The Solar System

The Solar System provides a very natural context to practise or recycle ordinal numbers, prepositions and the superlative and the comparatives.

  • From first to eighth
  • Before, after, between, next to
  • Important adjectives are: large (big), small, hot, cold

Check my Solar System tag on the right for some fantastic on-line materials. 

Naming, pronunciation and ordering of the planets

Look at Tags 1 & 2 in The Solar System topic on the right.

Make a balloon Solar System

To look at ordinal numbers, preposition, size, comparatives & superlatives

You will need: 2 large balloons (punch balls) – Jupiter and Saturn, 4 normal size balloons – Venus, Earth, Uranus, Neptune and 2 small ones (water bomb size) Mercury and Mars. The sun is so big in proportion to the other planets that it may be easier to draw on a piece of ‘continuous’ paper for some children to colour or paint.

Talk about which is bigger, smaller, which is the biggest/smaller, closest/furthest from the sun. Look at the relative sizes table.  Talk about their order from the sun – which is the first, second, third, etc. Ask questions like: Which planet is between Earth and Jupiter?  Which planet is next to Uranus? etc.

Now give out the balloons to different children telling them which planet they are.  They need to work collaboratively, blowing up their balloons and comparing them to each others.  Once they have finished, they could stand in order and then orbit the ‘sun’.  You could show the children the short 3D animated movie of the Solar Sytem on:

You could then make a A Papier Maché Solar System using the balloons.

For papier maché instructions to make the Solar System: or

You can buy an inflatable Solar System from   It costs $17.99.

Make a Solar System bracelet

Aim: to remember the order and size of the planets

You will need:  a piece of thin elastic to go round each child’s wrist.  Then find beads in the ‘Euro shop’ in different colours and sizes:

Mercury – a tiny one

Venus – a bigger one

Earth – a bead about the same size or a little smaller than ‘Venus’.

Mars – a small red one about the size or a little larger than ‘Mercury’.

Jupiter – a large bead much bigger than the others

Saturn – a bead slightly smaller than ‘Jupiter’

Uranus – a bead similar size to Saturn

Neptune – a bead about the same size or a little smaller than ‘Uranus’.

Solar System Rhyme to go with the bracelet

Here are eight planets that we know.
Round and round the Sun they go.
Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars,
And the rest? Here they are.

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, too.
Neptune, which is blue.
These are the eight planets that we know.
Round and round the Sun they go.

adapted from one on:

Information on the cards

The children read the information cards in pairs.  First look at the superlatives and comparatives and the ordinal numbers, to help the children understand the information.

Then you could make the activity more visual and kinesthetic by asking the children to try to get in the order of the planets.

Solar System Information cards

After reading about the planets, the children could also write Planet postcards.  They choose a planet and write a postcard to tell their family or friends about what it looks like, the weather, etc. On the other side of the postcard they draw a picture of the planet. They work on the skills of letter writing and addressing letters in English. Remind the children that they are writing from space so as well as their home address + country, they must also put Earth. See the template attached for the children to fill in.   Planet postcard

I have also attached this Meaningful copying worksheet.  When learning how to write a new word we often need to see/read the word many times. Copying gets a lot of ‘bad press’ but it can be a good way of practising, however, I prefer something I call Meaningful copying which implies that the children need to think about what they are copying as they do it.  In this case they copy the planets in the order they are from the sun, how big they are and how hot they are.

Solar System Meaningful copying worksheet

The children don’t find this kind of copying tedious as they are copying for a reason.


8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Leahn said,

    Hi Vanessa,

    Thanks for the bracelet idea, I love it! and the worksheet is very useful also.


    • 2

      The rhyme goes really well with the bracelet and the children say it as they count off the beads. I had to change the rhyme as it still included Pluto as a planet. I tell them that they are the sun and the planet bracelet goes around them. It gives them a better idea of the difference in size – them to the beads is a big like the planets to the sun. You can do exactly the same idea if you are working on the water cycle in a science class and make a
      Water Cycle bracelet. The different colours of the beads are related to the stages of the water cycle like white is ‘condensation’ or clouds, run-off is brown, etc. I will try and take photos of the Solar System and the Water Cycle bracelets and post them. Off to give a talk in Madrid and then in Oviedo in about an hour so will try and do it at the weekend. You’re in Canarias aren’t you? I’m in Seville and Michelle is in Jeréz.

  2. 3

    Valerie said,

    Hello Vanessa,
    My name is Valeria Garcia and I saw you yesterday in Oviedo presenting this fantastic unit and…Thank you!!
    I just want you to say that people sometimes is afraid of new tecnologies and, as you said, its just another tool, very nice, but another one like flashcards, handouts or toys…
    I have some links that I collected while TESOL conference in Lleida last March, they can be interesing for you for using CLIC and IWB: play Physics create your own movie

    Not too many links,and probably you know them, but… 🙂 I hope they’ll be useful.

    I hope to see you again, and I’ll follow this wonderful blog full of resources and brilliant ideas.

    • 4

      Hi Valeria,
      Thanks for writing. I’m so glad the materials will be useful for you and thankyou also for the two links you have sent. I didn’t know either of them and I will add them to the blog.
      As I said in the talk, I’m not an ICT expert and I make mistakes with technology but making mistakes is all part of the learning process. IWBs are such a lovely, colourful and easy-to-use resource, I just hope every English gets to use them eventually in their classes – even if they only start by saving the board from one class so they don’t have to reproduce it in another and therefore save time for more important things in the class.
      I hope to be back in Oviedo. I promise to keep the blog up to date.
      Best wishes

  3. 5

    Leahn said,

    Hi Vanessa,

    Hope you are well. I just wanted to ask you if you knew about the shady side of sparklebox? I know you are a fan like me. I’ve just written a post about it on my blog. How do you feel about it?


  4. 6

    Hi Leahn,
    Thank you for telling me about this. I have since investigated the Sparklebox creator and was really saddened by what I read. I have removed all his materials from my blog. I have also deleted the Sparklebox toolbar from my computer.
    Can’t even bring myself to use materials I have downloaded from the website and used for years after what I have read.

  5. 7

    Learn Hebrew said,

    Amazing idea with the beads. This really helps childrem remember stuff. This is an excellent blog. Thanks for posting it and sharing the information. Even we get new ideas from here.

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