If I’m teaching a Geography class to English Language Learners, or a straight English class to Beginning or Intermediate English Language Learners, I will teach a series of units that begin with Planets and Space; then go to the Earth and its continents; next to our country; then to our state; next to our city; and then, finally, to our neighborhood.
The Essential Question that guides this series is “Where Do We Live?”
I thought readers of this blog might be interested in several “The Best” lists sharing the websites I use to support these studies, and so I’m starting off with The Best Sites For Learning About Planets & Space.
You’ll also be able to find all these sites, and many others that did not make this list, on my website under Planets and Space.
As in all my lists, the criteria for a site to be here include that it must be accessible to English Language Learners and providing engaging content: I haven’t listed these sites in any order of preference.
Here they are:
Solar System Song from the British Council
The Starchild site from NASA has several excellent pages that provide images, text, and audio support. They include ones on the Solar System, the Universe, what they call Space Stuff. and short biographies of space pioneers.
A neat interactive exercise where students can Design A Satellite.
The Language Guide page on Space-related words.
iPlanetarium has a nice interactive guide to the Solar System that gives basic information in an engaging way.
NASA’s multimedia presentation on the International Space Station provides excellent info.
Speaking of the International Space Station, this MSNBC video showing images of the recently-completed Station is pretty amazing. Lastly, The New York Times has a nice interactive timeline called “Assembling The International Space Station.” USA Today has a similar graphic.
Interactive Universe, from the History Channel, is a great place to learn more about the planets, the solar sytem, and, yes, the rest of the…Universe.
Space Walk, from “Life In Space,” lets you simulate being an astronaut repairing the International Space Station.
The BBC has a good series of videos reviewing NASA’s Fifty Years In Space.
The BBC also has a good Solar System Jigsaw Puzzle.
NASA has developed its own multimedia presentation celebrating its Fiftieth Anniversary. It’s quite engaging, and has closed captioning, but its navigation can be a little confusing.
National Geographic has an interactive slideshow/timeline called Fifty Highlights Of Space Travel.
Learn more about space travel at McDougal Littell’s Animated History of The Space Program. Be sure to click on the lower left hand corner to see the words that are spoken, and use the menu on the upper right to explore all the great activities.
How Stuff Works has a bunch of short videos on space travel.
Brainpop has a couple of excellent movies, but you have to pay for a subscription (usually) to view them. You can also get a free trial easily. The movies are on the Apollo Project and the International Space Station.
I’ve had students use Imagination Cubed to easily draw the solar system online and post their work on my website or their own blog.
I have to admit I’ve had students in my classes who I would occasionally like to send to Mars, but NASA has a neat activity where you really can send them there! As NASA’s site says “This is your chance to go to Mars! Fill in your information below and your name will be included with others on a microchip on the Mars Science Laboratory rover heading to Mars in 2011!” Students can then print-out the official certificate, and explore the site to learn more about the Mars Mission (thanks to iLearn Technology for the tip).
Enchanted Learning has a couple of decent astronaut clozes that have to be printed out (or, as I have students in my U.S. History class do, just copy and paste into their blog) — one on John Glenn and the other on Sally Ride.
Here’s a good textbook exercise on the first Moon Landing.
NASA At Home & City is a terrific interactive where NASA shows the practical implications of how space travel has affected out lives.
U.S. Citizenship Podcast just wrote about an an excellent Voice of America Special English series on The History of The U.S. Space Program. These are great for English Language Learners — the language is simple and there’s audio support for the text.
Planet Quest is a pretty amazing multimedia timeline of space exploration that begins at 500 B.C. In addition, it provides audio support for the text. I’m tentatively adding it to this list. The reason I’m only doing so “tentatively” is because even though it’s a wonderful site, the vocabulary is a bit advanced — perhaps too advanced for many English Language Learners.
America’s Space Odyssey is an interactive timeline from The Wall Street Journal.
Sizing Up The Universe is a neat interactive from the Smithsonian that does a very good job at helping users gain an understanding of how big planets and moons really are.
Historic NASA Photos are a series of NASA photos in the Los Angeles Times showing key historical moments in the space race.
Key events in the history of space exploration is a slideshow from The Telegraph
“In pictures: The early days of spaceflight” is a slideshow from the BBC.
A Traveler’s Guide To The Planets is a National Geographic Channel interactive.
A Space History Sampler is a slideshow from The Wall Street Journal.
From Gagarin to the space shuttle: A history of human spaceflight – interactive is from The Guardian.
This is a pretty impressive two minute video showing a visual history of Space Walks:
Top 10 Strange Objects Sent into Space is a slideshow from TIME.
If you found this list helpful, you might want to see the other seven hundred-plus ones, too.
You might also want to consider subscribing to this blog for free.