Lesson Objectives

  • Identify different types of storms.
  • Describe the dangers of different types of severe weather.
  • Explain how to prepare for severe weather

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Engage: Activate Prior Knowledge; Generate Interest

Bring in various items that are used for different types of weather (e.g. an umbrella, sunscreen, snow boots, a snow shovel, a sweater, sunglasses, etc.). Show each item and ask students when they would use each item. For example, hold up an umbrella and ask: What is this? When would you need to use an umbrella? Why do we use umbrellas? Use students’ responses to judge what they already know about severe weather to identify any misconceptions they may have.

Then show students items that might be found in an emergency kit, such as a flashlight, a battery-operated radio, and canned food. Ask them in what weather conditions they might need to use these items. Allow them to speculate. Explain that they will learn about how these items are related to weather over the next few days.

Tell students that they will be watching part of a Magic School Bus vide about weather. Show the clip Recipe for Weather. Note that students may need to view this segment more than one time in order to fully grasp the concept. As students watch the clip, have them look for the “ingredients” that make up different weather conditions (air, water, heat). Afterwards, debrief and ask questions about the story, such as:

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  • What kind of day is it in the story? (very hot)
  • What kind of weather do the children want to make? (rain, thunderstorm)
  • What are the “ingredients” that the children mention that make up the weather? (weatherman, water, air, heat)
  • Which three are correct? (water, air, heat)

Ask students: What questions do you have about weather and storms? What would you like to learn? Write a list of student- and teacher- generated questions on a board or chart paper for reference throughout the lesson.

Include the following Essential Questions:
  • What are different kinds of severe weather?
  • What are the dangers of severe weather?
  • How can we prepare for severe weather?
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Explore: Allowing Students to Experience Content

Students will be performing the hands on activity "Creating Storms". They do not need much background information at this point. The goal is for them to make some connections that we will build upon later.
To prepare them for the activity, tell them that they will be working with blue ice and warm water. The blue ice is meant to represent cold air and the warm water is meant to represent warm air. Explain to the students that air and water are very similar in how they behave. This activity can be done as a class demonstration, but it would be better if the students can be put into groups and allow them to explore on their own.

After the students conduct the activity ask them the following questions:
  • What did the blue water "cold air" do?
  • What did the red water "warm air" do?
  • Did one move faster than the other?

Now that students have observed that cold air sinks and warm air rises, they are ready to begin connecting that concept to weather.

4-11-2012_6-12-14_PM.jpgShow students the two clips Wind: Moving Air and What Makes Wind? back to back (total of just under 5 min). Prepare yourself by watching the clips and identifying key points to stop and ask a key question. For example, at about 30 seconds into the first clip Ms. Frizzle points out the 3 "ingredients" of weather. Pause the video right after she says that and ask the class "What are those three ingredients again?" Another example would be at about 17 second into the second clip the student is describing what makes wind. Pause the video and tie this explanation back to the hands-on activity. Ask students "Is that what we saw with the blue and red water?" Buy doing the activity first, we give the students an experience to attach this new learning to. There are several other times in the clips that would be good to pause the video and ask questions.

Show students one more segment of this Magic School Bus episode (you can plan to watch the entire episode later in the week as a review) The segment Inside a Thunderstorm will introduce students to the concept that heat, water and wind are the beginnings of every storm. Use the pause and question method to again check for understanding as you watch the clip. When the clip is over, explain to the students that different types of storms all start with wind, water and heat.

Ask students to generate a list of different types of storms. Accept all answers.

Write the following vocabulary words on the board or on chart paper: weather, severe weather, storm, thunderstorms, lightning, and thunder. Each of the blue, underlined terms links to an interactive glossary term that you can use to visually explain the concept.

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Tell students:
  • Weather is how we describe the conditions outside at a given time or place(wet, dry, hot, cold, windy, calm, etc.).
  • Severe weather is weather that could be dangerous. Many storms can be classified as severe weather.
  • A storm is a strong wind with rain, hail, sleet, or snow. Blizzards, thunderstorms, and hurricanes are types of storms.
  • Thunderstorms are a kind of storm with heavy rain, thunder, and lightning.
  • Lightning is a large release of electricity that flows through the air between two clouds or between a cloud and the ground.
  • Thunder is aloud noise that happens when lightning heats the air and causes it to expand and contract quickly.

Show the clip Storms. Have students try to identify the different types of storms mentioned in the clip as they watch. Afterwards, debrief and discuss the different types of storms mentioned in the video. (thunderstorms, hurricanes, blizzards, and tornadoes) Allow students to share any personal experiences they may have had with any of these types of storms.

Write the following vocabulary words on the board or on chart paper: precipitation, blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods.

