Phases of the Moon Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Are you teaching students about the phases of the moon? Use this lesson plan to give students a visual of the lunar phases, and reinforce the subject matter with a memorable activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • name the phases of the moon
  • describe characteristics of lunar phases
  • understand and use key terms


1 hour


  • Blank lunar phases worksheet (one for each student)
  • Chart paper
  • Transcripts of the lesson Moon Phases: Names & Sequence (one for each student)
  • Index cards

Key Vocabulary

  • New moon
  • Waxing
  • Waning
  • Waxing crescent
  • First quarter moon
  • Waxing gibbous moon
  • Full moon
  • Waning gibbous moon
  • Third quarter moon

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.7

Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.10

By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.


  • Power your students up for learning by asking them to do a 3-2-1 activity. Instruct them to write three things they know about the moon, two things they wonder, and one thing they could teach someone else. Share answers.
  • Tell students they will be learning about the phases of the moon. Pass out the blank lunar phases worksheet and direct students to fill in the phases of the moon during the lesson.
  • Watch our video lesson Moon Phases: Names & Sequence.
  • The lesson gives a brief review of how lunar phases occur. If necessary, pause the video at 33 seconds and review this concept with students.
  • Continue watching the video lesson. After the video, review the lunar phases sheet with students. Create a model on chart paper so students can compare and clarify.
  • Discuss:
    • Why can't you see the moon during the new moon phase?
    • How does sunlight impact lunar cycles?
    • What does 'gibbous' mean?
    • What is the difference between waxing and waning? Which comes first in the lunar cycle?

Activity: Collaborative Option

  • Pass out transcripts of the lesson to prepare students to play 'I plead the 5th!'
    • Direct each student to create 3 original questions, taking from the lesson on phases of the moon, and write them on index cards or notebook paper. Encourage students to write creative and unique questions.
    • Arrange students in teams of 3-5 students.
    • Ask each team a question, in turn. When correct, the team receives a point.
    • When a team is wrong and cannot come up with the correct answer, students can plead the 5th (choose not to answer). This allows the following team to try to answer. If that team gets the answer correct, it can 'steal' one member of the team that pleaded the 5th.
    • The game is over when one team 'steals' all of the other team members or you run out of questions. Track points to crown a winner.
  • As a wrap up, have students repeat the 3-2-1 writing exercise.

Activity: Independent Option

  • Have students track the moon's changes over a period of time. Be sure to time it so it aligns with a full moon phase.
  • Students can record their observations in a notebook or on blank paper.
  • Ask students to sketch and label the moon's phase each night.
  • For an added element, have students research full moon festivals, myths, or facts.
  • They can then create a poster of information explaining the research they compiled.


  • Have students track lunar phases on a calendar. Take turns transferring drawings to a large calendar.
  • Demonstrate the lunar phases using flashlights, balls and the globe.

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