ALEX Lesson Plan

Rain Drops

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Joanne Wells
System: Elmore County
School: Elmore County Board Of Education
Author:Rhonda (Gaye) Knight
System: Elmore County
School: Elmore County Board Of Education
Author:Lori Keel
System: Elmore County
School: Elmore County Board Of Education
Author:Erika Shockley
System: Elmore County
School: Eclectic Middle School
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35352


Rain Drops


In this lesson, students will examine the amount of annual and seasonal rainfall in four cities to compare decimals to the hundredths place. Students will add and round digits to the thousandths place. Students will utilize technology by navigating to a specific United States climate website to get relatively current and accurate data.

This unit was created as part of the ALEX Interdisciplinary Resource Development Summit.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 5
14 ) Use a model to represent how any two systems, specifically the atmosphere, biosphere, geosphere, and/or hydrosphere, interact and support life (e.g., influence of the ocean on ecosystems, landform shape, and climate; influence of the atmosphere on landforms and ecosystems through weather and climate; influence of mountain ranges on winds and clouds in the atmosphere).

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.5.14- Identify how the atmosphere and hydrosphere interact to support life (e.g. air, water).

Digital Literacy and Computer Science
DLIT (2018)
Grade: 5
R5) Locate and curate information from digital sources to answer research questions.

MA2019 (2019)
Grade: 5
4. Read, write, and compare decimals to thousandths.

a. Read and write decimals to thousandths using base-ten numerals, number names, and expanded form.

Example: 347.392 = 3 × 100 + 4 × 10 + 7 × 1 + 3 × (1/10) + 9 × (1/100) + 2 × (1/1000).

b. Compare two decimals to thousandths based on the meaning of the digits in each place, using >, =, and < to record the results of comparisons.

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
M.AAS.5.3 Compare base-10 models up to 99 and whole numbers up to 100 to determine symbols (<, >, =).

MA2019 (2019)
Grade: 5
5. Use place value understanding to round decimals to thousandths.

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
M.AAS.5.3 Compare base-10 models up to 99 and whole numbers up to 100 to determine symbols (<, >, =).

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

Math Primary Learning Objective: Students will be able to compare decimals and order them from least to greatest value. Students will round decimals to any place.

Science Primary Learning Objective: Students will be able to predict areas of higher rainfall based on location on the continent.

Technology Primary Learning Objective: Students will be able to use accurate precipitation data to compare global precipitation averages.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

Students will recognize that areas in certain parts of the country are more likely to receive rain than other areas. They will use this understanding of the ocean's influence on rainfall to predict areas of higher or lower rainfall and use the precipitation website to check their predictions.

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

61 to 90 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

US Climate Data website: The lesson will utilize this website throughout the lesson's activities. This website would work in a computer lab, with personal devices, or on the projector.

Paper, pencil

1 notecard per student (exit card)

Individual copies of worksheets per student:

Comparing Decimals worksheet (attached)

Rounding Decimals worksheet (attached)

Exit cards (see attached document)

Link to more biome information: 

Link for the image of US and impact of oceans, land, and distance from equator:

Link to map of the United States, states are labeled:

Link to climate website:

Click on Alabama - average annual rainfall is listed at the bottom/left of the page

Click on any city - the average annual rainfall is the fourth measurement on the right/top of the page

Click on Montgomery- rainfall data is the third measurement and is listed by month at the top left

Technology Resources Needed:

Computers, iPads, personal smart devices, or teacher computer and projector



Students need to be able to log in to the website. Once on the site, they will be required to find data from different towns and states, then navigate back to the original site. If they cannot do this, they can partner up or the teacher can lead the entire activity with a projector.

Scientific Background

Students learned about climates and regions of the Earth in second grade. Fifth grade has a large focus on biomes and ecosystems, especially how two systems interact to support life and influence climate. This would fit perfectly toward the end of that unit. If not, a mini-lesson looking at the map provided demonstrates clearly that land masses close to water will tend to be wet. Masses closer to the equator tend to be warmer. This is simply giving a real world application to the comparing of decimals. An understanding of biomes and rainfall is not necessary to successfully doing this activity.

Background Information on Biomes:

Comparing Decimals

Students should understand that when working with decimals, they line up the decimals. Working from left to right, compare the tens' place, ones' place, tenths' place, etc. When you find two digits that are different, the number with the largest digit is the largest number. This activity is for practice on a new skill.

