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Lesson Plan

Blast Off! Vocabulary Instruction Using a Virtual Moon Trip

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Blast Off! Vocabulary Instruction Using a Virtual Moon Trip

Grades K – 2
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Eight 30- to 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Emily Manning

Emily Manning

Denton, Texas

Deborah Kozdras, Ph.D.

Deborah Kozdras, Ph.D.

Tampa, Florida

Denise Haunstetter

Tampa, Florida


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1: Jump-Start and First Write (20 to 30 minutes)

Session 2: Group Talk (45 to 50 minutes)

Session 3: Reading and Thumbs Up (30 to 35 minutes)

Sessions 4 and 5: More Reading and Thumbs Up (30 to 35 minutes)

Session 6: Play and Plan a Crossword Puzzle (45 to 60 minutes)

Session 7: Create and Solve a Crossword Puzzle (45 to 60 minutes)

Session 8: Final Write (45 to 60 minutes)


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Develop content-specific vocabulary by listening to a variety of texts and identifying relevant words during the read-aloud sessions

  • Demonstrate understanding of content-specific vocabulary presented in informational texts by participating in discussion, writing, and sorting vocabulary words in new ways

  • Use written and visual language to learn vocabulary and demonstrate comprehension through an initial writing activity, the creation of a picture dictionary, and a concluding writing activity using an online graphic organizer

  • Practice vocabulary words and extend their understanding of the meanings of those words by playing and creating crossword puzzles

  • Work collaboratively to define vocabulary words and present these definitions to the class

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Session 1: Jump-Start and First Write (20 to 30 minutes)

1. Bring the poster covered in butcher paper to the front of the room or have students gather around the bulletin board you have created (see Preparation, Step 4). Ask students to predict what they think might be underneath the butcher paper. After they have given a few guesses, tear a little bit of the butcher paper off to reveal a small portion of the poster. Ask students to again make predictions. Continue tearing the paper off bit by bit until students guess what is on the poster.

2. Activate students' prior knowledge by asking them what they know about the moon. Provide a brief time for them to share. At this time, you are not adding to the discussion, but are listening to hear what students already know about the topic.

3. Pass out the First Write sheet and ask students to draw or write a list of words that connect with the topic. Reassure them that spelling and accuracy do not matter. You just want them to jot down what they already know about the moon. Give students about 5 to 10 minutes to complete the First Write.

4. Have students pair up, sit knee-to-knee and eye-to-eye, and share their First Writes.

Note: Save the First Write as an assessment of students' prior knowledge. You can compare what students write here with the Final Write from Session 8.

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Session 2: Group Talk (45 to 50 minutes)

1. Bring students to the class meeting area and draw their attention to the poster or bulletin board you have created. Ask questions that will lead students toward some of the target vocabulary words you have chosen. For example:
  • What is the moon?

  • What is on the moon?

  • Who goes to the moon?

  • How do you see the moon?

  • When you see the moon in the sky, do you see the whole moon? Why or why not?
If you have a computer available in your classroom, you may want to show students the Phases of the Moon website.

2. As students begin sharing words related to what they see, record their contributions on sticky notes and put them on the poster or bulletin board. Students will say lots of words. Make sure to guide this conversation to include the vocabulary words that you would like them to focus on during the lesson.

3. During the conversation, stop and ask students to clarify the meaning of words or act them out. For example, one of the things that students may know about the moon is that it has craters. Stop and ask what craters are. Ask what a crater looks like, what causes craters, and so on. These questions and clarifications will help students to actively engage with the words. You will also probably find that as you question students, more words will pop up that need to be added to the poster or bulletin board.

4. After about 10 minutes, have students break into groups of four. These should be heterogeneous groups, including students of various needs and abilities. Each group should select one of the words from a sticky note and then decide how they want to present the word to the class. They may write out an explanation, act out the word, illustrate it, or share examples they find in the books you have assembled (see Preparation, Step 3).

5. After about 10 or 15 minutes, bring the class back together. Each group should present their word and meaning to the class. The class will discuss these definitions. Use differently colored sticky notes to record meanings and important information about the words.

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Session 3: Reading and Thumbs Up (30 to 35 minutes)

1. Ask students to envision themselves landing on the moon. Have them brainstorm words they think will describe their experience.

2. Introduce the book If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty. Ask students to tell you what they see on the cover of the book and to predict what the story will be about. Ask what the title of the book is and create an atmosphere of process drama by telling students to pretend they are getting ready to go to the moon and asking questions such as, "What do you think we will need to do before we go? What will we need to take with us? How will we get there?"

