three volunteers) stood at the front? Imagine they were perfectly in a line. In a solar eclipse, the moon will cast a shadow over the Earth. At the same time, it blocks out the sun's rays.

Do: Show an image of a new moon during a solar eclipse.

Say: Who can tell me in which phase we see the whole moon? (full moon)

Say: Can you describe how the moon looks in the sky when it's a full moon?

Do: Allow for a brief discussion (You can see all of it! The moon is completely lit up because the sun is shining directly on one side).

Do: Ask two students to look up the definitions of waxing and waning in the dictionary and have them read it out loud.

Say: For a new moon to get to a full moon, the sun shines a little more on it each night. What word describes that the moon is becoming fuller? (waxing)

Say: After the full moon, the sun shines a little less on it each night. What word describes that the moon is becoming smaller? (waning)

Say: What is the difference between a crescent and a gibbous?

Do: Allow students to point out that a crescent moon is when less than half the moon is lit up, and a gibbous moon is when more than half the moon is lit up.

Do: Hand out a piece of paper/card to each student and ask them to fold the paper in half (horizontally). Unfold the paper, and fold each end to meet in the middle. It will look like a big window. Fold the paper (that will now be vertical after being folded) in half, and then fold in half one more time. Unfold the paper so that it's back to looking like a window.

The fold lines will make eight neat boxes and will act as markers for where to cut later on. Ask your students to write each phase of the moon cycle in each box, going from left to right. Ask students to draw the phase of the moon that's written underneath. Encourage students to be creative with colors and fonts.

Finally, they will cut a slit between each phase. This will allow them to create eight little windows that, when opened, reveal the picture of the moon correlating to the phase marked on the outside. 

These folded windows can be pasted into their workbooks.


Say: Keep track of the moon's phases until our next class. Draw what you see and make your best, educated guess as to what phase the moon is in.


Written by Jessica Holdsworth

Education World Contributor

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