I used this activity last week with my 6th graders and I was happy with how the activity went. Students were engaged, challenged, and made great observations about the planets. They came up with a variety of ways to organize the planets into categories based on data from the fact cards.
It was challenging to come up with categories that neither student had used yet once they met with their 3rd partner. This lead to longer discussions and deeper thinking between each pair, which lead to categorizing the planets in categories that were less obvious at first.
Students worked at their own pace and let me know when they needed a new partner. This staggered the pairings and allowed both the students who needed more time and the students who worked quickly to work at a pace that was comfortable for them. Students also enjoyed trading partners and changing seats.
- Teacher or student created Planet Fact or Planet Trading Cards (public link) or (blog entry)
- Planet Sorting Activity Handout (pdf)
- On your desk, you will have a set of planet fact cards.
- You and your partner will sort the planets according to each category.
- Write down one fact for each planet within the category.
- For the next 5 categories, you and your partners will create new ways to sort the planets.
- Create the first new category with your partner and have it approved before starting.
- Write the title of your category on the line.
- Label the headings for each column, how will you sort the planets?
- Give one fact for each planet used.
- You must use at least 5 planets to complete the category.
- When you and your partner are done, have your work checked and then you will be paired up with a new partner.
- Follow steps 2-7 above.
- You will create 5 different categories with 5 different partners.
- When you are done, you can work on the challenges in small groups.
Possible Categories that students will use:
- Period of revolution shorter or longer than Earth?
- Period of rotation shorter or longer than Earth?
- Number of rings – more or less than ______?
- Atmosphere has Hydrogen or doesn’t have Hydrogen?
- Helium, Carbon Dioxide, and other gases can be used, too
- Planet was discovered before or after ____________
- Planet known since Ancient Times or discovered after _________
- Temperature is either below or above ________ ºC
- Planet has one average temperature (- or +) or a range of temperatures (- to +)
- Average temperature of planet is colder or hotter than Earth
- One day is shorter or longer than a year
- Planet is tilted sideways or planet is not tilted sideways
- Planet has life or doesn’t have life
- Planet has liquid water or doesn’t have liquid water
- Planets you can see or can’t see easily without a telescope
- Planets that have or don’t have phases we can see from Earth