Multiple Intelligences: Spatial, naturalistic, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal

Core Concept:

Students will study the phases of the moon to help them understand how the Jewish calendar is set; they will use observations of the moon and/or a lunar phase calendar to create a Jewish calendar for an upcoming month.


Understanding the phases of the moon is fundamental to understanding the Jewish calendar. This lesson introduces students to the science behind the calendar. It provides an opportunity for students to practice their learning by creating a Jewish calendar that connects the phases of the moon and the Jewish holidays.


  • Scissors
  • Index cards
  • Images of the moon (see “Prepare in Advance” for more description of the images that you'll need)
  • Transparency film: one per student, plus two for teacher--for photocopying JC 2.1 and 2.2 (see "Prepare in Advance" for further directions)
  • One permanent marker per student
  • Projector, computer, or SMARTBoard (optional; alternatively, print out the picture of the moon cycle from Jewish Calendar Lesson 2 PowerPoint: Moon Phase Cycle)
  • Two copies of Jewish calendar for creating class calendar pages (see "Prepare in Advance" for further directions; save class calendar pages for Lesson 3)
  • 12 sheets of construction paper (to be used as backing for the calendar pages; can be all one color or many colors)
  • Glue

Instructional Materials
Instructional Material JC 2.1: Race to the Moon Cycle
Instructional Material JC 2.2: Names of Jewish Months

Visual JC 2.1a - JC 2.1c Calendars (PowerPoint, if using SMARTBoard)
Note: You will be using these visuals to demonstrate that the Jewish calendar and the lunar calendar align almost exactly. This can be done on the SMARTBoard using PowerPoint or on an overhead projector using transparencies. If you have access to PowerPoint, you will use the Powerpoint slides as described in Option 1 of "Prepare in Advance." If you have access to an overhead transparency, you will use the PDF versions as described in Option 2 of "Prepare in Advance."

Worksheet JC 2.1: Exploring Moon Phase Calendars
Worksheet JC 2.2: Creating a Jewish Calendar
Worksheet JC 2.3a - JC 2.3b: All Around the Jewish Year
Worksheet JC 2.4: Your Jewish Birthday Calculator (optional)

Activity A: Race to the Moon Cycle

Activity B: Up and Close with the Moon

  • Light-colored sphere for the moon, such as a Styrofoam ball, two inches or longer (one per demonstration)
  • Larger light-colored Styrofoam ball
  • Pencils: one per demonstration
  • Light source
  • Darkened room

Activity C: Moon Cycle Tutorial

  • Projector, computer, or SMARTBoard
  • Post-Its: one per student


Prepare in Advance:

  • On index cards, write the days of the week that have passed since the last class. Hang them in the classroom with enough room for students to display their moon images (see step 4).
  • Be prepared with images of your own in case the students did not bring images of their moon observations. Print or draw images of what the moon looked like throughout the week on 81/2 x 11 sheets of paper.
  • Prepare Visual JC 2.1a - JC 2.1c
    • For the students:
    • For the teacher:
      • Option 1: In PowerPoint, practice overlaying Visual JC 2.1b on top of Visual JC 2.1a. To do so, you will:
        • Open Visual JC 2.1a - JC 2.1c in POWERPOINT. Please note: The PDFs will not work for this activity.
        • Click directly on the grid of the Jewish calendar (Visual JC 2.1b), and copy it using the "Copy" function under your "Edit" tab.
        • Click on the grid of the moon calendar (Visual JC 2.1a).
        • Paste the Jewish calendar directly on top of the moon calendar by using the "Paste" function under your "Edit" tab.
        • We suggest demonstrating the overlay for students and talking through what you are doing in order to show what students will do with their calendars and concretize the notion that the Jewish and lunar calendars line up with each other. If you are not able to copy and paste as described, prepare Visual JC2.1c to show to students. Visual JC2.1c shows the completed overlay of JC2.1b over JC2.1a.
      • Option 2: If you will have access to an overhead projector:
  • Using, create a Jewish calendar for the entire year. The students will use this calendar to make a class calendar that highlights the correlation between phases of the moon and the Jewish calendar. Here is how to create the calendar pages for the students:
    • On the Hebcal homepage, click on "custom Jewish calendar" to access a webpage where you will set parameters for your calendar.
    • In the box marked “Jewish Holidays for,” set the year to the current year, set the month for the entire year, and set the calendar to include the civil (Gregorian) year.
    • In the box marked “Include events,” ensure that everything is unchecked.
    • In the box marked “Other options,” check "Display visual calendar grid" and “Show Hebrew date for entire date range.”
    • Print two copies of the calendar: one for the teacher and one for the class.
  • Preview activities from Step 5 and select those that will meet the interests of your students. Within the 4MAT curricular model, the practice step is intended to add depth to students’ knowledge of content through engaging, interactive activities. The activities suggested in Step 5 vary as to the length of time they require and the level of hands-on activity involved.
  • Print out signs with the names of the Jewish months from Instructional Material JC 2.2. Hang signs around the room. Students will hang their calendar pages under the appropriate signs as part of Step 7.
  • OPTIONAL: For Step 8, IF STENCILS ARE NOT AVAILABLE TO YOU: Print out each Jewish month in font size 72 pt (or larger) bold (one for each child's birthday). Cut out each individual black letter; what is left is the "negative space" that makes the template for a stencil. Place cardstock underneath this paper, and outline each letter of the name of the month. Use an Exacto knife to cut out each letter. The cardboard becomes the stencil for each month. (See Instructional Material JC 2.2 for month signs.)

