Posted 10/2/10
This creative clip comes from Madrid-based animator TOROYD (YouTube channel here).
  • Language level: Intermediate; Upper intermediate (B1; B2)
  • Learner type: Young learners; Teens; Adults; CLIL
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Activity: Reading; Speaking
  • Topic: The Solar System
  • Language: Second conditional; Hypothetical ‘would’
  • Materials: Video; Slideshow
If the Earth had rings: Lesson plan pdf [downloaded 3082 times] If the Earth had rings: Slideshow (2612)

Lesson plan summary

  1. Show students the first slide and ask them if they can identify the planet. In doing this, elicit the names of all the planets in the solar system and write them on the board (Earth; Jupiter; Mars; Mercury; Neptune; Saturn; Uranus; Venus) Note that Pluto was relegated to the status of ‘Dwarf Planet’ in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union.
  2. Read out the following information and see if students can identify the mystery planet. Ask students not to shout out their answers – you could ask them to confer in pairs/small groups and write down their answers.
    * It is named after a Roman god.
    * It is a gas giant.
    * It has 61 known moons.
    * Its biggest moon is called Titan.
    * It was visited by the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1980, and by Voyager 2 in 1981.
    * It is the 6th planet from the sun.
    * It is the second largest planet in the Solar System.

  3. Once students have identified the planet as Saturn, ask them what else they know about the planet. They will no doubt tell you that it has a ring system. Show the next slide.
  4. Show students the text on slide 3 (see below). Ask them to copy it and attempt to fill in the blanks. Tell them that for this, they will have to think! Allow students access to bilingual dictionaries if possible.
      Saturn is probably best known for its system of rings which extend from 6,630 ___________(a) to 120,700 ___________(a) above the planet’s __________(b). They average approximately ______(c) meters in thickness and consist mostly of ________(d) particles with a smaller amount of rocky debris and dust.

      There are two main theories regarding the origin of Saturn’s rings: One theory is that the rings are the
      remains of a destroyed _________(e). The second
      theory is that the rings are left over from the original nebular material from which Saturn formed.

  5. Let students share and compare ideas before showing them the answers on the next slide.
    • (a) Kilometers
    • (b) Equator
    • (c) 20
    • (d) ice
    • (e) moon
  6. Show students slide 5 (see below) and write the following question on the board:
  7. If we could see our own planet beside Saturn on this photograph, how big would it be?”

    Invite students to cut out circles from pieces of paper, initial them and stick them on the wall beside the image of saturn (if you are using a projector and screen).

  8. Show slide 6. The Earth will now pop into view and you can find out who came closest in guessing the relative size of the Earth.
  9. Dictate the following questions:
    * How would the Earth look if it had a ring system like Saturn?
    * What would the rings look like to us?
    * Would they appear across the sky from East to West or from North to South?
    * How would they appear near the equator?
    * How would they appear far from the equator?
    * How would they appear at night?
  10. Let students compare what they have written before showing them the questions on slide 7.
  11. Ask students to work in pairs or small groups to consider and write answers to these questions. Tell them that for some questions, they may want to make quick sketches and for others, they may want to make use of the following items of vocabulary: Aligned with; Perpendicular to; The horizon.
  12. While students answer the questions, circulate and make sure they understand and use the target language (would).
  13. Let groups or pairs compare their answers.
  14. Show the video clip,


Make use of the cities and places in the clip. For example, give out a list of the locations, ask students to find out where they are and mark them on a blank map before watching the video.

Posted 10/2/10

8 Responses to If the Earth had rings …

  1. Stefan Riccio says:

    Good evening!! Sorry I haven’t written sooner just wanted to wait for more feedback.

    This lesson is an absolute gem/belta/joy and … out of things to say, and there aren’t enough superlatives to say!!! clap clap clap cap clap clap clap clap but anyway brilliant!!

    Did it with a few one on ones to get my head round it and they all went brilliantly!! So the other day I used it after an exam for a bit of fun in a class enviroment and it went bloody swimmingly!!!

    I got em all to stand up and next to the TV there was the white board and they all drew there version of ‘How Big Earth Would Be’ next to the screen. BRILLIANT they loved it!!!

    Deffo if I were to do it again I would and I will get some blank maps of the world and have a little competition to see where the cities were before I show the clip! Also ti would be brilliant if someone could find the pictures of the views portrayed from earth/the video (without the rings) and make them draw what they think (even gamble somewhat) as to how they think the rings would look from earth.

    Anyway rant over but brilliant really brilliant!! ( If the founder/editor or inventor of this site wishes to get in contact I would love to ad, share or get some ideas because I do not have the know how to even attempt something like this on the internet!!! Anyway all mean is Well done, keep up the good work and BRILLIANT!!


  2. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Stefan
    What can I say? It’s not every day that you wake up to find that your website has been bombarded with compliments! All very humbling :)
    I’m very glad you are making good use of the material. I only hope I can keep it up.
    Thanks very much for your great comments and feedback

  3. Roy Prol says:

    I’m the creator of this video, and it makes me very happy to see the video converted in a lesson :) haha!
    Thank you very much!!!

  4. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Roy
    It’s a great pleasure to see you here!
    I tried to contact you a while back on YouTube but without success. I am a really big fan of your work. Thank you for creating one of my favourite clips for the classroom :)
    PS Check out Roy’s channel everyone:

  5. Jean-Noël Pédeutour says:

    Hello Jamie,

    I teach astronomy in a school in France and I find this lesson excellent ! The double sunrise on Mercury made by Roy is also very interesting. That gives other ideas : Earth with two Suns, Earth with many Moons. Did Roy work on it ? ;)

    Thanks !

  6. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Jean-Noël
    I really like to hear from teachers of subjects other than English who are making use of the site. Thank you for your comment. Glad you like the activity which comes down to Roy’s inspirational clip. By the way, here is Roy’s double sunrises clip:

    Also, here is another clip from the BBC on Saturn’s rings:

    By the way, I’d be interested to hear about any variations you make to the activity.
    Jamie :-)

  7. Jean-Noël Pédeutour says:


    I haven’t tested the lesson yet. But I would – of course ;) – make some little changes…
    I would replace the first slide showing hexagon on Saturn by this video :
    But I know my pupils, they will be very curious about this and since I don’t know how to explain this phenomenon… So maybe I would show a part of Saturn that is in rings shadow like this one :
    They already made some planets models so I am not sure I would ask question 6 nor show slide 6. I would add another question in number 8 for them to imagine the regions being in rings shadow (like in first picture shown)
    To locate the cities I would use an Earth globe, so that they directly see positions towards equator. I would let them free to build rings if they wish to, and I’m sure they would !
    At the end, I would tell again that Saturn has at least 34 satellites, just to see whether they could be interested in imaginating Earth with many moons…

    Thanks again for giving us new ideas !


  8. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello again Jean-Noël
    Thank you very much for sharing your variations. I love that clip of the hexagonal patterns on Saturn’s north pole. And a nice idea to use a globe. You could bring a lamp into the equation as well. That way students could see the shadows for themselves.
    All the best