For example:

12.34 _______ 12.43  Both have 12 as a whole number, so move to the tenths' place. The first number has 3 tenths and the second number has 4 tenths. Because 4 tenths is larger, 12.43 is larger.

Clarify that because we read from left to right, you always say the first number first. If it is the larger of the two, > means ‘greater than.’ If the first number is the smallest, use < to mean the first number is ‘less than’ the second number.

Students need to read their answers aloud as much as possible, to ensure they are reading the numbers correctly. If students are struggling reading the answer aloud, write the number sentence out in word form.

Rounding Decimals

Students should understand how to round numbers. At this point, they should be comfortable rounding to the nearest whole number and hopefully the tenths/hundredths place. It is for practice and/or moving an old skill into a new place by adding thousandths. The lowest fifth graders go is thousandths, and they would round to hundredths place. Once students understand the rule, they could challenge each other to go very low. The goal is for them to realize that at that point they are talking about water vapor and it is insignificant.

If students have not rounded decimals yet, they need to review that the rule (five and higher rounds up) still applies when rounding parts of a whole number. Underline the place requested, then look at the digit to the right. If it's a 5 or higher, up it goes and everything behind it becomes a 0. If it's a 0-4, it stays the same and all following digits become a 0.

For example:

Round to the nearest hundredth place.   12.166  becomes 12.170

                                           whereas    12.163  becomes 12.160

If students are not comfortable rounding, this could be done an additional day, then revisit the website for more practice.



Review biomes as a whole class discussion.

  • Ask: What determines the type of biome?
    • A biome is an area of the planet that can be classified according to the plants and animals that live in it. Temperature, soil, and the amount of light and water help determine what life exists in a biome.
    • Alabama is a Temperate Forest. Temperate forests are areas with high levels of precipitation, humidity, and contain a variety of deciduous trees.


  • Ask: What causes some areas to be wetter than others? 
    • Alabama receives lots of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and is closer to the equator, so it is warmer than other states.
    • North Dakota is further north and is influenced by the Canadian air mass above it, so it would be predictably dryer and colder.
    • Maritime means air comes over water, so will be wet.
    • Continental means air comes over land, so will be dry.
    • Polar means air is coming from the North, so will be cold.
    • Tropical means air is coming from the South, so will be warm.



  • Give each child a notecard.
    • At the top left, write "Massachusetts." At the top right, write their own name.
    • Have each child predict if Massachusetts has High/Low average rainfall and has High/Low average temperature, based on its location.
    • Have them predict the amount of precipitation (including snow), on average compared to Alabama's 53" annual rainfall. Ala> Mass or Ala < Mass. They could predict they are similar.
    • Remind students to consider the location and the source of the air masses that influence weather in Massachusetts. 
  • Note: Any state can be used. Assigning all students the same state for a prediction makes it easier to check for understanding. My son lives in Massachusetts, so I used that one. It is near the ocean, but further from the equator than Alabama.



Step 1 - Compare - Use Comparing Decimals worksheet (see attachments)


Whole group:

  • Type in "Alabama" to show on the overhead projector.
  • Show the class the average precipitation (bottom left).
  • Let the children call out different states. (Any state is good to understand how the site works and review that bigger numbers mean more rainfall.)
  • Everyone should write in the state, then as a whole class, look up the annual rainfall.
  • Compare the five states you looked up.
    • Which state receives the most rainfall?
    • Which state receives the least rainfall?
    • Does that make sense, looking at where each is located on the continent?
  • Model how to line all five rainfall totals up by the decimal point, the compare from left to right. 

Small group (Mine are always seated with a variety of high/medium/low learners in groups of 4. This is probably a better activity for pairs or groups of three if the technology is available. If only the teacher computer/projector is available, a student can select the town and then turn and talk with those in their group.) Since this is not for a grade, the teacher may assign towns, to make it easier to check, or groups may pick their own towns, then pull it up on the teacher computer for all to see.

  • Next, have students use different towns in Alabama. They should write the name of the town, and the amount of rainfall.
  • Students may Turn and Talk to the children in their group or seated nearby to compare results.
  • You can assign towns for ease in checking, or differentiate and let them pick a town that is special to them.
  • Make sure you note that these totals are ordered from GREATEST to LEAST.
  • You can check them as a group (if they are the same), or let children bring theirs to the overhead to share.

Independent work:

  • Students should look up the rainfall in Montgomery each month.
  • They will write the average monthly rainfall in the chart.
  • Then compare the decimals and write this from LEAST to GREATEST.
  • This is independent work to be graded.

