Solar System

Unit Curriculum and Assessment Plan

S&T - Grade 6: Space
Earth and our Relationship with our Sun and Moon.
2 to 3 weeks

Expectations/Big Ideas:

Earth is part of a large interrelated system.

Investigate characteristics of the systems that Earth is a part.

Demonstrate an understanding of components of the systems of which the earth is a part.




Description of task:

A. Students will create a model of our Solar System using Smart Notebook Software.

B. Students also will create a papier-mâché model displaying the visual characteristics of a planet and give an oral presentation which compares their planet to Earth.

: Present a Planet! Overview

Making an Effective Oral Presentation

: Parental Communication Handout

Download: Student Template for Presentation

Download: Sample Completed Slideshow

Write Say Do



Assessment Tool:

Rubric - will evaluate understanding and communication skills

Checklist - will evaluate students' ability to meet identified criteria of preparing and performing an effective oral presentation and writing an effective comparison.

Assessment Criteria/ Look Fors:

  • " Understanding of the components of our solar system"
  • Ability to express and organize ideas and information"
  • Inclusion of all required components of an effective comparison"
  • Use of answer sandwich model to organize a comparison
  • Ability to use transition words effectively



The solar system is an orderly one, which reflects its formation, 4.5 billion years ago. The sun makes up 99.8% of the mass of the solar system. The planets orbit the sun in orderly fashion, and the moons orbit them. Asteroids and comets are small, and most move in orderly fashion, but are occasionally diverted into paths that cause them to collide with the earth or other planet - with disastrous results.



The sun's mass makes up 99.8% of that of the solar system. The planets move around the sun in almost-circular orbits, all in the same direction, and almost in the same plane. They are kept in their orbits by the sun's gravity. Moons orbit most of the planets, kept in orbit by the planets' gravity. Asteroids orbit the sun, mostly between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter; trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) orbit the sun, mostly beyond Neptune. But asteroids and TNOs can be deflected into more elongated orbits that may cause them to collide with the earth or other planets.



3.1 identify components of the solar system, including the sun, the earth, and other planets, natural satellites, comets, asteroids, and meteoroids, and describe their physical characteristics in qualitative terms (e.g., The earth's surface is very young; much of it is covered with water. The moon is the earth's only natural satellite. Comets are the largest objects in our solar system; their centres contain rock particles trapped in frozen liquid; their tails are made up of gas and dust.)

3.2 identify the bodies in space that emit light (e.g., stars) and those that reflect light (e.g., moons and planets)



Lesson Goal(s) and/or Focus of Instruction
Description of Student task
Diagnostic or Formative Assessment
Assessment tool
How will you know when each child has reached the goals? Assessment Criteria/Look Fors:

Students complete diagnostic questionnaire to determine prior knowledge and misconceptions they bring into the key learning of the Solar System.

Read diagnostic questionnaires submitted by students. Record major misconceptions as well as areas of strength for both individuals as well as the group.

Download: Solar System Diagnostic

One of the two big ideas identified by the ministry for this unit is 'Earth is a part of a large interrelated system'. To help us build on this fundamental concept of systems, we activate student's prior knowledge of systems they are familiar with using an in depth focus on the human body as a system, which the students studied in grade 5. We use this example to consider what it means to be a system.

Lesson Plan: Thinking in Systems

BLM: What is a System?




Now that we have activated prior knowledge of systems, the next step is to activate the students' prior knowledge of our solar System. In order to do this we will complete the "K" and "W" portions of a KWL chart.

Download: Suggestions for an effective KWL chart and a sample Solar System KWL chart.



Students will share their knowledge and understanding of the solar system to the class KWL chart. Be sure to include all students in sharing not just those that have lots to share to gain insight of areas of strength and need of the class.

Building on the ideas your students shared in the KWL, this lesson highlights the parts of our solar system. First students watch a video that explores key features of our Sun. Next students watch a video takes them on a journey through the rest of our solar system, highlighting the major components that comprise of our solar system. The final video of this lesson discusses why Pluto was demoted from its planet status to a dwarf planet and also gives mention to the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud objects that exist beyond Pluto.

Video: NASA eClip - The Sun, Our Star

Video: Journey through the Solar System

Video: NASA eClip - Pluto Our First Dwarf Planet

Additional websites

: Exploring our Solar System

Website: Comparing the Planets

Website: Nine Planets




Have students write two truths and a lie regarding the information presented in today's videos. Students submit the three sentences. The teacher keeps them until the next lesson, and then reads them to the class, having the other students try to identify the lie from the other two true statements. By reading the statements the teacher can assess the learning from the previous day.

Below is a link to an overview of Two Truths and a Lie, as well as an example of statements that pertain to this lesson.

Download: Two Truths and a Lie



Using the Smart Notebook file provided teachers can create a model diagram of our solar system, which includes each of the major components, right in front of their students. Teachers could use this file in a computer lab in order to allow the students to also construct the model diagram along with the teacher.

Download: Smart Notebook Construct a Solar System

Download: Construct a Solar System.


In lesson 12B students will construct their own model of the solar system using smart notebook software.



The activity link below connects to a web quest in which the students explore the main components of our solar system in further detail, learning what each of the main components in made of and other interesting facts. This activity requires each student to add important information to a pre-created PowerPoint. Once the task is completed, students could present to the class or simply save and print for their own notes.

