Learning About the Phases of the Moon with "Papa Papa, please get the moon for me" by Eric Carle
Updated: Aug 2, 2021
The idea that the Moon can change in size and follow cycles is a difficult concept for small children to understand. They accept its existence through the concrete idea of a "man in the Moon" but they are not quite ready for the abstract science behind these cyclical changes and even older children can find this a challenge. So, a story about the Moon can aid understanding of this tricky concept in a more concrete way, especially if it is followed up with hands-on activities and conversation related to the story.
"Papa, please get the moon for me” by Eric Carle is an emotive story which children can relate to to begin to understand the phases of the Moon in a meaningful way.
Eric Carle tells the story of a little girl called Monica who's wish is to have the Moon and her papa's journey to make that wish come true. In doing so, he places a very long ladder on top of a very high mountain so he can reach for the Moon.
But when he gets there, the Moon is much too big, so he waits and waits. As time passes, we see a very large moon get smaller and smaller.
When the Moon is just the right size, Monica's dad takes it to his daughter who is so delighted she jumps and dances with the Moon.
But, much to Monica's surprise, the Moon continues growing smaller and smaller until finally it disappears altogether, only to begin to grow bigger and bigger once again thanks to a new moon cycle.
The book has pages that fold out in different directions to graphically show the lengths that father goes to reach the Moon. The story is not only a celebration of a father's love for his daughter but it also teaches young children about the cycles of the Moon and how our largest satellite is constantly changing.
The Illuminated Film Company has produced an animated version of the story narrated by the poet, Roger McGough, and the actor Juliet Stevenson. Alternatively, literacy educator David Feinstein features this story in his weekly Eric Carle Storytime and his idea of asking children to make the shapes of the Moon with their hands is a great way of introducing the topic.
Suggested ideas for CLIL
1. Ask children to make the shape of the Moon's phases with their hands. Then introduce the scientific language for talking about the Moon.
Note: the full 8 phases can be studied with older children.
2. Play Simon says … to practice listening and identifying the phase names and making the shapes.
3. Role play the phases of the Moon
Show a diagram such as this one to illustrate the phases of the Moon and use it as a guide for children to role play the phases with their bodies. To do this, you will need a strong flashlight to imitate the Sun and demonstrate how sunlight affects the way we see the moon. Talk children through the different phases and then let them work out how they could represent this with their bodies. Younger children will, of course, need more guidance phase by phase.
4. Make some Oreo cookie Moon phases
NASA has downloadable activities that guide children through the different Moon phases using Oreo cookies for younger children as well as instructions for making a Moon phase calendar and calculator for older children.
1. Make a foil painted Moon.
Jenifer Hamilton's blog for parents illustrates this craft which is suitable for younger children but even older children would enjoy it.
2. Make a collage of a scene from the story
The illustrations in the picture book use the technique of collage. After looking at the illustrations and talking about how a collage is created, children can make one that represents their favourite scene from the story. Building a wall display with the different scenes will provoke recall and talk as children try putting the scenes in order.
1. Research questions about the Moon
Children are genuinely inquisitive and are bound to have their own questions about the Moon, such as: How far away is the Moon? How big is the Moon?
Brainstorm the children's questions on a WH chart and ask them to carry out research and try to find the answers to their questions. There are many websites which are suitable for children to use, but NASA is a favourite. Show children how to search online efficiently and safely.
Use the children's findings to make comparisons and calculate the differences in distance due to the changing lunar positions.
1. What do you wish for?
Ask children to draw or write what they wish for on a piece of paper and then fold over the outer edges. Put the papers into a jar. Take one out and read what was wished for or show the pictures. Talk about the wishes as you take them out of the jar. The children can do this too. Finally, create a wall display and ask your learners to help you classify the wishes to place on the wall.
2. Recite a poem – The Moon Game
I'm the Moon and I play a game.
I don’' always look the same.
Sometimes I’m round,
A silver sphere.
Sometimes just half of me
Seems to be here.
Sometimes I'm a crescent,
Shaped like a smile.
Sometimes I surprise you
And hide for a while.
Look up in the sky
For my friendly light.
What shape will I have
When you see me tonight?
Guy Brarian's blog has a downloadable copy of the poem and flashcards.
So, once again, Eric Carle’s innovative work and creativity serves as a springboard for learning about the faraway moon behind the story!
Thank you Eric Carle!
By Margie Marc
Bio: Margie has been working in the field of education for many years. She loves the positive change that can be provoked through learning, for both students and teachers. Margie currently works as a teacher and teacher trainer.