Use of Technology:

  • Internet resources for class preparation
  • Videos

Quad 2 Left Inform.jpgStep 4: Quad 2, Left (Inform)

Objective: Students will understand that the Jewish calendar keeps track of time (in part) by monitoring the phases of the moon.

Activity: Students will observe the changes of the moon over time through live observations and a video.

Time: 10 minutes

  • Worksheet JC 1.3a - 1.3b_Page_2.jpgStudents will cut Worksheet JC 1.3b (which they completed for homework) at the bottom of each box so that their moon observations are separated from one another. They will display the pictures or drawings of the moon by day under the prepared signs (see "Prepare in Advance"). Allow students to peruse one another’s work. Note: Be prepared with images of your own in case students were not able to complete the homework assignment. (Please see “Prepare in Advance” for more details on how to access these images.)
  • Ask students to describe what they saw when they observed the moon. What did they see happening to the moon over time?
  • Tell students the astronomical explanation: We only see a part of the moon each night because of the way it moves around the earth. Depending on where the moon is each night, different parts of it will be in the light of the sun and will be seen by us on Earth. The parts we see are called "phases of the moon.”
  • Show the following video, which slowly and silently displays the phases of the moon: Highlight the fact that the phases of the moon form a cycle that starts again immediately after the last phase passes. Each cycle is one month in the Jewish calendar.
  • Ask students if the video helps them understand how the moon aided the Israelites in the wilderness in keeping track of the passing of the months. Explain that in the wilderness, Moshe was able to use the moon to keep track of when each month started and ended. He counted the months and knew when to celebrate the holidays based on his counting, since the dates of the holidays are listed in the Torah by the number of the month (such as “first month” or “seventh month”) rather than by the name of the month.
  • Ask: In which phase does the moon appear to be new? Replay the video and highlight the fact that at one point in the moon’s cycle, the moon seems to disappear. It seems to reappear a few days later. This is the “new moon.” The “moonth” begins at one new moon and ends when the moon disappears for the next new moon. It is “renewed,” or mehudash, every month, every hodesh. We call the beginning of the month “Rosh Hodesh,” and we celebrate 12 months every Jewish year.

Quad 3 Left Practice.pngStep 5: Quad 3, Left (Practice)

Note: This step provides the scientific explanation for the phases of the moon. Each of these activities will enhance the level of understanding of your students; you may select as many or as few activities as needed to meet the interest level of your class. To save time, this step can be assigned as homework for students to do with their parents’ help.

Objective: Students will familiarize themselves with the order of the phases of the moon and the reasons that we see different phases on different nights.

Activity: Students will view resources about the moon and will put the phases of the moon in the correct order.