Resource Solar System Trading Card Webquest

Powerpoint Solar System Trading Card Webquest

Link: Components of our Solar System

Have students print and submit the final product of their slides to ensure that they have been complete in full and with satisfactory accuracy.

Next, students are provided a planetary fact sheet. Students use Venn diagrams to help them compare and contrast the planets.

Download: Comparing and Contrasting the Planets Using Venn Diagrams

Have students submit their final Venn diagram within their student handout which compares planets that have a longer orbital period than Earth, more moons than Earth, and no magnetic field. Teachers can do a quick skim of the submitted papers to identify those who get it and those who may need extra practice.

Using the Venn Diagrams in lesson 7B will help the students to analyze the data in the table allowing them to recognize similarities and differences. In this lesson, students are explicitly taught how to make an effective comparison information paragraph. The Answer Sandwich model is used as a framework, and model responses and a graphic organizer are provide as tools to help the students construct their paragraphs.

Download: Effective Information Paragraph Checklist

Download: Comparing and contrasting the Planets Using an Effective Information Paragraph

Download: Smart Notebook Presentation - Using the Answer Sandwich Model to Construct and Effective Comparison

checklist and/or rubric

Use criteria on checklist (gist statement, supporting evidence, transition words, and concluding statement) to assess the student's knowledge and understanding and ability to write an effective comparison information response. Provide the students written feedback to improve their response.

8.5 B Through this activity, students will become more familar with both the unique characteristics and the similarities of comets, meteors and asteroids. Students will also learn how to group and sort information with the use of Venn diagrams.

Lesson: The difference between comets, meteors and asteroids

Students use the checklists and descriptive feedback to improve their responses, and then they resubmit for conferencing.

Teacher gives further oral feedback in preparation for future comparison writing and the upcoming summative evaluation.
After the students have knowledge of the components In our solar system, it is important to understand the relative size of these objects in relation to each other. A PowerPoint file is provided to use as a lesson starter or hook. A question is posed to the students asking if it is possible for a moon to be larger than a planet. It follows with a graphic showing two moons that are larger than Mercury.

Activity: Relative size of objects in the solar system

Video: Our Solar System: Size of Planets and Stars to Scale

Students complete exit cards to reflect on their experiences with these activities.

Download: Exit Card - Relative Size of Objects in our Solar System

In order to help students appreciate the vast distances between planets try the following activity. Activity: Distance Between Objects in our Solar System.

Activity: Distance Between Objects in our Solar System (Beads).

Activity: Distance Between Objects in our Solar System (Pacing).


Students complete exit cards to reflect on their experiences with these activities.

Download: Exit Card - Vast Distances Between the Planets.
12B Students revisit a similar Smart Notebook file to the one in which they constructed a model of the solar system. Students are able to use their notes and their knowledge from the past few lessons to construct a model of the solar system on their own.
checklist/ rubric

Students may either save their files for the teacher to view or the teacher may prefer to have the students print the page in which they created their model solar system. Students are assessed for the Knowledge and Understanding the solar system.

Download: Solar System Checklist and Rubric.



Students will learn learn about comets by completeing a hands on activity

Download: Teachers Notes on Making a Model Comet

Download Making a Comet in the Classroom - Student Handout

Activity: Make a model comet -Dry Ice

Activity: Make a model comet - Ice Cream Version



Complete "L" portion of KWL chart


Download: Sample Solar System KWL


asteroid A small (up to 1000 km), rocky object that orbits the sun, mostly between Mars and Jupiter -- the "asteroid belt".
comet A small (typically 1-100 km), icy object that orbits the sun, mostly beyond the orbit of Neptune. It is made up of a nucleus (solid, frozen ice, and dust), a gaseous coma (water vapor, CO2, and other gases) and a tail (dust and ionized gases). Its long tail of gas and dust always points away from the sun, because of the force of the solar wind. The tail can be up to 250 million km long, and is most of what we see.
crater A large, usually circular hole made when an asteroid or comet collides with a planet or moon
gravity Gravity is a physical force that pulls objects together. Every bit of mass produces a gravitational force; this force attracts all other masses. The more massive an object, the stronger the gravitational force. Newton formulated the law of gravity.

An orbit is a elliptical (closed) path that an object takes as it revolves around another body.


A planet is a large celestial body that orbits a star and does not shine on its own. [There are eight planets orbiting the sun in our solar system.]

trans-Neptunian object Trans Neptunian Objects (TNO's) are small (typically 1-1000 km), icy objects that orbit the sun, mostly beyond the orbit of Neptune. They are comet nuclei! Yes, Pluto is a large TNO, but not the largest..
meteor The streak of light that a meteoroid makes if it falls through the earth's atmosphere

Small, rocky objects that travel through space

meteorite A meteoroid that survives its trip through the earth's atmosphere and lands on the ground.

The zodiac is a band of 13 constellations along the ecliptic. The constellations in the zodiac include: Capricorn (the goat), Aquarius (the water bearer), Pisces (the fish), Aries (the ram), Taurus (the bull), Gemini (the twins), Cancer (the crab), Leo (the lion), Virgo (the virgin), Libra (the balance), Scorpio (the scorpion), and Sagittarius (the archer).


  • The stars are part of the solar system.
  • The positions of the sun, moon, and planets in the sky at your birth affect your future life (astrology).


  • Astronomers have discovered over 300 planets around stars other than the sun, mostly using a technique developed by Canadian astronomers.
  • Canadian astronomers have been part of the teams that have obtained the first images of planets, and planetary systems around other stars.