Marcia's Science Teaching Ideas
Marcia's Science Teaching Ideas

Teaching Weather & Climate by MJ Krech

Teaching Weather by MJ Krech

 The Teaching Weather Packet is available here. Click here to see the Table of Contents. The Packet includes: Structure and composition of the atmosphere, heat transfer, atmospheric factors that influence weather and how meteorologists measure those factors, air pressure and fronts, clouds, weather observation and intrepretation, and possible effects of human activity on the atmosphere. PLUS: Each lesson will also contain alternative pages for an INTERACTIVE SCIENCE NOTEBOOK, with the left side containing input from the teacher and the right side containing review and interpretation by the student. Based on the inspiring work of Liz LaRosa of Click here to see her work! And here!   Can be purchased as a Download or a CD. Several items from this Packet are also available below at NO CHARGE!

You are welcome to use these ideas in your classroom, within your science department, within your school district, or to distribute to any teacher who may find these lessons useful. I only ask that:
1. You cannot sell these lessons or make a profit on them in any way.
2. You cite the lessons original source, and do not white-out the copyright footer on the pdf files
3. Do not copy and paste lessons onto your website. A link to the original is to be used.
4. Do not claim these lessons as your own work.
NOTE: This disclaimer is modeled after a couple of my favorite websites: The Science Spot and Middle School Science. Thanks, teachers!
Weather Objectives:
-Define weather.
-Describe the composition and temperature structure of the atmosphere.
Composition of Air Click here for a good introduction worksheet reviewing the main concepts on the composition of the air on our planet. Based on Heath Earth Science.  Could be done without my book if you put up a word bank of the answers for them to choose from!
Composition of Air Team Game Enlarge the pie chart from the above worksheet. Print out the pie chart without words, in color. Print out the words separately. Cut out. Give to teams. Say, "On your mark! Get set! Go!" Each team assembles the pie chart correctly and raises hand when finished. 
Layers of the Atmosphere Foldable
I use this right after I've taught the composition of the air objective. I have them pick up the blue paper and the cut-out page while entering the classroom and after Bellwork, we fold, cut out and paste on the front diagram, add blue and red lines to show the changes in temperature, cut the flaps, paste the descriptions inside, and then one at a time, cut out and paste the little objects on the front. See images below. Fun to watch kids realize they can do hard things! Play a White Board Game with them using their Foldable.  Click here for Foldable and Questions.
Layers of the Atmosphere Speed Game This is where I let them bring along their Atmosphere Foldables to the Team gathering place: Give each team a colorful page with all the layers and pauses listed. (From Atmosphere Foldable.) I set the timer for 5 minutes and the teams must list as many characteristics as they can for each layer right on that paper in the proper area. Have the team choose the Recorder to write it all down. The rest of the team looks up as many different things as they can from their Foldable and dictate to Recorder. The Recorder just writes. You can make it trickier by giving points for correct characteristics, but subtracting for any wrong facts. Keeps them on their toes!
Layers of the Atmosphere CrissCross Puzzle I lay puzzles like this out on the Pick-Up Table so they can be picked up as students enter the room. I write "BONUS" at the top with a marker before I run it off. They know if it says "BONUS" they can do it anytime in class when there is a lull in the action. This works great for the faster students. They have something to do and get Bonus Points for being efficient workers! Click here.

The most basic concept of all: convection currents! I've seen many ways to introduce this concept. One uses Baby Food Jars. Fill one baby food jar to the brim with very hot, red-dyed water. Fill another baby food jar with very cold, blue-dyed water. Cover the red jar with an index card, turn it over and place over the blue jar. Slowly remove the index card. The colors don't mix, because cold air (water) sinks and warm air (water) rises. Holding the two jars firmly, flip them over. The warm water will begin to rise into the blue, turning the color to purple. Very dramatic. They'll want to see it again and again. Indulge them. They learn it forever! Even better if they do this themselves. Set up blue ice water station and  hot red water station (coffee put.)
Teaching Tip for Convection Currents
Have your students draw one small, colored convection current in the Troposphere on the front of their Atmosphere Foldable. Use red for rising and blue for falling. Or have them add to bottom diagram of their Labsheet.