3. Tell students that they should use the thumbs-up procedure when they hear words that are already on the poster or bulletin board or when they hear words that they think should be there because they relate to the idea of landing on the moon. The atmosphere for the read-aloud should be relaxed, almost like you are telling a bedtime story. Allow conversation. Stop and ask questions. If students do not hear a vocabulary word, reread the sentence slowly to see if they catch it the second time through.

4. After reading the book, provide time for students to discuss what they learned. During discussion, add any new relevant vocabulary words to the poster. Remember to guide the discussion so that students are staying on topic. Use questions to help them clarify their points and to draw out more vocabulary. For instance, a student may say that there are special cars for driving on the moon; ask, "Do you know the name of the vehicle they used on the moon?" (The answer would be a moon rover.)

5. Ask students to think more about what it would be like to land on the moon. Questions for discussion include:
  • What kinds of sights, sounds, and tactile elements might you encounter on the moon?

  • What would the ground be like underneath your feet?

  • What would happen when you try to walk?

  • If you were an astronaut, what sounds would you hear in the rocket ship?
Record any new vocabulary words on sticky notes.

6. To end this session, provide students with the My Picture Dictionary booklets. If students are not familiar with the concept of picture dictionaries, make sure to explain that dictionaries are in ABC order and picture dictionaries have illustrations to match the word entries. Tell students that you would like them to choose two to five words from the sticky notes and add them to their dictionary. They should write definitions and draw pictures for each word, using vivid descriptions and illustrations as if they were writing from their own experience of going to the moon.

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Sessions 4 and 5: More Reading and Thumbs Up (30 to 35 minutes)

1. Begin these sessions by sorting the vocabulary words on the chart. For each session, guide students to find a new way to sort the words. Ideas for sorting include names of the moon phases, geographical descriptions of the moon, words associated with astronauts, and how the moon moves.

2. Read aloud one book each session dealing with the topic of the moon; you might also choose to read from Zoom Astronomy: All About Space or have students look at the Phases of the Moon website. During reading, ask students to listen for vocabulary and take time to discuss new words.

3. Following each reading, discuss any new learning or words. Take time to clarify new vocabulary by sharing additional information, showing diagrams, or having students act out what they think words mean. Add any new vocabulary to the poster or bulletin board.

4. End each session with students adding words to their picture dictionary. As you did in Session 3, you may ask students to relate their definitions to the topic you are discussing that day. For example, they might try to write them as if they are scientists who study the moon.

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Session 6: Play and Plan a Crossword Puzzle (45 to 60 minutes)

1. Show students how to use the Crossword Puzzles tool. Start with the Play Mode, choose K-2, and then The Moon from the dropdown list that appears. Work together to solve the puzzle. If students get stuck on an answer show them the Tips and Hints section where they can read more about the moon to help find the answers to the clues. Note: If you do not have computers available for your students, you can print the puzzle and the Tips and Hints sheet and distribute them to students.

2. While solving the crossword point out how some clues give a sentence telling what the word means and some clues are fill-in-the-blank sentences.

3. Tell students that they are going to create their own puzzles with a partner using their words from their Picture Dictionaries.

4. Have the partners meet to share their picture dictionaries and choose the five to eight words they will use. Partners can mark their words with sticky notes.

5. Once partners have chosen their words, give them the Crossword Planning Sheet. Partners are to write their words and clues on the planning page. Clues can be definitions or fill-in-the-blank sentences. Ask students to think back to the crossword puzzle the class solved earlier or have examples of the different kinds of clues written on chart paper for students to refer to.

6. Before the next session, help partners edit their clues for spelling and grammar.

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Session 7: Create and Solve a Crossword Puzzle (45 to 60 minutes)

1. This session can be done in a computer lab setting or as a computer station in the classroom. Return to the Crossword Puzzles tool, only this time select the Create Your Own tab. Model how to type the words and clues into the puzzle from the Crossword Planning Sheet . Make sure to explain to students that sometimes not all the words can be used and that their work cannot be saved, so they should not close the tool when they have completed typing in their clues.

2. Monitor partners as they are typing in words and clues. Make sure partners are referring to their crossword planning sheet to help write the clues.