As you discuss each storm in the clip, tell students:
  • Rain, hail, freezing rain, sleet, and snow are all different kinds of precipitation, or moisture released from clouds.
  • Blizzards are heavy snow storms with strong winds. The heavy snow can block roads, trapping people indoors. It can also cause structures and roofs to collapse.
  • Hurricanes (also known as typhoons and cyclones) are thunderstorms that form over warm ocean water. They have heavy rain and strong winds that can reach over 100 mph. Hurricanes often destroy houses and knock down trees.
  • Tornadoes (also called twisters) are funnel-shaped clouds or columns of air that rotate at high speeds and extend downward from a cloud to the ground. They can destroy anything in their paths.
  • **Floods** occur when rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water overflow or when there is too much rain or water for the land to absorb. Floods can cause a lot of damage to property.

Make sure that students understand that all of the storms begin as clouds, but change due to different conditions of air, water (moisture), and heat. Tell students that they will complete an activity in which they can observe how warm and cold water interact.


Explain: Firm Up Understanding; Allow Students to Explain What They Know


Prepare copies of a web diagram with the center bubble labeled as “severe weather” and four bubbles branching off of the center bubble (see model below). Have students complete the web diagram by filling in each of the four bubbles that branch off with the four types of storms they have learned about. (thunderstorms, blizzards, tornadoes, and hurricanes) Explain that they will complete the diagram by writing key words to describe each type of storm. Model this process by completing the first bubble together. For example, for the bubble “thunderstorm,” elicit characteristics such as “thunder,” “lightning,” and “heavy rain” from students. Draw lines or bubbles branching off from the “thunderstorm” bubble and write these words.



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Students should complete the web diagrams individually and then compare with a partner before reviewing as a class.



Then allow students to choose one of the four storms to draw and label with the characteristics written on their web diagram. Ask student volunteers to share their work and tell what they know about the storm.
Note* Younger students who are not yet prepared to write can draw pictures. Another option is to print pictures of the different characteristics and have students put them into categories on the board.

Elaborate: Allow Students to Apply What They Know

Review what the students learned about different types of storms. Tell students that today they will learn about how to prepare for severe weather. Then read the passage Severe Weather with students. Note that this passage is also available as an e-book for practicing readers. Allow students to respond to the questions in the text.

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Evaluate the dangers of each type of storm, especially for your geographical area (e.g. Is a blizzard likely? Is a hurricane likely? Does your area meet the conditions for the creation of these types of severe weather?) With the class, make a list of potential dangers for the possible types of severe weather dangers in your area. Then add to the list ways that you can stay safe if these kinds of severe weather occur.

4-11-2012_6-58-10_PM.jpgTell students they will be creating maps of safe areas in their homes. Students will complete the Hands-On Activity: Safety Zones.

After groups complete the Hands-On Activity, bring the entire class back together to confirm their understanding of the Essential Questions by having students explain their maps and why certain locations in the house are better than others for the weather condition they chose.

Explain that another part of being prepared for severe weather is making sure that people have what they need while they are waiting in safety zones. Tell students that in an emergency, there might be a loss of electricity or water.




Tell students that they will read a passage about being prepared for different types of weather. Read the passage Being Ready! with the students. Note that this passage is also available as an e-book for practicing readers.
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After reading, discuss the importance of a safety plan. Discuss the items mentioned in the passage as part of an emergency kit. Ask students why each item should be included. Ask students: What other items would you include?

Project Ideas: To help students apply their understanding of severe weather, you may wish to have them complete some or all of the following projects. The time required to complete each project will vary; some may require students to work outside the classroom.

  • Project: Create an Emergency Kit: As a class, collect items to contribute to an emergency kit. Have small groups visit other classes to explain severe weather and the importance of a safety plan. Ask them to help the other classes create their own emergency kits.
  • Project: Weather Dioramas: Have students create a shoe-box diorama modeling the effects of a thunderstorm, hurricane, tornado, or blizzard.
  • Project: Severe Weather Safety Tips Poster: Have pairs or small groups create a poster showing safety tips for severe weather conditions.
  • Project: Weather Alerts: As a class, research the ways your community makes people aware of severe weather. Invite a weather forecaster, meteorologist, firefighter, or rescue worker to class to speak with the students about severe weather.

Evaluate: Check for Understanding

Cause and Effect Chain Diagram Have students work in pairs or small groups to map out the effects of different types of severe weather. Explain that the type of weather is the cause. The effects are what can happen as a result of the storm. Model an example with the class before allowing students to work on their own. For example:
external image weather.jpg

Matching Prepare sets of cards with severe weather conditions and appropriate safety precautions (e.g., make a card that says “lightning” and another card that says “stay away from tall trees”). Give each student one card (if there are more students than cards in a set, this activity can be done in small groups, or add more cards that say “stay indoors”). Have each student find the person or people who matches their own card. For example, if a student has the “lightning” card, he or she should find the students who have the cards “stay away from tall trees,” “stay out of water,” and “stay away from phone lines.” When students have grouped themselves, have each group explain why they grouped themselves in that way. Other examples of weather/precaution matches are: “hurricane”/ “seek high ground”, “go to the highest part of a building”; “blizzard”/”keep warm”; “tornadoes”/”stay in the basement”, “stay away from windows.”

Selected Response: Students can answer the questions on the Selected Response "Extreme Weather"

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