You want to teach a very complicated concept here: The movement of the rising hot air as it reaches the tropopause is what causes the Jet Stream, to which Lows are attached, which is why weather moves from west to east across the United States! This is also why the cumulonimbus cloud has an anvil top--it is captured and moved eastward by the jet stream, which is why we can tell where the troposphere ends and the stratosphere begins if we see an anvil top! Difficult but important concept!  
Weather Objectives:
-Discuss the ozone layer and its possible reduction by human activity.
Ozone Layer Activities Most every school district has some objective for raising awareness of the possibility of human activities having an influence on the ozone layer. Here are some activities to meet that objective. Ozone Hole PowerPoint and FollowSheet. Show this first. Then do the Ozone Hole Activity. Click here for Activity. Click here for the different years to project for students.
Click here for my related BLog entry.
Weather Objective:   
-Compare and contrast the three methods of heat transfer.
Heat Transfer Teach heat transfer as a means of introducing Breezes and Global Wind Patterns. Click here for a quick worksheet that covers radiation, conduction, and convection.
Heat Transfer Team Review Game Click here for a quick team game that gets their heads together with some peer teaching thrown in for good measure. Quick but potent learning!
Weather Objective:
-Identify the atmospheric factors that influence weather and describe how meteorologists measure and interpret each factor
Weather Instruments Worksheet I show the PowerPoint below and they fill out quickly as they watch. Most middle-school aged students know most of these and it's a review for them. You're just getting them all on the same page, as some won't know all of them. If you have time, you can do great labs for each instrument. Otherwise this can be it. Click here.
Weather Instruments PowerPoint Good review PowerPoint to show to students along with above worksheet. Email me for a FREE Dropbox download!
Weather Objectives:
-Describe how the uneven heating of earth’s surface is caused by the tilt of the earth
Angle of Sunlight Activity This is affectionately known in my building as the "Skittles Lab," although this version uses beans. This lesson is floating around the Internet in many versions. A good way to teach why right angle sunlight will heat an area more than a narrower angle. Works! Click here.
Click here for my related Blog entry.
Weather Objective:
-Describe the four fronts and explain their origin and structure.
Fronts Foldable
(See photos below)
Run the front Venn Diagram page off on colored paper, the other two pages on white. They can put them together several different ways. Have them fold hamburger bun-style. No flaps. Paste closely cropped symbols on the front. Paste all other diagrams and info squares inside, then use what's inside to fill out the front with pen or pencil. They have to come up with how they are alike by themselves! Good Thinking skills here! You can give hints or ask them what does the diagram with the cold and warm fronts attached to the Low tell them? Then they answer the questions in pairs or small groups or alone. See photos below. Click here.
Weather Objective:
Observe, record, and interpret the factors that affect weather:
Observing Weather Chart
Click here for my related Blog entry.
Begin this on the day you begin your Weather Unit. Record for at least one week, more if possible. Then have them answer analysis questions in small groups or pairs. Click here for Chart. Click here for QuestionSheet that also has them copy the national weather map each day. You could skip the Observing Weather Chart and just go with the second option if pressed for time.
Weather Objective:
-Discuss the possible effects of human activity on the atmosphere (and other spheres).
Changes in the Spheres We have a state-required objective that asks us to introduce our students to the concept that changes in the "spheres" occur both naturally and by human design. We've come up with a "Changes in the Spheres" Project that takes a total of about one 90-minute class period. We give each small group a folder with information from the Internet. They are asked to use the information to fill out a worksheet and prepare a short presentation to the class. Topics such as these can be covered: Acid Rain, Chernobyl, The Great Flood of '93, The 9/11 Contrail Discovery, The Exxon Valdez, Meteorite Collisions, Volcanic Eruptions, etc. Students take notes during the speeches using a Listening Guide.
Weather Objectives:
-Explain the difference between weather and climate.
-Show how to describe an area's climate.
-Summarize the factors that control climate and climate change.
What is Climate? A good way to introduce the concept of Climate. Small groups or pairs come up with a definition on newsprint. Post where all can see. Or have each group write on chalkboard in different colors. They arrive at a group definition by consensus. Post this for all to see. Main rule: can't use the book's definition! Then discuss the definition of climate from your book.
Factors That Influence Climate Climate controls should be covered: altitude, latitude, nearness to center of continent or large body of water, prevailing winds, ocean currents. This is a difficult for young minds to grasp, since most are not firmly in the conceptual stage. A chart form of the climate controls, with two columns, temperature and precipitation, is an organized, more concrete way for students to learn the material. I use a copyrighted handout that lists the controls for both temperature and precipitation, then asks questions that review the concept, then applies it to an imaginary continent.
Imaginary Continent A traditional and effective way to involve students with the climate controls. Usually uses the main areas of continental vs. marine, windward and leeward, top of a mountain vs. foothills, equator vs. more northern latitudes. Click here for a nice imaginary continent by Paula Messina, a geology professor at San José State University who has also taught high school Earth Science. This works well for my ninth graders!
Worldwide Climate Zones Introduce at least the three main climates: tropical, temperate, and polar. Later you can discuss other zones, such as: steppe, continental moist, continental dry, oceanic moist, highlands, etc. I use copyrighted worksheets. You could make your own using a world map, on which students color the three main zones. This makes it easier for students to identify the main temperatures on their own continents, using the climate control of latitude. I teach my students to say hot for tropical, warm or cool for temperate, and cold for polar regions. Many students are capable of moving to more sophisticated judgments, such as this is a tropical latitude but the city is atop a mountain, so maybe it's cool or warm instead of hot. Many can't make that distinction at this age.