3. Before students print, help them edit their work to make sure words and clues are spelled correctly.

4. Print the puzzles and have partners swap puzzles with another group to solve.

5. While students are solving one another's crosswords take notes on what words were used most frequently in the puzzles. Also make notes on the different kinds of clues students wrote and listen to comments as they're solving. Often the authors of the crossword thinks they are being clear but the solver cannot figure out the answer. There might be a clue that isn't as clear as the writer thought. Listen for these kinds of comments because they will be part of the ending discussion.

6. After the crossword puzzles are solved, gather the class together for a discussion. Choose three or four words that were used in several puzzles and create a web on the board or chart paper. Each word will be in its own circle. Ask students to refer to their crossword puzzles and share the clues for those words (see Sample Crossword Web).

7. Discuss which of the clues were challenging, which kind of clues students preferred, tips for writing clues, what kind of clues are unclear, and the qualities of a well-written clue.

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Session 8: Final Write (45 to 60 minutes)

Note: For this session, each student will need access to a computer or tablet devices. If you have access only to classroom computers, it is possible to complete this session by working with students in small groups. You do not want students to see the moon poster or bulletin board while they are working during this session, so you should cover it.

1. Show students how to use the online Alphabet Organizer or the Alphabet Organizer mobile app to make an alphabet chart, selecting the option you think will work best for them. Challenge students to type as many words as they can think of in association with the moon. Reassure them, as you did during Session 1, that spelling is less important than getting down all of their thoughts and words about the moon.

2. Give students 20 to 30 minutes to complete the Alphabet Organizer. Support them while they are working by keeping some visuals (without words) on hand for them to refer to; seeing photographs or posters might spark a word. You may also wish to give prompts such as, "Think back to our vocabulary sorts. What were some of the categories? Which words fit into those categories?" Or "Think of your picture dictionary. What are some words you added?" At the end of this time, ask them to print their alphabet charts and compare them with their First Write.

3. Have students sit knee-to-knee and eye-to-eye with a partner to share their Final Writes (i.e., their completed Alphabet Organizers). After partners have shared, give them the following prompts to discuss together, allowing 1 to 2 minutes for each prompt:
  • What was something surprising you learned about the moon?

  • What is something you will never forget?

  • What is your favorite new word you learned and why?

  • How was your First Write different than your Final Write?

  • What questions do you still have about the moon?
Listen in as students discuss these prompts. Take note of interesting or especially reflective responses and have these students share them in a final whole-class gathering.

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  • Have students use their picture dictionaries to write a book sharing what they know about the moon.

  • Transfer all of the vocabulary words on sticky notes to index cards. For younger students you may want to add an illustration to match each word. Put the index cards in a literacy center and encourage students to find different ways to sort the words or to arrange the index cards into sentences about the moon. Students may also want to add more words to their picture dictionary.

  • Have students choose a vocabulary word from the poster, bulletin board, or their picture dictionary, and use the Doodle Splash tool to illustrate, provide a definition, and explain the significance of the word.

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  • Compare the amount of words and pictures students used during their First Write to that in their Final Write. Students who initially list the fewest words often make the greatest gains. Evaluate studentsí learning of the words by the number of words and the quality of their understanding. (Are their definitions detailed and correct?)

  • Use the observational checklist to monitor studentsí participation during read-alouds and class discussion. After the last read-aloud session, use the checklist to give a participation grade or simply as an informal assessment to add to studentsí files.

  • Assess how well students were able to work collaboratively at the end of Session 2. Were they able to correctly define their word? Did they come up with a way to present the definition that was both creative and accurate?

  • Collect studentsí crossword puzzles and use the Crossword Rubric to examine and assess how well they understood and were able to write clues and explain the meanings of the words from their picture dictionaries.

  • Assess the picture dictionary by evaluating studentsí word choice, illustration, and definitions or sentences (if appropriate). Guidelines for this assessment include:

    • A Proficient Picture Dictionary: Student added new words learned during sessions and branched out from the First Write. Illustrations show a clear understanding of each word. Student may have added detail such as labels or a caption. The sentences or definitions prove a clear understanding of each word. The sentences are complex and add context to show deeper understanding.

    • An Apprentice Picture Dictionary: Most of the words added were new words. Student reused some of their words from the First Write. Each word is illustrated but is lacking detail such as labels or captions that exhibit a deeper understanding. Sentences are simple and use the words correctly.

    • A Novice Picture Dictionary: Almost all the words added to the picture dictionary were familiar; there are only one or two new vocabulary words. The illustrations are unclear and have no labels or captions. Student had difficulty defining or using the words in the sentences.

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