Engage (15 minutes):
Divide the class into four groups, one for each season of the year. Give each group a chart labeled with one of the four seasons, markers, and a pad of sticky notes. Activate prior knowledge about weather by having students list facts they already know about weather during that season. For the first five minutes, have students work individually, writing one fact on each sticky note and completing as many as they can in five minutes. (Each student should write his name on each note; these can be used as a pre-assessment of student knowledge.) Then have groups compare their notes, creating a group chart of ideas that eliminates duplicate facts. Hang charts at the front of the classroom and have a representative from each group share their information. As students share and discuss the ideas, circle the facts that are not familiar to all the students, reflect misconceptions, or are things students want to learn more about.
Explore (15 minutes):
Take students outside to observe the current weather. If it is raining, go to a covered area where students can still make weather observations. Discuss the following questions:
- How does the temperature feel? Hot, cold, comfortable, etc.
- What tool can we use to measure the temperature? thermometer
- Why are there two sets of numbers on the thermometer? for measuring in Celsius and Fahrenheit
- Which scale do we commonly use in the United States? Fahrenheit
- Which scale is more common in other countries? Celsius
- Is today’s weather a typical day for the current season? Why or why not?
- Is there any precipitation today? If so, what kind? Is this typical for the current season?
Have students use the thermometer to record the current temperature. Record other weather observations in notebooks or use the note-taking guide found in the Attachments section.
Explain (45 minutes):
Return to the classroom and have students write definitions to vocabulary in their journals or on the note-taking guide. A sample note-taking guide that includes possible student responses is included in the Attachments section.
- Temperature: a measure of how hot or cold something is
- Thermometer: a tool for measuring temperature
- Fahrenheit: scale for measuring temperature used in the U.S.A. According to this scale, water freezes at 32 degrees and boils at 212 degrees.
- Celsius: scale for measuring temperature used in science and around the world. According to this scale, water freezes at 0 degrees and boils at 100 degrees.
- Precipitation: rain, sleet, snow, or hail that falls to the ground
- Average: a number expressing the typical value of a range of numbers.
Tell students that while the weather is not the same every day during a season, there are “average” or typical things that most often occur in a season. Weather changes all the time, but the climate for an area stays constant. Watch the National Geographic Climate and Weather video and discuss the difference between weather and climate.
They will look at weather data to graph the range of temperatures that occur during a certain season in their city to determine whether today’s temperature is typical for the season. They will also look at temperature information for all the seasons to determine what temperatures they can usually expect for each season of the year.
Have students return to their original groupings so you have one group for each season of the year. Give students data charts of annual temperature and precipitation information from the U.S. Climate Data website.
Have each group circle the three months that represent their meteorological season and create a chart in their notebooks representing that temperature data (see attached note-taking guide and sample with completed graphs). Have groups work together to construct individual graphs in their notebooks or on the note-taking guide, and then make a large group graph on the chart. Hang charts at the front of the room and discuss what these graphs show us about the temperature during each season. (For example, temperature changes between days and during the day, so many temperature measurements are needed to find the typical or average temperature. While some days may be much colder or warmer than average, most days in a particular season fall within a certain range of temperatures.)
Give each pair of students a temperature card. Students must use the class graphs to determine what season the day’s temperature probably represents. Then they should write an explanation of why the temperature represents that season and draw a picture of themselves outdoors on a typical day in that season engaging in a recreational activity appropriate for that season.
Elaborate (30 minutes):
Using computer and projector, show students maps of the United States color-coded by average temperature in each season. Have students select a state in the United States that has different average temperatures from Alabama. Students should work in pairs to conduct research on the average temperature in a given season in that state by collecting data from the U.S. Climate Data website. Have each pair of students create a data table and graph of the new state’s data to illustrate average temperatures in that state. Students will then compare the two cities (Alabama and one city from the selected state) and use this data to explain which state they would rather vacation in during that season based on temperature data. For example, if students want to see snow, they might choose a state that has colder winter temperatures than Alabama. If they want to be able to play outside comfortably in the winter without a coat, they might prefer a state that has higher average winter temperatures. Have students write and orally present their arguments to the class.