Lesson Plan


A Galaxy of Learning
Jennifer V.
Classroom teacher
Gallego Basic Elementary School
Tucson, United States
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My Grades 3
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Arts, English Language Learning

Students will be able to read expository text about galaxies.

Students will be able to create their own definitions of terms related to the study of galaxies.

Students will be able to take notes about the details, key vocabulary, patterns, and unanswered questions they have about galaxies.

Students will contribute to a well-known citizen science project.

Students will write a detailed paragraph about their exploration of different galaxies.


English Language Arts
Grades 3 – 4
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook/Attention Getter: Galaxy Quiz with Kahoot

Free, Paid

You can create your own engaging Kahoot quiz using this very user-friendly tool, or please feel free to use the quiz I created for my third grade class.

To find my Kahoot quiz, search for galaxies, then filter for Jennifer Valentine.  Alternately, you can easily recreate the quiz by using the questions below.  I pasted in open domain images as the background for each of the questions.

What is the name of our galaxy?

the Earth,  the Milky Way, the Big Bang, the Sun

Which is larger, a solar system or a galaxy?

a solar system, a galaxy

How many solar systems have been discovered in the Milky Way galaxy?

5, 50, 500, 5000

Astronomers think there may be ____________________  of solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy!

hundreds, thousands, millions, billions

Choose the galaxy below that is NOT real.

the Antennae Galaxy, the Chihuahua Galaxy, Sombrero Galaxy, Black Eye Galaxy

Which of the following is NOT a galaxy type?

spiral, square, elliptical, irregular

Which of the following is the correct way to write one million?

1,000     10,000     1,000,000     100,000

What is the distance between our galaxy and our closest neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy?

about 1 million light years, about 2,500,000 light years, about 1,000 light years, about 100 light years


Student Instructions

Before we begin our explorations of the universe, we are going to play a short quiz game about galaxies.  In a moment, I will give you a log in code and you will answer each of the 8 questions about galaxies.  Then, at the end of the lesson, you'll take the quiz game again and see how much you've learned!

2 Direct Instruction: Taking Notes with Listhings

Show students the listhings tool and, if needed, go through a quick example of how to use it with them.  They could practice using the tool by making sticky notes on vocabulary about the classroom (a vocabulary sticky), questions about the classroom (why do we only have one window) and details about the classroom (we have 30 desks and 35 chairs).  

Explain to students that they will use listhings to take notes on what they see while they classify galaxies using Galaxy Zoo.

Possibly vocabulary to review ahead of time:

classify, smooth, rounded, disk, features (characteristics of a galaxy), artifcat (in a photo for science, an artifact is something unrelated to the topic, such as a band of light from a much closer star streaking across the image), odd (as in unusual), arc (above a galaxy), disturbed (a galaxy that appears to have fallen out alignment; the image given is two parts of a sphere that are no longer connected to form the sphere), merge, merger, irregular

I find it best to go through the vocabulary as we classify 4 or 5 galaxies together, and then address it as I monitor them in the guided practice and independent work.



Student Instructions

You will take notes today either in your notebook or using listhings, which is a site that operates like online sticky notes.  You will need to have a heading for vocabulary, where you will write down words related to the discipline of astronomy as well as any words you need to clarify.  You will have a second heading where you will take notes about important details related to galaxy classification.  Finally, you will have a heading or online sticky note for unanswered questions.

3 Direct Instruction and Guided Practice: Classifying Galaxies!

Lead students through at least 5 examples of galaxy classification.  I find it best to project the web-site onto a screen at the front of the room.  I gather the students on the carpet and we go through each step as we examine the images of the different galaxies.  This might be a good time to give them a background on citizen science.  Depending on the vocabulary and interest level of your students, you might want to either read or paraphrase some of the introductory information from Galaxy Zoo prior to starting the classification process.

After students observe and discuss several examples that we go through as a whole group, I send them to work with partners on classifying 3 galaxies on their own.  I don't yet have them start to take notes.  I circulate and confer with/assist students in registering with Galaxy Zoo (they have Google emails registered under the school district) as well as the steps to get started.  After most students have classified 3 galaxies, which usually takes about 5-10 minutes, I have them come back to the carpet for a short discussion.  We go over vocabulary they need clarified, and list any areas in which they encountered difficulties with classification.

Student Instructions

First I am going to talk to you briefly about citizen science and the role and individual (one person) can have in a project like this.  Then we will classify five galaxies together as an entire class.  As we do this I'll be helping you out with the in-context vocabulary.  Then you will work with a partner to classify three additional galaxies.  After that, we'll meet again briefly as a class to go over any questions you may have.  

4 Independent Practice: Explore Different Galaxies!

Confer with students as they work with partners to classify galaxies.  They will not always be correct in their classifications, but this will improve over time.  Also, as with all citizen science, if they make a mistake, it will be absorbed by the masses who do answer in agreement with one another.  Check to ensure that students aren't clicking through the galaxies at too rapid a rate, and also to confirm that they are correctly reading and interpreting the terms for classification.  They do not need to take notes on every galaxy they see, and I encourage them to explore patterns (there are more circular galaxies than cigar shaped galaxies, for example) and interesting galaxies (those that are merging, have tidal patterns, and so on).  

Student Instructions

You will now work with a partner for 30-45 minutes to classify galaxies.  Read the classification terms each time you start a new example.  Take notes on patterns you observe.  The patterns might be about what is common or uncommon, for example.  Also take notes on details you find interesting or think are important.  

5 Wrap-Up: Sharing What We Learned

Google Drive
Free, Paid

Students end today's lesson by sharing what they learned with other students using an inside-outside line or another peer talk organizational tool.  The goal is for students to express the specific detaisl they observed and took notes about.  Their next step will be writing up these notes in paragraph form in a Google Document.  An enriched alternative is to take screen shots of the galaxy images, paste those into Google Slides, and have students write up the details about their galaxies as part of a presentation instead.  While described as a lesson here, this is really a lesson series that extends over 3-4 days.