Underneath the Stars

English with Media Education

The aim of this unit is to help pupils to see how the stars and night sky inspire us to be creative and to consider our place in the universe.

Key Questions:

  1. What sense can I make of this?
  2. What do I see?
  3. What’s the best word?
  4. Why are people fascinated by the stars?
  5. What is my place in the universe?
  6. What are the big questions?
  7. How important are we?
  8. How do we see our own lives in the stars?
  9. What are my big ideas about the stars?
  10. What do I want to say?
  11. How creative were we?

Poems referenced in 'Underneath the Stars'
PDF, 138 KB

* Asterisked resources are suitable for less able pupils.

 

Developing Pupils’ Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities

Developing Pupils’ Knowledge, Understanding and Skills

Being Creative:

  • experimenting with language and ideas;
  • exploring perspective imaginatively;
  • articulating questions.

Thinking, Problem-Solving and Decision-Making:

  • searching for meaning;
  • justifying ideas.

Working with Others:

  • listen actively and share idea;
  • encouraging each other to be creative.

Pupils should have opportunities to become critical, creative and effective communicators by:

  • expressing meaning; feelings and viewpoints;
  • interpreting visual stimuli including the moving image;
  • using a range of techniques, forms and media to convey information creatively and appropriately.

 

What sense can I make of this?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning …

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…to explore and develop ideas.
…to make connections.
Being Creative

 

 

 

 

Put pupils in small groups.  Share with pupils the theme of the lesson - the stars.  Give to each group a bag containing 8 – 10 objects, e.g :

  • paper
  • marker
  • calculator
  • (include a few objects common in the classroom)
  • string
  • glitter 
  • poem
  • website address
  • (include a few objects associated with the stars)
  • a shoe
  • a CD
  • a bar of soap 
  • (include a few objects that are completely random)

Explain that the objects in the bag are going to be used in a lesson about the stars.  Their task is to predict the lesson, agreeing on how each object will be used, the sequence of activities in which the objects will be used and to articulate what it is that their lesson will teach about the stars. 
Share group ideas as a class.  After the activity, explain to pupils that the purpose of the task was to illustrate how we create meaning in different ways and how we have the ability to seek out and create order. 

Encourage pupils to consider :

  • What were our first thoughts when we saw the objects?
  • How did we go about the task?  
  • How many possibilities did we consider? 
  • What made us change our minds?
  • What did I enjoy most about this activity?
  • What did I find most challenging?
  • What does this activity tell us about creativity?
  • In what other ways do we create order, in class, in school, in our lives?

What do I see?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning …

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…to explore different perspectives.
…to demonstrate and value originality.
Being Creative

Chose one well-known constellation such as Orion. Read and compare the story as told in different cultures to see how the constellation was interpreted differently in different countries and at different times.

For comparative story outlines, see :


Windows to the Universe website

 

What’s the best word?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning …
Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…to use descriptive language creatively.
…to think flexibly and work in a different way.
…to experiment with language.
Being Creative

 

…to give feedback on each others’ ideas.
Working with Others

Work in pairs to contribute to a larger group or class poem on the night sky. For stimuli, use still or moving image footage (see Google Earth or Faulkes-Telescope ).  Write a group or class poem on the night sky using Google sky as stimulus. Assign each letter of the alphabet to pupils. While looking at the images on the website, pupils write their alphabet line(s), experimenting with vocabulary and ideas and encouraging each other to be original. They contribute their lines to the class poem, describing what they see and what is happening.  They should use only the assigned letter for the key words in the line, eg.

  • Aggressively, asteroids assault
  • Black bedlam beckons
  • Crackling comets cruise etc.

Pupils might be asked to ensure that certain types of word (e.g. noun. adjective, verb, adverb) are included on each line.
Opportunity to develop/assess Communication

Communicate information, meanings, feelings, imaginings and ideas in a clear and organized way.
Opportunity to develop/assess Using ICT

Research, select, process and interpret information.

Why are people fascinated by the stars?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning …

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…to discuss, prioritize and justify.

…to respect others’ opinions.
…to reach agreement using negotiation  and compromise.
Working with Others

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask pupils to think about why every generation wonders about the stars and what they wonder. Give pupils a set of cards, each noting a possible reason for human interest and fascination in the stars.  Include some blank cards for pupils to come up with their own ideas. Ask pupils, in groups, to diamond rank the cards.

In this activity, pupils prioritize ideas, placing the idea which they feel best explains our fascination with the stars at the top of the diamond and the one which least explains it at the bottom of the diamond.  Within the top and bottom ranked ideas, there is leeway to set side by side cards containing ideas which cannot be prioritized.  This creates the “body” of the diamond layout.  (For information on the activity of diamond ranking, see Active Learning and Teaching Methods booklet.) Some ideas for cards :

  • We can’t go to the stars.
  • The stars are not human.
  • We feel threatened by the sky.
  • We feel threatened by the unknown.
  • The stars are the farthest thing the naked eye can see.
  • We have no control over the stars.
  • The stars remind us of how small we are in the universe.
  • The stars remind us of how big the universe is.
  • The stars give us direction.
  • Imagining is one of the things that makes us human.
  • The stars were created by God.
  • We don’t know everything about the stars.

Ask pupils to explain the thinking behind their choice of most significant/least significant statements, and to talk about how they reached agreement in their groups.

What is my place in the universe?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning …

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…that scale in the universe can be explored through poetry and visual image.

…to compare and evaluate the effectiveness of poetry and moving image.
Managing Information

…to justify ideas.
Thinking, Problem-Solving and Decision-Making

Read and discuss poetry and moving image clip(s) which explore the idea of scale in the universe.  Encourage pupils to consider which is more effective - language on its own, visual images on their own or language and visuals together, giving reasons to support their opinions.

Suggested poems :

  •  “To the One Upstairs” by Charles Simic, available at Poemhunter
  • “For A Dewdrop” by Eleanor Farjeon
  • “Under Galileo’s Glass” * by John Agard in Hello Hodder 978-0-34089-383-8
  • “0” *  by John Agard in Einstein, The Girl Who Hated Maths Hodder 0-7502-4288-4
  • “How Many is How many?” * by John Agard in Einstein, The Girl Who Hated Maths
    Hodder 0-7502-4288-4
  • “I am Shrinking” *  by Jack Prelutsky in It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles
    Collins 0-00-713998-5

 

 

Suggested moving image clips :

  • “Baboon on the Moon”  * - on British Film Institute
  • “Starting Stories” literacy resource, available from British Film Institute.
  • “The Great Dictator” – Charlie Chaplin.  This film (1940) satirises Hitler.  In response to a suggestion that he might strive for global domination, the character of the leader (which is based on Hitler) dances with a large globe balloon as he considers the possibility of taking over the world.
  • “Men in Black”  * – The final sequence of this film shows the camera zoom out from the earth so that it becomes smaller and smaller until it is shown as a marble in a game, thrown by an enormous claw.
  • “King Lear” – any film version which conveys (visually or as dialogue) the sentiment expressed in Act IV Scene i  :  “As flies to wanton boys are we to the Gods. They kill us for their sport.”

    Understand and explore ideas, events and features in texts. 
    Opportunity to develop/assess Communication

What are the big questions?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning …

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…to ask questions that do not have straightforward answers.
…to seek out questions to explore.
Being Creative

 

 

 

Having considered the idea of scale in the previous activity, read poem(s) which encourage / consist of questions and ask pupils to work in pairs to come up with a question about our place in the universe to be pinned on a “No Easy Answers” board.   For information on a “No Easy Answers” activity, see Northern Ireland Curriculum.

Suggested stimulus poems  :

  • “Questions at Night” * by Louis Untermeyer in Earth Wise , chosen by Wendy Cooling Franklin Watts 0-7496-3480-4
  • “The Answer”  * by Steve Turner in I Was Only Asking  Questions, Lion 0 7459 4822 7
  • “What am I?”   *  by Steve Turner in I Was Only Asking Questions,  Lion 0 7459 4822 7

How important are we?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning …

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…how to use different perspectives.

 

 

 

Encourage pupils to think about the ways in which they are important in the world of their own personal experience and in the wider world, e.g :

In my personal world I am really...
In the wider world we are less important because…
or more important because…

  1. My family love me - We are tiny in the universe
  2. I make my friends laugh - There are billions of people in the world
  3. I am unique - The world will go on when we have gone

What conclusions can be drawn from the exercise?  Why are our emotions and personal experiences important in the great scale of the universe?

How do we see our own lives in the stars?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning …

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…how to explore personal relationships using the metaphor of the night sky.

…to experiment with ideas.
Being Creative

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

As stimulus, watch moving image clips in which characters articulate emotions and think about personal relationships by looking at the stars.