Time: 10–15 minutes EACH


Activity A: Race to the Moon Cycle (teaches the order of the moon phases; most interactive)

  • Instructional Material JC 2.1.jpgDivide students into groups of as close to eight students as possible. (Having slightly more than eight will probably work better than slightly fewer than eight.)
  • Distribute one set of cards from Instructional Material JC 2.1 to each group. Each set consists of eight cards, each with a picture of a different phase of the moon and its name: new, waxing crescent, quarter, gibbous, full, gibbous, quarter, waning crescent.
  • Within each group, each student will receive one card from their set. If there are more than eight students in a group, divide students into pairs, as needed. If there are fewer than eight students in a group, assign two cards to some individuals.
  • Students arrange themselves in a line based on the order of the phases of the moon pictured on the card they are holding. After the groups have done this successfully, you may choose to have them shuffle the cards, and do it again as a race among the groups.

Activity B: Up and Close with the Moon (to Learn Why We See a Different Phase Each Day)

Activity C: Moon Cycle Tutorial (least interactive)

Quad 2 Left Inform.jpgStep 6, Quad 2, Left (Inform)

Objective: Students will understand how the phases of the moon relate to dates on the Jewish calendar.

Activity: Students will create a two-month calendar that incorporates the phases of the moon and Jewish dates.

Time: 15 minutes


Visual JC 2.1a - JC 2.1c_Page_1.jpg
  • Distribute (and project) Visual JC 2.1a moon phase calendar for September and October. Explain that this calendar shows the phase of the moon each night during October and November of 2100.

  • Worksheet JC 2.1.jpgStudents examine the moon phase calendar with a partner and complete Worksheet JC 2.1.
  • Review the shape of the moon's appearance: new moon -> waxing crescent -> quarter -> gibbous -> full moon -> gibbous -> quarter -> waning crescent -> new moon. Point out that the moon waxes and wanes from right to left. (If helpful, compare this to Hebrew reading, which also goes from right to left.)

  • Distribute transparencies of Visual JC 2.1b, which shows the Jewish calendar that coincides with October and November in 2100. Students place the Jewish calendars directly over the moon phase calendars. Demonstrate this for them in PowerPoint or on the projector, as described in "Prepare in Advance."

Visual JC 2.1a - JC 2.1c_Page_2.jpgVisual JC 2.1a - JC 2.1c_Page_3.jpg

    • What similarities do they see between them?
    • On what day of the week does the first day of the Jewish month of __ (first month) start?
    • On what day of the week is the first crescent?
    • If they do not notice, point out that it’s on the same day or very close to the same day.
    • How about the second Jewish month that you have--do the Jewish month and the new moon begin on the same day (or almost on the same day)?
  • Students should realize that the calendars align almost exactly, so that the first day of a Jewish month is the first day of the first crescent, the beginning of the moon phase cycle.
  • Ask students:
    • What does the moon look like on the first day of the Jewish month of Elul/Tishrei (first month)?
    • What does the moon look like on the first day of the Jewish month of Elul/Tishrei (second month)?
  • If they do not notice, point out the fact that the moon looks just about the same on the first day of every month. In fact, each date has just about the same moon phase during every month. Allow students to check this point by looking at the moon phases on the 15th day of both months and the 29th day of both months.
  • Explain: The Jewish calendar is based mostly on the moon. We use the cycles of the moon to tell us when the months of the Jewish calendar start and end, and the dates of each month follow the cycle of the moon. (Note: If the calendars are a day off for one of the months, explain that the Jewish calendar is also related to the seasons of the year and the solar cycle. If we used ONLY the moon to know when the months start, the holidays would not occur at the right time of year. (The moon cycle is 29.5 days long, and a lunar year is 354 days long. To make up the missing days, some months have 29 days and some months have 30. When they set the Jewish calendar, the Sanhedrin added an extra month that occurs seven times in every 19-year cycle. Because of all these adjustments, the new moon and Rosh Hodesh don't always completely coincide.)
  • Students use permanent markers to add the moon phases onto the Jewish calendars on the transparencies so that they will have a calendar page emphasizing the connection between the Jewish calendar and the lunar calendar.
  • Collect the original lunar calendars, as they are no longer necessary and will clutter students’ desks.

Quad 3 Left Practice.pngStep 7, Quad 3, Left (Practice)

Objective: Students will work in small groups to apply their understanding of the phases of the moon.

Activity: Students will create calendar pages for the upcoming Jewish months.

Time: 15–20 minutes


  • Divide students into groups of two or three. Explain that the class is going to add moon phases to the current Jewish calendar to create a class calendar that shows the connection between the Jewish calendar and the lunar calendar.
  • Distribute one or two pages from a Jewish calendar to each group, depending on how many groups are in the class. Make sure that all pages are assigned to someone. See “Prepare in Advance” for directions on how to prepare this Jewish calendar.
Worksheet JC 2.2.jpg
  • Remind students that the moon phases for all months follow the same cycle. For example, every Jewish month begins with the first crescent. Instruct students to use their transparencies to help them transfer the moon phases to the calendar pages that they have been given. To simplify the process, ask that they only add in:
    • The first crescent on Rosh Hodesh (the first day of the Jewish month)
    • The full moon on the 15th day of every month
    • The new moon on the last day of each month.
  • Ask that they use pencils and that they check their work with you before using markers to color in their moon phases. Distribute Worksheet JC 2.2 to guide students through the process of adding these three moon phases to the calendar pages that they have been given. Alternatively, post one calendar page on the SMARTBoard, and model the process as they work within their small groups.
  • Worksheet JC 2.3a - 2.3b_Page_1.jpgAsk them what else might go on their pages of the Jewish calendar, and add any items that the class decides are appropriate. If they do not do so on their own, encourage them to add the following:
    • Shabbat.
    • Jewish holidays. Ask students if they know of any holidays coming up. Give students Worksheet JC 2.3a - JC 2.3b to help them determine the dates of major Jewish holidays. Place names of the holidays on the calendar, with a symbol of the holiday. Ask students what the phase of the moon will be on the upcoming holidays. Point out Purim, Pesah, and Sukkot, and ask what they have in common. (They begin around the full moon.) Ask students why this might be the case, and point out that setting the holidays when the large, full moon is in the sky makes it easier for individuals to use the moon to help them remember when to celebrate them.
    • Worksheet JC 2.3a - 2.3b_Page_2.jpgAdd class Jewish birthdays to the calendar. Ask students which phase of the moon it will be on their Jewish birthdays. Guide students to realize that this will always be the phase of the moon on their birthdays.

  • As students finish, give each group one sheet of construction paper for every calendar page that they created. Students will glue each completed calendar page to a sheet of construction paper. (Note: this can be done after class by the teacher, if preferred.) If you have a variety of colors, you may want to distribute the paper to form a pattern that correlates to the order of the months.
  • As students finish their calendar pages, ask them to hang them under the sign that says the name of the month that they worked on. (Keep these up through Lesson 3.)

Worksheet JC 2.4.jpgOptional: Send home Worksheet JC 2.4, which will help students calculate the Hebrew birthdays of their family members.

Quad 3 Left Practice.pngOPTIONAL Step 8, Quad 3, Left (Practice)

Objective: Students will associate their Hebrew birthdays with the phase of the moon that corresponds to them.

Activity: Each student will create a T-shirt that displays the date of his/her Hebrew birthday and the phase of the moon that corresponds to it.

Time: 30 minutes


  • Students will place cardboard inside the shirt so that markers or paint won’t bleed through to the back of the shirt.
  • Students will place the stencil on the back or front of the T-shirt to paint their Hebrew birthday and decorate the shirt with the moon phase associated with their Hebrew birthday.
  • Students will use permanent markers or fabric markers to outline the name of the Hebrew month, day, and year anywhere they choose on the T-shirt.
  • After the outlines of the words have been stenciled onto the shirt, the students will paint the inside of the block letters using glow-in-the dark paint or other fabric paint.
  • In addition, students will paint the phase of the moon birthday associated with their Hebrew birthday:
    • Students will sketch the moon phase in pencil on poster board, cardstock, or construction paper in the actual size that they want this image to appear on their T-shirt.
    • Students will then cut out this moon, which will become the stencil for their T-shirt.
    • Students will trace this moon using a permanent marker and then paint inside the moon.