Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Putting Our Solar System in Order

Kristina Robinson


Students use a Website to explore sizes, composition, and characteristics of the planets. They then form a model of the planets orbiting the sun. Students' models demonstrate the planets' different sizes.


The student knows that the planets differ in size, characteristics, and composition and that they orbit the Sun in our Solar System.


-Computers with Internet access
-Index cards
-The Planets Research Sheet (See Associated File)
-Planets Order/Characteristics Chart (See Associated File)
-Orange T-shirt
-Red ribbon (at least 1-inch wide)
-Green ribbon (at least 1-inch wide)


1. Make copies of The Planet Research Sheet for each student. (See Associated File)
2. Add Website ( to Favorites on each computer station. (See Weblinks)
3. Divide students into groups of three.
4. Make copies of the Planets Order/Characteristics Chart for each student. (See Associated File)
5. Get balloons, orange T-shirt, markers, ribbons and tape.


Background: Students should have prior knowledge of the names of the planets and how to use the Internet. Review the pneumonic device to remember the names of the planets and their locations starting with the one closest to the sun (My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas).

1. Promote class discussion by asking, “Why is it too hot or too cold to live on some planets?”

2. Talk about the sun, the location of the planets, and their movement in space.

3. Model how to navigate the Website (See Weblinks) for the students. Gather information about the sun to demonstrate how to find information about our solar system.

4. Send students in their groups to the computers to gather information about the planets from the Website.

5. Students record information on the The Planets Research Sheet. (See Associated File)

6. Next, have each group inflate one balloon for each planet. The size of the balloon should be representative of the size of the planet as compared to the other planets in our solar system. Using markers, have students color the balloons to identify the colors of the planets. Label the name and three characteristics of each planet with an index card. Students should then attach an index card with tape to the balloon planet. A red ribbon is tied on the bottom of the balloon if the planet has a gaseous composition. A green ribbon is tied on the bottom of the ballon if the planet has a rocky composition. Next, have students number the planets on the index cards from smallest to largest (1-9).

7. Take balloon planets outside. Assign each group three planets to represent outside. Pick one student from the class to represent the sun; this student wears an orange T-shirt. Each group has one student use their balloon planet to show the location of their planet in our solar system in relation to the sun (student). Student planets orbit the student sun to represent the orbiting of the planets around the sun. Notice the number of times Mercury goes around as compared to Pluto.

8. Go back inside the classroom. In their groups, students arrange the planets from smallest to largest.

9. Remove the index cards and have students in a group evaluate each other when relabeling the planet balloons with correct labels. Have the groups switch balloon planets and practice relabeling with correct index cards.

10. Following this activity, have students individually complete the Planets Order/Characteristics Chart (See Associated File) to demonstrate knowledge of the differences in sizes and characteristics of each planet.


1. As a formative assessment, the teacher observes the students participating in making the planets and discussing their sizes, composition, and characteristics.
2. Planets Order/Characteristics Chart: Students order the planets smallest to largest, list at least two characteristics of each planet, draw and label each planet, and identify the planet's composition as gaseous or rocky. Students also explain why the night sky looks different each month.


1. Modifications for ESE/ESOL: Give students a word bank to choose names of planets when completing the Planets Order/Characteristics Chart.
2. Have the students make the models out of papier-mâché.

Web Links

This site may take a minute to load since it contains much color and graphics. Use it as a resource for this lesson plan.
Kid's Astronomy

Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.