Moon Phases

Children will investigate how the Moon moves.


Lesson Objective

Children will explore and document Moon changes over a period of 1 week.


What You'll Need

  • Plain white paper – 1 sheet per child per day
  • Pencils or crayons
  • Chart paper
  • Markers

What To Do

Note: Part of this activity needs to be done at home. This lesson involves the children drawing pictures to keep track of how the Moon looks each night for 1 week. The pictures will be compared at the end of 1 week to note the difference in the Moon.

  1. Divide a sheet of chart paper in half, and label the sides Night and Day.
  2. Discuss with the children things they see in the sky at night and during the day; chart their contributions.
  3. Tell the children that they will be learning about how the Moon changes over time.
  4. Show the children pictures of the Moon at different phases—full, half, quarter, and crescent.
  5. Explain to the children that they will be keeping a journal of the changing shape of the Moon for 1 week.
  6. Tell the children that each night, when they are at home, they will need to look up at the Moon and draw a picture of what it looks like. They will bring their pictures to school the next day.
  7. Explain to the children that they will compare their pictures after 1 week to see how the Moon changes.
  8. The next week, compare the pictures drawn on Day 1 to the pictures drawn on Day 2 and compare those drawn on Day 3 to those drawn on Day 5; then, compare the pictures drawn on Day 1 to those drawn on Day 5 (see Guiding Student Inquiry).

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Explain how night and day are different.
  • Tell me what you see in the sky at night.
  • Describe how the Moon changed during the time in which you kept your Moon journal.
  • Why do you think the Moon looks different on some nights?
  • Tell me why you think the Moon changed from Day 1 to Day 5.

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Place the pictures of the Moon at the science table for examination.
  • If you have a model or a poster of the Earth and the Moon, display it in your classroom.
  • Make models of the Earth and the Moon with hard foam balls, and keep them at the science table for children to simulate the Moon rotating around the Earth.
  • Make “Moon Cookies” to eat as a snack. You will need a tube of pre-made sugar cookie dough, a cookie sheet, paper plates, and an oven. Give a portion of the dough to each child. Tell them to flatten the dough and make Moon craters in the dough using their fingers. Bake the cookies according to the package directions, cool, and eat!

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children explain why the Moon looks different on some nights?
  • Could children explain how the Moon changed?
  • Could children tell why they think the Moon looks different from Day 1 to Day 5?


Did You Know?

From Earth, we always see only one side of the Moon, but the shape of the Moon changes. The Moon does not emit any light by itself; all parts of the Moon are lit by the Sun. When we see the Moon we are actually seeing the sunlight reflected from the Moon. The Moon travels around the Earth in a small circle called an orbit. The Moon orbits the Earth about every 29½ days; this is called a “lunar month.” As the Moon rotates around the Earth, we see different parts of the sunlit half. These parts are known as the phases of the Moon.

There are eight phases of the Moon. When we see a whole circle of Moon illuminated, it is called a full Moon. When we cannot see any of the lit-up side of the Moon, it is called a new Moon. Other phases of the Moon are named based on how much of the Moon we see. A waxing Moon means the part of the Moon we see is increasing each day. A waning Moon means the part of the Moon we see is decreasing each day.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • moon – an object that circles around a planet; the Earth has one Moon.
  • sky – the air or space above the Earth.
  • change – to become different.
  • journal – a written record of daily events.
  • phase – a particular stage of development, or a process.
  • orbit – to move in a circle around.

Lesson Tips

  • Some children may not be able to successfully document what the Moon looks like each night. Using your camera, take a picture of the Moon each night, and show it to the children the next day, allowing them to make their pictures during class time.
  • You may find it helpful to make Moon journal booklets for each child by stapling several blank sheets of paper together with a cover.


  • Faces of the Moon by Bob Crelin
  • Phases of the Moon by Gillia M. Olson
  • Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me by Eric Carle
  • Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS