Should you capitalize the Earth, Sun, and Moon? NASA says yes. MLA and AP aren’t so sure. Read more to find out how one teacher handles this dilemma.
Ms. Sneed Decides to Capitalize the Earth, Sun, and Moon
Our favorite fourth grade teacher stared at her plans for teaching capitalization rules. “According to CCSS L.4.2.B, our students need to know all of the capitalization rules.” She read the Common Core standard aloud:
Use correct capitalization.
Her teaching partner, Mr. Frank, snorted. “Ha! Guess that sums it up!”
“True. But how will we handle objects in our solar system? You know, should kids capitalize the Earth, Sun, and Moon? The old-fashioned rule we’ve been teaching says no. However, I’ve been seeing them capitalized everywhere.”
As usual, Mr. Frank whipped out his laptop. “Time for a little research,” he said.
MLA Says to Capitalize the Earth, Sun, and Moon – Sometimes
“According to the MLA, you should capitalize the Earth, Sun, and Moon – unless they’re preceded by the.”
Now Ms. Sneed snorted. “That’s dumb. What if they’re preceded by a or one? In my mind, kids should consider the reference. For example, you wouldn’t capitalize earth when talking about the ground. Furthermore, you wouldn’t capitalize moon when referring to Phobos or Deimos. Instead, you would capitalize the Earth when discussing our planet, the Moon when writing about our satellite, and the Sun when referring to our star.”
Mr. Frank nodded. “Agreed. That just makes sense. Capitalize the names of celestial objects. You know, when it’s its name.” He continued clicking around on his laptop.
AP Says to Capitalize the Earth – But Not Moon or Sun
“On to AP,” said Mr. Frank. “From what I’m seeing here, they say to capitalize Earth as the name of our planet.”
“I agree with that,” Ms. Sneed responded.
“But not sun or moon.”
“What? This is crazy.”
NASA Says to Capitalize the Earth, Sun, and Moon
“Here we go,” Mr. Frank said. “In NASA’s Style Guide, they say to capitalize the Earth as the name of our planet. Additionally, Sun when referring to our star and Moon when referring to our satellite.”
“At least someone’s thinking. In my humble opinion, kids need to do it this way. If nothing else, it goes with the rule of capitalizing proper nouns – but not common nouns. Seriously, just because something is common to us doesn’t mean we shouldn’t capitalize its name. Can you imagine if my students stopped capitalizing my name because they’re familiar with me?”
“I guess that’s decided.” Mr. Frank grinned. “Now to figure out how to teach this.”
Now Ms. Sneed grabbed her laptop and started searching.
Teaching Capitalization of Celestial Objects
“How do you feel about Made-for-Easel Activity?” she asked.
“Tell me more.”
“First, kids get a tutorial. In it, they learn the rules for capitalization of celestial objects. Second, they practice with a series of phrases. Third, they do a drag and drop activity. Finally, when faced with seven sentences, they highlight to indicate which objects in space should be capitalized.”
Standalone Easel Activity Teaches Kids to Capitalize Celestial Objects
Ms. Sneed turned her computer around so Mr. Frank could see the capitalization of celestial objects product description. “Here, check out this video preview.”
“Wow. I like it. Simple. To the point. And plenty of practice!
Learning to Capitalize Celestial Objects
A few days later, Ms. Sneed stood in front of her class. “Today,” she said, “you will learn some capitalization rules. Obviously, we need to learn these for our space science activities. I’ve sent you a link. Now the learning is all up to you.”
Her students looked at her with surprise. Then they grabbed their Chromebooks and got busy.
First, they learned general rules for capitalizing celestial objects.
Next, they learned to capitalize the Earth, Sun, and Moon when calling them by name. At the same time, they learned not to capitalize the earth under their feet, another moon or star.
Soon, they practiced with a thumbs-up and thumbs-down exercise. Since the answers were included, they could see if they made any mistakes.
Next, they practiced with a drag and drop activity. Then, as a culminating activity, they highlighted words in sentences that needed capitalization.
As they worked, Ms. Sneed walked around the silent room. Then that slow teacher smile spread across her face. Hey, this was a piece of cake.