ALEX Lesson Plan


Tornadoes: Cause and Effect

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Stephanie Roden
System: Hartselle City
School: Crestline Elementary School
Author:elisa harris
System: Hartselle City
School: Hartselle City Board Of Education
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35428


Tornadoes: Cause and Effect


The lesson will begin with a brief review of the previous lesson on how climates and geographic locations can affect weather patterns and produce natural disasters. Students will watch a short video during the before strategy to engage learners in the lesson on a particular natural disaster--tornadoes. Students will read various texts and charts in order to understand the causes and effects of tornadoes, putting the information in a T-chart to help organize their thoughts. Students will then discuss their findings with an elbow partner and then write a two-paragraph cause and effect essay which will serve as the summative assessment.

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

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 3
12 ) Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause and effect. [RI.3.3]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.3.12- Identify events, ideas, or steps in an informational text pertaining to time, sequence, or cause and effect.

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 3
16 ) Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur). [RI.3.7]

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

  • Students will analyze and interpret data to determine the cause and effects of tornadoes.
  • Students will write a cause and effect two paragraph essay on tornadoes and describe the damage that they can cause. 


Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

61 to 90 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Student Materials (per student)

Notebook paper

Pencil or pen

"The Causes & Effects of Tornadoes" from Sciencing

Excerpts from "Tornadoes" from Weather Whiz Kids include "What is a Tornado?", "How Do Tornadoes Form?", "What are Some Other Factors for Tornadoes to Form?", "What do Tornadoes Look Like?", "When are Tornadoes Most Likely to Occur?", "Where are Tornadoes Most Likely to Occur?", and  "Fujita Scale" 

Cause and Effect T-chart from Highlands

Cause and Effect Rubric for each student from ReadWriteThink

Teacher Materials

Cause and Effect Rubric for assessing student writing

Cause and Effect T-Chart Example (see attached document)

Website for before strategy:

"How do Tornadoes Form?" video from James Spann, an Alabama meteorologist

Websites for Acceleration Activities: 

"Weather: Tornadoes" from Ducksters

"How to Design a Tornado Safe Room" from Reader's Digest

Intervention Activity

Cause and Effect Template (see attached document)

Technology Resources Needed:

Student Technology Resources

Internet-capable technology devices (iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, etc.)

Teacher Technology Resources

Document camera (ELMO), projector, screen


Student Background Information:

After participating in lesson one of this unit, students will have an understanding of different weather phenomenon and the climates that produce them. At the end of the lesson, students were encouraged to think only of tornadoes in preparation for the rest of the unit. 

During this lesson, students will be required to navigate to a website using a technological device. Students will need to know how to complete a T-chart. Students will need to know how to write a paragraph with a topic sentence and supporting ideas.

Teacher Background Information: 

Tornadoes are a common natural disaster in Alabama. Tornadoes are created when air masses of different temperatures and humidities meet. In Alabama, warm, humid air over the Gulf of Mexico often meets cool air coming from Canada, causing unsettled stability in the atmosphere. Tornadoes are measured using a Fujita Scale (F-Scale) that identifies the intensity of a tornado which in turn causes damage to an area. The teacher may need to research a Fujita Scale from the Storm Prediction Center for more background information. 

The teacher should make all required copies prior to teaching the lesson. 


Before Strategy/Engage: 15 minutes

1. Pass out the "exit slip" from the previous lesson where students responded to the following questions:

  • Which months had the highest amount of tornadoes in the United States? Which months had the least?
  • How many more tornadoes have occurred on average in May than in January?
  • Based on what the tornado group discussed from their findings on climate and tornadoes, why would tornadoes be more prevalent in certain months and certain regions of the United States?

2. The teacher should call on student(s) to share. Explain to students that we are going to focus on tornadoes as a weather phenomenon, especially what causes a tornado and the effects that it has on an area. (4-5 minutes)

3. To review what causes a tornado, the teacher should show students the video: "How do Tornadoes Form?" video from James Spann, an Alabama meteorologist. (4 min 12 sec)

4. On the board, the teacher should write a K-W-L chart similar to this one from ReadWriteThink. The teacher should ask students what they know are the causes and effects of tornadoes based on the short video and the previous lesson. Write the student responses on the board. Ask students what they want to know about the causes and effects of tornadoes. Write the student responses on the board. (5 min)

During Strategy/Explore & Explain: 65 minutes

1. The teacher should pass out the Cause and Effect T-chart from Highlands. Tell students they are going to research the cause and effects of tornadoes. They will fill out the T-chart with their ideas and then convert their ideas into a two paragraph essay.

2. The teacher should model for students how to find an idea from their text and how to put it in their T-chart. (5 minutes)

2. Students will read the causes and effects of tornadoes on their devices using the following sites:"The Causes & Effects of Tornadoes" from Sciencing and excerpts from "Tornadoes" from Weather Whiz Kids which include "What is a Tornado?", "How Do Tornadoes Form?", "What are Some Other Factors for Tornadoes to Form?", "What do Tornadoes Look Like?", "When are Tornadoes Most Likely to Occur?", "Where are Tornadoes Most Likely to Occur?", and  "Fujita Scale". They will take the information that they find that fits as a cause or effect and put it into the T-chart. (25 minutes)

3. After twenty-five minutes of working, ask students to share with their elbow partner what causes a tornado from their Cause and Effect T-chart. Ask students to make a claim (Tornadoes are caused by ____.) Then, they need to support their claim with evidence from their T-chart. (5 minutes). Ask students to repeat this sharing with the effects of a tornado.  Ask students to make a claim (The effects of tornadoes are ____.) Then, they need to support their claim with evidence from their T-chart. (5 minutes). The teacher should then ask students to share this information with the whole group. A sample T-chart is attached. The answers on the T-chart are not all-inclusive, and students may wish to add other findings from their research. 

Note: As students are making claims and giving supporting evidence verbally, they are actually preparing themselves for their own writing. This activity will also help prepare students for constructed response questions on standardized testing.

4. The teacher should ask students to take out a piece of notebook paper. Using their completed Cause and Effect T-chart, students should develop a cause and effect two paragraph essay. The first paragraph will describe the causes of tornado formation. The second paragraph will describe the effects of a tornado. Remind students of the information that they shared with their elbow partner. At the end of twenty minutes, students should turn in their cause and effect essays. (20 minutes) The teacher will use the cause and effect rubric from ReadWriteThink to score the two paragraph essay.

After Strategy/Explain & Elaborate: 5 minutes

1. The teacher should return to the K-W-L that was created earlier on the board.

2. Ask students what they learned today that they did not know at the beginning of class. Write students' responses on the board under the L. (5 minutes) Student responses should include the causes and effects of tornadoes. 

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Assessment Strategies

Formative Assessment: The teacher should informally assess students through the use of the before and after strategy (K-W-L). The teacher should circulate the room as students write their cause and effect essay using their T-chart. The teacher will listen to group discussions as students share their information and will informally assess them as well. A sample T-chart is attached.

Summative Assessment: The teacher should formally assess students through the cause and effect essay and the cause and effect T-chart at the conclusion of the lesson using the cause and effect rubric to score student's writing. 


Students can expand their understanding of the causes and effects of tornadoes by reading "Weather: Tornadoes" from Ducksters. Students can also begin to think ahead to future lessons by reading "How to Design a Tornado Safe Room" from Reader's Digest as the culminating unit activity will be designing a product. 


Students who require additional preparation before the lesson can use the attached cause and effect template to assist in essay development.

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.