This lesson introduces children to the reasons for the December solstice.

Karen Elliot

In this lesson students learn about an important event on our planet – the December solstice, which occurs on 21 December. It is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and the longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere. The solstice occurs because the Earth is always tilted in the same direction, affecting the amount of sunlight that hits different parts of the planet, giving us the seasons.

Teachers explain the phenomenon using a ball and light source before discussing the diagram on the worksheet with students, who complete a gapped text. Students consolidate and extend their understanding with a reading and further activities about the seasons.

Learning outcomes

  • Toidentify the winter and summer solstice
  • Show how the tilt of the Earth gives us the seasons
  • Practise using vocabulary rewlated to seasons, such as solstice, summer, winter, etc

Age/ Level

Aged 9–12 (CEFR A2+)


65-75 minutes


  • Lesson plan
  • Worksheet
  • A basketball (or other large ball) and a lamp or light source to show the tilt of the Earth 
  • Two circular stickers to indicate the North and South Poles on the ball.
Before the lesson
  • If you can, find out what time the sun rises and sets in your part of the world on the day of the lesson.
  • Practise using the basketball to demonstrate the Solstice. Hold it at a tilt to your lamp or light source. Turn it on the tilted axis so that the top of the ball is always in shadow, and the bottom of the ball is always hit by the light. See the photos in Appendix 1 to help you.
  • If you are going to do the Learn English Kids activities online, download the fact-file reading about the seasons, with pre-reading vocabulary activity and follow up quiz (you can print out the reading and activities if you wish).
Warmer (5-10 mins)
  • Ask the students to tell you the date a write it on the board. Ask what season it is, and what they know about it. 
  • Answers could include: It’s winter and it’s cold; It’s summer and we’ve got holidays soon, etc. 
  • Go through the seasons, asking students to tell you what they know about each one. Ask What makes the seasons? 
  • If pupils know that they’re caused by the tilt of the Earth in relation to the sun, ask for volunteers to explain it to the others using the basketball and the lamp. You will probably still need to help them to do this in English.
Demonstration (15 minutes)
  • Hold up the ball to show students the line which represents the Equator and the line which represents the Earth’s axis (they are the lines that intersect each other at a 90-degree angle on the ball). 
  • Tilt the basketball so that the top half is facing away from the lamp. Elicit that the top of the ball is the North Pole. As you rotate the ball, keep the North Pole in the shadow.

Note: You may need a learner to help you by holding the ball as you adjust the light and tilt the ball

  • As you (or your volunteers) rotate the ball, elicit that the area of the ball in the shadow shows night and the part in the light shows day. 
  • Students will be able to see clearly that the Southern Hemisphere is getting a lot more light, and that the days are longer as well, while there is less light hitting the top of the ball and the nights are longer. 
  • Point out that it is the strength of light and the length of the days which make summer and winter.
  • It’s important that pupils understand that the Earth is always tilted in the same direction as it goes around the sun, which is why we have seasons. See the photos below to help you to position the ball properly. 
  • If you know them, write the times of sunrise and sunset on the board for the day of your lesson and ask pupils to guess what the times mean.
Vocabulary (10-15 minutes)
  • Give each learner the What is the Solstice? worksheet. If your lesson falls before the solstice, you can explain that this solar event happens on the 21st of December. 
  • Using the basketball, if necessary, elicit an explanation of the diagram from the students. 
  • Ask students to find the arrows which show day and night in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. 
  • They will be able to see that the day is very short in the Northern Hemisphere and that it’s very long in the Southern Hemisphere. Students circle the arrows showing the phenomenon of the Solstice. 
  • Go through the words in the vocabulary box, checking pronunciation. In pairs, students complete the sentences. Check their answers as a class.
The seasons reading (25 minutes)
  • Check understanding and extend students’ knowledge and vocabulary using A fact-file reading about the seasons:
  • Start with the pre-reading exercise, where pupils match the vocabulary to the pictures. 
  • Learners read the fact file
  • Put students into two teams to do the follow-up quiz. Teams take turns to answer the questions, with you keeping a record of their answers. Each team gets a score out of four. 

Note:  you can do all the exercises online, asking volunteers to read the sections of the fact file to the class, or you can print out all or some of the activities for pupils to work on individually or in pairs.

Consolidation (10 minutes)
  • Put learners into pairs
  • Using the diagram, children take turns to recreate the information about the solstice and the seasons using the basketball and lamp.
  • Prompt them to use the target language to describe the seasonal changes.
Optional extra activities
Lesson plan196.73 KB
Worksheet273.95 KB
Language Level

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