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Let's Look at the Clouds!
(QuickPlan developed by Nicole Mueller, CAISL, Lisbon, Portugal)

Overview: Children learn how clouds are formed, the different cloud types that exist and how they are associated with different types of weather. Combining and linking this with reading The Cloud Book allows students to learn additional interesting facts about clouds, such as special names, ancient representations, and sayings that help to predict the weather. (THIS SCI-LIT PLAN WAS USED FOR A FIRST YEAR ESL CLASS.)

Booklink: The Cloud Book by Tomie de Paola, Scholastic Inc., 1975. ISBN 0-590-08531

Science Activity Link: This is a lesson on clouds, their types, and what we can learn about weather by observing them. It also focuses on important science process skills including observation, communication, classification, and others.

Objective: The children will observe and recognize the different cloud shapes and varieties. They will classify the clouds in terms of color, shape and location, and describe, in simple words, what weather they may bring.

Science Processes and Content: Processes-Observing, communicating, classifying, inferring, and predicting. Content-Children observe the characteristics of the different types of clouds and discover what types of clouds are associated with the various kinds of weather and describe the observed weather patterns. In addition, they learn new vocabulary ( e.g. the water cycle) and expressions associated with weather patterns and predictions.

National Science Education Standards: Unifying Concepts and Processes, (1) Science as Inquiry, (2) Physical Science, (4) Earth and Space Science, (5) Science and Technology, (7) Science as a Human Endeavor

Materials: Book: The Cloud Book, colored pictures of various types of clouds from books, Internet etc., photocopies of "Types of Clouds" identification chart (see worksheets), one hand mirror for each pair of children, string, cotton or wool, glue, colored paper. *Important: When possible, children should view the clouds in the real sky.

1. Review the water cycle. A picture of the water cycle (e.g. nature picture showing a lake, river or sea, plants, animals and clouds, rain and snow) is labeled or traced by the students with the following words - EVAPORATION, CONDENSATION, PRECIPITATION, along with a brief definition of each of these words.

2. Simple experiment: introduction to cloud formation. Distribute mirrors; one for two children. Each student takes turns breathing on the mirror and describing what happens (the mirror turns foggy and wet). The warm water vapor in breath condenses on the cold surface, causing tiny water droplets to form.

3. How are clouds formed? Water vapor condenses into droplets and so clouds are "visible water." Depending on the level of English of the students, the definition of how clouds are formed can vary. In this case a simple oral presentation was given to the ESL students, writing up on the board any basic vocabulary that might be necessary. Next they had to fill in the gaps of a text which, again describes how clouds are formed in very simple terms (see worksheets).

4. Cloud types. Clouds come in many shapes and varieties. I focused on the following three: cirrus, stratus and cumulus.

5. Students collect good color photos or pictures of these cloud types. After looking carefully at the pictures students are asked to describe each of the clouds and group them. Put the pictures on the board and reorganize them if necessary. The formation of these three basic cloud types are described orally (short notes can be added). Students infer what kind of weather these clouds bring. Note these inferences on the board.

6. Reading. Before reading the book, The Cloud Book, review any new vocabulary words with students.

7. Distribute a copy of the story to each student. Let students look at the pictures and review what the clouds look like and where they are located. Read the book from page 1-11 together. Distribute "Types of Cloud" worksheet and ask children to fill out the sheet and draw a picture of each type of cloud in the box provided. Looking at the sky and describing and identifying the clouds is a fun exercise at this point.

8. Before reading about the different cloud types (pages 12-18) explain to the students that more cloud types exist, with longer names because they contain two or more cloud types. List:- cirrocumulus, cirrostratus, altostratus and cumulonimbus on the board. Make predictions about how they might look and what type of weather they may bring. Note the predictions, so you can check later their accuracy.

9. Students read about different weather myths (pages 20-21) believed by other cultures. As a conclusion to the readings, the students observe any clouds outside, write notes, and draw pictures about the shapes they see. Can they observe any pictures, objects, animals in the cloud shapes? The students then write a short "cloud myth" by themselves, which they may share with the class.

10. As an introduction to the sayings (pages 19-28) ask students to think about and translate any expressions associated with the weather in their own languages, maybe even as a homework task. Discuss and note any interesting sayings.

11. Tell students they are going to read some English sayings about clouds and how they help to predict the weather. Students choose a saying in their native language OR from the book and illustrate them. These can be collected and made into a class book.

12. A story entitled "A very silly cloud story" at the end of the book, The Cloud Book, ( pages 29-31) is an ideal way to conclude the lesson with a literary feel. After reading the story in class, students can write their own cloud story. This can be computer printed and bound with a color paper cover, decorated with string and cotton or wool.

Safety: None

Related Books:
Little Cloud by Eric Carle, Puffin Books, 1996. ISBN 0-698-11830-8
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, Aladdin Books, 1978. ISBN 0-689-70749-5
The Kids' Book of Weather Forecasting by Mark Breen and Kathleen Friestad, Williamson Publishing, 2000. ISBN 1-885593-39-2


©2003 School Science Services, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.

Reina O'Hale
Executive Director, MAIS
Madrid, Spain

Dr. Ken Mechling - Project Director
1305 Robinwood Drive
Clarion, PA 16214 USA