Around and Around We Go

This week I took a look at the Orbital motion and the ISS WISE activity. The interface was a little daunting to start with so I simply began at the beginning and started small. I was able to make some formatting changes easily and worked in a new writing prompt early asking students to come up with additional examples of artificial and natural satellites and to defend their answers. The previous step was about what makes a sattelite and the difference between artificial and natural ones so it seemed an opportune time to activate prior knowledge and build the habit of gathering evidence. I also added some additional prompts to the intro screen about collecting evidence that gave the students clues about what sorts of information to look for and what types of projects/tests this would be needed for. I figured that if they knew what to look for and why it was important to find, they would pay closer attention to the text on the first reading thus building positive habits for traditional text reading/decoding.


While I did not work it in to the project framework, I did explore the Phet Simulations activity. These little simulations allow students to play with different physical systems. I managed to locate one on earth/sun/moon/satellite orbits where the masses, play speed, and gravity could be adjusted. I was able to test it out in my grade 6 class (who are conveniently studying astronomy) and we were able to explore how solar mass affected orbits and how velocity can play a part in escaping gravitational pull. We also managed to pull of a slingshot maneuver around the sun 🙂

As a lesson/group of lessons, this project was already fairly well tailored to my needs. Mainly in needed logistical prompts specific to my students and visualizations relevant to their day to day life. Distance analogies relating to places around the school and community were particularly helpful in getting my class to conceptualize solar system distances when we represented the sun with a beach ball and the earth with a marble.


  1. Hi Daniel,

    You mentioned adding “some additional prompts to the intro screen about collecting evidence that gave the students clues about what sorts of information to look for and what types of projects/tests this would be needed for.” Could you append some examples and would you classify these as scaffolds in the same way that SKI suggests or Furtak/Kim/ Hattie et al.? Thank you for also bringing up “activating prior knowledge” in your preliminary ideas for a lesson, Samia

    1. Hello Professor,

      My prompts had students looking for examples of “testable material”, “information that allows you to classify things”, and “cause and effect relationships”.

      Testable material is, unfortunately, a neccessary evil due to the grade 6 provincial achievement tests in this province. This would include information like definitions, facts, and figures. This was largely a logistical prompt rather than a knowledge scaffold.

      Classification information woudl be a step higher that looking for testable material. This is something of a scaffold as it assists students in the construction of categories. The exmaple this led to in my exploration was a prompt regarding types of satellites. In naming two artificial and 2 natural satellites and defending their classificiation, students had to understand what makes an object belong to the class of satellite and then further what differentiates natural ones from artificial.

      Cause and effect realtionships would also fall more under the knowledge scaffold than a logistical item. Most of these would present as how does a phenomena occur. These facts woudl be most useful to students connecting their new learnign to their every day life and for use in generating extended responce type questions/assignments.

  2. HI Daniel,
    I liked how you incorporated the “activating prior knowledge”, I find it is a step that we often over look, and perhaps do not actually assess. It is often during these preliminary phases of a unit that I come to understand what misconceptions the students may have, realize who has a good grasp of the material already and may be a prime candidate for self-directed study or to be used as a mentor, as well as helping me sort out who may need more assistance with the unit.
    One area that I have become more in tune with is the whole idea of misconceptions. Previously, I saw misconceptions as things I would be clearing up during my fantastic teaching of the unit (hope you sensed my sarcasm there) rather than the deeply embedded ideas that students already believe and that misconceptions require much more work to undo than no misconceptions at all.

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