Every year I teach my eighth grade class about the moon phases. It’s slightly confusing, I suppose, because of the nomenclature.
I mean, TO BE ENTIRELY REDUCTIONIST, the actual process is pretty easy: the moon appears to change shape in the sky over the course of a lunar cycle because it is revolving around the Earth. That’s it. That’s all it is. Even the most listless kids seem to process that fact fairly easily.
But when you introduce the names of the phases (New Moon, Waxing Crescent, First Quarter, Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon, Waning Gibbous, Third Quarter, Waning Crescent), that’s when they’re brains go wongo. Which is why I was so pleased when one of my students (K.), an eager, excitable girl with a laugh that, at full volume, rattles Venus, told me she’d come up with a fail-proof way to help her remember how to differentiate the phases.
More often than not, the kids get spun around between moons that are waxing (gaining light) and waning (losing light) because (1) the words alike and (2) the images of each are mirror opposites of each other.
My initial tactic several years ago was to…
This was excerpted from an essay about teaching and music intersecting that I wrote for LA Weekly. Read the rest here.