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Teaching series: Birthday moon phase activity for kids

A black image with different phases of the moon in light red and beige colors. The top text is a script that says Teaching Series. The lower text says Birthday moon phase activity for kids.

In this first installment of the Teaching Series, we’re focusing on a moon phase activity to get your young students excited about learning about Earth’s natural satellite! This simple activity has been an amazingly huge hit with my primary school classes. I wanted to share this simple, on-the-spot activity that you can do at any time with only a viewable device connected to the internet.

Recommended age for this activity

I recommend doing this activity for students in 3rd to 6th grade. Older students can enjoy this activity too and even make it more involved. Ways to make this activity more intensive is to make students create posters or small presentations using the information they get from this activity.

Doing this activity as a group

Required materials:
  • A “sharable/viewable” device capable of connecting to the internet. This can be a desktop computer angled in a way for all of your students to see, a laptop, a tablet, or, if necessary, a phone. Having a device connected to a projector is ideal so all students can easily see!
  • An internet connection via wifi or cellular data. You’ll need this to access the website needed for this activity.
Additional recommended materials:
  • A projector. Having your device hooked up to a projector makes things much easier for your students to see. This also prevents the students from moving in each other’s way to see the website on a desktop or mobile device with a small screen.
  • Paper and writing utensils. You may want to expand on this activity into an individual student project using the information on the website!
  • An adblocker installed on your browser. We don’t recommend disabling ads since they provide revenue to the creators of the free web content you access, but if you’re working with students with learning and/or intellectual challenges, it helps to eliminate the distraction of banner ads.
Step one: Access a moon phase calculator webpage!
A screenshot of a black website with tiny white stars dotting the black background. A near-full gibbous moon appears on the left half. On the right, "Birthday Moon Phase" appears as a large purple title. Below, it asks the viewer to input their birthday. The birthday give is January 25, 2000. The website says the moon was in the waning gibbous phase on this day. The moon was 18.02 days old in its lunar cycle on this day and appeared 81.45% illuminated. Its tilt was -29.966 degrees and the distance from earth was 379,066.08 kilometers. The astrological sign of this moon was Virgo.
Birthday Moon Phase Calculator provided by Starlust.org

With my students, I used Starlust’s Birthday Moon Phase Calculator. It’s free and has very minimal ads. The graphics are beautiful and high-contrast. The top menu disappears when you scroll, helping minimize distracting text.

Step two: Call on each student individually and ask for their birthday

If you are accessing this page from an American device or device with the United States set as its region, the date will appear as mm/dd/yyyy. For European students, you may have to remind them how the States do their dates differently. My students were quite concerned with my typing abilities when birthdays like May 6th, 2014 were written as 05-06-2014 in my computer instead of 06-05-2014! Accessing the website from one of the desktops belonging to my Spanish primary school had the date format as dd/mm/yyyy.

I recommend that you go in order of seating arrangement when asking for their birthdays. Asking for volunteers can create competitive chaos.

If you’re in the TEFL field, have your English-learning students tell you their birthdays in English!


Related reading: NALCAP Series: How to teach English in Spain with NALCAP


Optional step three: Have your students use paper & writing utensils
Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

In this optional mini-step, have your students pull out their notebooks or paper and their writing utensils. Have them draw their moon phase and write their birthday. Maybe even have them write how many days old their moon was in its cycle! The Starlust calculator provides the age of the moon in its cycle. For my birthday, Starlust says my moon was 18.02 days into its cycle.

Note, this step is better for smaller classes or individuals since going through the birthdays of larger classes is already time-intensive. If you’re doing this step with larger classes, have them be quick. Birthdate, simple moon drawing, and the age of their moon in its cycle.

You can turn this moon phase activity into an extended individual project by giving the URL to your students. Have them do this at home! Encourage labels, details, and poster-making. They can even look at the moon phases for their family members and pets and see the differences. My fourth graders were rabid to do this at home with family once they did the activity for themselves in class!

Things to expect in a group setting

Expect things to get loud. In my fourth grade classes, kids groaned and cheered with each phase. They made their own competition into seeing who had a full moon, or even more rare, a new moon! Every time you announce a moon phase, try to hype it up. Crescent, half, and gibbous moon phases are cool too!

Full moons meant absolute chaos. There’s cheering, yelling, and celebration. The word “werewolf” was thrown around multiple times. My one new moon was even louder. The teacher and I had trouble reining them in!

Adapting this moon phase activity for individual students

Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

Have the student input their own birthday into the website and read aloud the results.

Consider going into more depth with your student. Have them make a poster with a drawing or printout of their moon phase and birthday. They can add their moon’s age in the lunar cycle and other information presented to you by the calculator.

Individual students get more time for this activity. Definitely have the student look at the moon phases of each pet and/or family member’s birthdays. They can evaluate the differences between the phases and add them to their poster.

For more detail, have them search for the New Year and New Year’s Eve moon phase of their birth year or current year. Their poster could list the moon phase of the first of the current year (New Year), their own and family/pet birthday moon phases, and the last moon phase of the current year (New Year’s Eve). This pretty timeline of phases is a great potential addition to their posters!

Conclusion

This simple moon phase activity has brought my students joy, so I hope it can bring joy to your students too! Keep in mind the number of students you have and their normal behavior. Things may get loud in their excitement– my students certainly were!

Praise every moon phase so the students know that even the phase they didn’t want is still special. There won’t be many full and new moons in the class. Express your happiness in your own, especially if it isn’t a full or new moon so the students can be happy about theirs!

Thanks for reading. See you in the next post!

Beka

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