Worldwide Climate Zones Activity

Not satisfied with the above worksheet, I decided to do something different this semester. So I made 3 different color sets of laminated cards: 1 set of cards with the 11 climate names, 1 set of cards in a different color with descriptions of the 11 climates, and a third set of cards with the parts of the North American Continent areas that match the 11 climate zones. I gave the students copies of the Koppen Climate Classification System to match Climate Names with Descriptions and, also using their World Climate Zone Map, try to match the climate types with different areas of the North American Continent. I did this activity BEFORE I taught the Factors that Influence Climate. I heard wonderful discussions between students as to what area of the country matched what climate and why!
Teaching Climographs
Click here for my related Blog entry.
Our state (Missouri) mentions climographs (or: climograms, climagraphs, climagrams) in the state frameworks. A good way to teach that temperature and precipitation are the two main elements used to describe different climate zones. Fun to relate these odd looking structures to the actual climates. Click here for a blank climagraph using inches and Fahrenheit. Click here for a blank climograph using centimeters and Celsius. Have the students graph two different climates (precip. and temp.) on separate climagraphs and write compare/contrast paragraphs about the two areas. Click here for a good on-line climogram activity which compares Moscow and Houston.
Comparing Climagraphs A good worksheet that has the student graphing on a climagraph the West Palm Beach and Kathmandu climate information. Click here.
Climate Change A climate unit isn't complete nowadays without touching on the concept of climate change, man-made or natural causes. Your textbook probably has a section on this topic. Work up a good study guide/worksheet. Discuss the concepts. Then do the aerosol science activity mentioned next. 
Weather Objectives:
-Describe the main types of clouds.
-Describe the formation of clouds.
-Explain how the amount of cloud cover is determined.

Teaching Clouds
I've added this section for those of you with extra time to teach the "fun" stuff. Please consider moving beyond how to identify clouds. Try also teaching your students to connect each cloud type with a specific type of weather. This is learning for life, which truly engages your students!
Cloud-in-a-Bottle Lab
Click here for my related Blog entry.
Do CLOUD IN A BOTTLE to teach the concept of the condensation nuclei. This lab can be done with saved-up water bottles. It's a coool lab! Very dramatic!
Identify the Clouds I have several IDENTIFY THE CLOUDS worksheets. Here's one for your use.
Cloud Cover Simulation
Click here for my related Blog entry.
This is the best lesson I know for teaching students how to judge the amount of cloud cover in the sky. Do the CLOUD COVER SIMULATION in the classroom before you go outside to observe weather and clouds. Give them a copy of the actual CLOUD COVER SYMBOLS at the end of the lab. They will understand cloud cover percents!!
Cloud Booklet Project I love to do the CLOUD BOOKLET PROJECT during "Cloud Week." If you can give them time in a computer lab one day, they can surf for cloud images, print in grayscale, and touch up with colored pencils. Many will print at night using color printers. This assignment reinforces types of clouds, the altitude they occupy, and associated weather. Nice to pass the booklets around on hand-in day to admire! Here's the Rubric.
 ©Copyright 2016. M. J. Krech. All rights reserved. 
Created by MJKrech