Step 2 - Round - use Rounding Decimals worksheet (see attachments)

  • Write the name of 10 other Alabama (either random or teacher selected for ease in checking) cities with their annual precipitation.
  • Ask: In general, when you add a digit to the third place to the right of the decimal, what place is that? Does it make a big difference to the total? Why do you think this?
  • Add .001 to each decimal, then round to the hundredth place. Ask: Did it have any impact? (No. 53.121 would round to 53.12.)
  • Try again adding .005, then .009 to the original seasonal average. Ask: Does it make a difference? (Yes, a little. 53.125 would round up to 53.13 and 53.129 would round up to 53.13 also.)
  • Ask: Would that have any REAL impact? That's an increase of 1/100th of an inch. That's a tiny amount of rainfall. That's so small, that's why precipitation is only recorded down to the hundredths of an inch.
  • Round the original seasonal average to the nearest whole number.
  • What happens to your measurements when you get to the ones' place? Does the data look different? (No. It would be 53" regardless.)

After - see Exit Card (see attachments) for an example

  • Go back to your original prediction on the notecard. Discuss with your group why you made this prediction.
  • Enter Massachusetts on the website and write the actual average rainfall (43.56).
  • Was the your prediction correct? (cold and wet, but not as wet as Alabama - warmer air can hold more moisture than colder air) Show the US map again to clarify where Massachusetts is, if needed.
  • On your own on the notecard, compare the actual average rainfall in Alabama and Massachusetts. Write the answer from least to greatest.  (Massachusetts 43.56 < Alabama 53.05)
  • On the back of your card, write if you still have a concern about comparing, rounding, or even why different parts of the country are wetter than others.
  • Turn in your card.
  • Look for students writing the answer backwards. They may not have paid attention to writing from least to greatest, but some students don't understand the <> signs and always write the bigger number first. Pull those students for a small group discuss to clarify.

**Some files will display in a new window. Others will prompt you to download.

Assessment Strategies

Attached are formal and informal assessments for comparing decimals. The front page is for writing down data for whole group discussion at the top, and small group discussion at the bottom. The group work is for informal assessment. The back is individual work and may be a formal/summative assessment.

The Rounding sheet is attached also and can be guided at the beginning as a formative assessment, and allow the student to finish independently as a formal/summative assessment. There are several questions at the bottom for whole class discussion or to see what the child is thinking.

There is an example of an exit card attached. This is a quick summative assessment.


Advanced students may be self-directed.

  • Review what they know:
    • Weather in the United States is impacted by Canada to the North, Mexico to the South, and the oceans to the East and West.
    • The South is warmer than the North because it is closer to the equator.

There should not be a lot of time between early finishers and late finishers, therefore this is more of curiosity checking than time for another assignment. As pairs finish, each pair could be assigned a different research question listed below. They could lead a discussion of what they found at the end of the class time.

  • Students who are finished early may work in small groups with technology and/or a globe.
    • First, compare another continent to North America.
      • Is it further North or South?
      • Closer to the equator?
      • Surrounded by oceans?
      • Students may predict the impact location and distance from an ocean might have on its weather, then look up other continents and look up annual rainfall to see if it compares with the weather patterns of the United States.
      • Does France compare to California?
      • Are Russia and Canada similar?

    • Is there a difference between North and South America? Why do you think so? Justify your answer.
    • Look up deserts around the world. Compare their rainfall averages. Is their geographic location similar?
    • Are all rain forests found in the same basic geographical space? What would it take for Florida to become a rain forest? What would have to change?


Students requiring intervention can write down the rainfall averages down to the tenths place. They can compare decimals in the tenths and round to the whole number. 

Students requiring intervention can use smaller numbers. Students can line up numbers by the decimal point to make sure they are not lining up the numbers by the digit on the right. For example, students can line up 1.09, 2.3, and 6. Once you are sure students understand the decimal placement, have them compare two numbers at a time, by lining up the decimals, reading the number from left to right, then, underlining the first digit they do not have in common.

For example:



Make sure they understand that it is not the LENGTH of the number, but that first different digit that makes the difference. Gradually work up to the four digits found in the precipitation activity. Quite often a struggling learner will think 5 is smaller than 0.4356, just because one has more digits.

Also, it is common to misunderstand and think that 5.5 < 5.50, so watch for that error in reasoning. Go back and review place value. 5 dimes and 50 pennies have the same value.

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.