Three Phase Plan with “A Day in Space”

Here’s an example of a lesson I gave using the three-phase  learning plan that I introduced in the last blog entry. The source is an article from entitled “A Day in Space” (posted by NewsELA). This lesson might be used with 3rd-5th grade students or striving middle school readers. Below is a link to the filled-out plan. There’s so much of teaching that I can’t get into a “lesson plan,” though, so below is a more detailed explanation of what happened in each phase.

Three Phase Plan Day in Space

Phase One – Meet the Source

The teacher and I gave the students a hard copy of the article to read as a whole.  I started the lesson with this synopsis:

This article is about how astronauts live and work in space. One of the main ideas in this article is that astronauts do some of the same things we do, but in different ways. Let’s preview to see what we think some of those differences might be.

I also introduced the vocabulary word “hygiene” which was the topic of one section of the article entitled “Hygiene in Space.” Here are the four steps I used to introduce this word:

  1. Introduce the definition: Hygiene – the practice of keeping yourself and your surroundings clean and, as a result, healthy
  2. Help students associate: Thumbs up/down: Are you practicing good hygiene when you brush your teeth? Are you practicing good hygiene if you never wash your hands?
  3. Help students expand their understanding with Turn & Talk: Think of a way you practice good hygiene. Turn & talk about it with a partner. You might start with “I practice good hygiene by…”
  4. Link to text: There is a subheading in this article that says “Hygiene in Space!” What do you think the author will be explaining? Do you think astronauts practice hygiene the same we do?

I set the purpose for reading by saying, “As you read this article, think about this question: How is the astronaut’s day in space similar to and different from yours?”

Then the students read. The teacher and I circulated, leaning in to confer with individuals. I closed the lesson by asking small groups to discuss the following questions:

  • What did you learn about how astronauts do things differently from us?
  • What else did you learn that you found interesting?

Phase Two – Meet the Strategy

During the following lesson, I introduced the pasta analogy and then engaged the students in underlining and annotating the section entitled, “Hygiene in Space!”  Our guiding question for determining what to underline and jot in the annotations was, “How is living in space different than living on Earth?” This may seem easy, but during Phase One, when I asked this question, I got answers like, “Their toilets are different.” I DID NOT get details about the difference, though. Students did not share how the toilet is set up like a vacuum cleaner, etc. By reading closely and stopping to think about specific details that we determined were important, I was hoping to deepen the students’ understanding of this difference.

After we annotated this section together (my notes were projected with a document camera), student partners chose an additional section to read and annotate (with the guiding question in mind). Then individuals chose yet another section to work on independently. The teacher and I circulated and conferred, coaching students in how to annotate their thinking.

We closed with a conversation:

  • Let’s use our notes to help us describe the differences between living in space and on Earth.
  • What do we think about what we learned? Would you want to be an astronaut at the space station? Why or why not?
  • What did we do to read and learn strategically today?

Phase Three – Meet the Purpose for Responding

This was the prompt for the written response:

Would you want to be an astronaut who lives and works on a space station? Why or why not? Use what you learned from the article about the different ways astronauts do things and how this information has influenced your thinking.

I introduced and defined three vocabulary words students could use to describe their thinking: fascinating (def: very interesting), challenging (difficult but worth trying because you’re interested), exasperating (extremely irritating, annoying). The teacher and I decided to give the students these vocabulary words as a tool for helping them respond more thoughtfully.

I modeled choosing one and listing details (as a plan for writing) from the source that supported this; then I coached them in doing the same.

Then I drew the students into a conversation and they helped me compose a sample response. This is shared writing. Then I coached in them in writing their own responses. Later I would read their responses and write a short note to each student. Below are a few examples of what the students wrote.

This was the first of a series of three-phase lessons focused on sources about different careers—app developers, animators, bee keepers, interpreters for the deaf and so forth. I’ll try to blog more on that soon.

If you try the three-phase lesson with “A Day in Space,” I’d love to hear how it goes!

Hope this helps.



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