Suggested moving image text :

  • “The Lion King” – There are three key scenes in this film which would be useful for this activity.  Each of the scenes is only a couple of minutes long.  Their meaning will be best understood in the context of the whole film. The scenes are :
    • 20 minutes into film – Mufasa tells Simba that past Kings are in the sky watching over us and that, one day, he will be there too, watching over Simba;
    • 50 minutes into film – Simba and his friends discuss whether the stars are just “balls of gas” or something more;
    • 65 minutes into film – Mufasa appears to Simba as a star and inspires him to return home to fulfil his destiny.

Having looked at moving image clips, explore poetry in which human emotions and personal relationships are explored using imagery of the star. 

Suggested poems :

  • “Yellow stars and Ice” by Susan Stewart, available at Poemhunter In this poem, the idea of distance and scale is explored using a range of imagery.
  • “Delay” by Elizabeth Jennings, available at Poemhunter  This poem explores the idea of bad timing in love, compared to the light from a star arriving too late.
  • “Starlight” by William Meredith available at Poets.org.  Here, the poet comments on how meaning is brought to his universe, not by Gods, but by another human being’s existence.

Ask pupils to use one of the poems and convey its meaning as a dialogue between two people, in a certain context, e.g.:

 

  • “Yellow Stars and Ice” -  two characters talking about physical or emotional distance, for example, during a phone conversation.
  • “Delay” – two old women talking about how love passed them by.
  • “Starlight” – a couple talking about the gaps and fulfilment in modern life.

Adapt ways of speaking to audience and situation.
Opportunity to develop/assess Communication

 

What are my big ideas about the stars?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning …

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…to order and classify ideas.

…that profound ideas can be expressed using simple language;
…to shape language.
…to experiment with language.
Being Creative

…to listen actively.
…to co-operate to attain a shared goal.
Working with Others

…to order ideas.
Managing Information

Use a mindmap to generate and organise ideas about the stars as preparation for creative writing. (For information on the activity of mindmap, see Active Learning and Teaching Methods booklet .)
Encourage pupils to include ideas about the physical, philosophical and personal nature of the stars.

Use a verse of “Twinkle, twinkle little star” as a writing frame to develop an idea about the night sky.  This activity reinforces nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, rhyme and can address rhyme scheme, syllables and stress on syllables.

On the board, annotate the verse to show the above, e.g

                                                                                                            Rhyme

verb
verb
adjective
noun
Rhyme scheme
Twin
/kle
Twin
/kle
litt
/le star
A
stress
 
stress
 
stress
     
How
 I
won
/der
what
 you
are
A
   
stress
       

Give as much or as little direction as appropriate in terms of other word types such as prepositions.

Pupils can work in pairs to use this frame for their own writing.  By substituting each word in “Twinkle, twinkle” with an alternative word of the same type, of the same number of syllables and with the stress falling in the same place, the rhythm is maintained. To direct pupils, provide them with a set word to work the line around, e.g. a single syllable noun such as “night” or “sky” as the last word in the first line, e.g.

Whis
/per, 
whis
per
qui
/et
night,
am
dream
/ing
of
your
might.

 

 

Understand and explore ideas, events and features in texts. Write with increasing accuracy and proficiency. Communicate meanings, feelings, imaginings and ideas in a clear and organized way.
Opportunity to develop/assess Communication

What do I want to say?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning …

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

 

…to convey an idea creatively.
…to experiment with ideas and language.
Being Creative

 

Pupils extract from their mind maps their most important ideas and shape them creatively, using a writing frame where appropriate.

Where a writing frame could be taken from a song used by the Music teacher, the pupils would effectively be writing a lyric which could be sung by the school choir.

 

 

How creative were we?

Learning Intentions
Pupils are learning …

Possible Learning, Teaching and Assessment Activities

…that positive comments build confidence.
…to give positive feedback.
Working with Others

Share work in pairs.  Ask pupils to give their partner three positive comments about their writing

 

Development of Learning Outcomes

  • research and manage information effectively, including Using Mathematics and Using ICT where appropriate;
  • show deeper understanding by thinking critically and flexibly, solving problems and making informed decisions, demonstrating Using Mathematics and Using ICT where appropriate;
  • demonstrate creativity and initiative when developing ideas and following them through;
  • work effectively with others;
  • demonstrate self-management by working systematically, persisting with tasks, evaluating and improving own performance;
  • communicate effectively in oral, visual, written and ICT formats, (including ICT and the moving image) showing clear awareness of audience and purpose and attention to accuracy.

 

 

Links with Key Elements

Learning for Life and Work

Spiritual Awareness
Explore and respond to the key questions that arise through discussions on the purpose of life.

Personal Development
Self Awareness – explore and express a sense of self.