Informational texts can sometimes be a little hard to handle for kindergarteners; so, it is our job to make it fun! What can be more fun than fluffy, entertaining, beautiful clouds? Clouds teach students challenging vocabulary while also allowing them to experience informational text in a fun, exploratory way! Here's a little explanation about why I love teaching about clouds in this way!
Students don't know very much about clods; in Kindergarten, they typically just know their name, "clouds." So, students are typically very intrigued by clouds and want to learn more; therefore, this lesson is very engaging. I love holding up this Clouds Poster and allowing students to see all of the types of clouds!
To introduce students to our lesson on types of clouds, I like to get them talking! Initially, I like to see what students already know about clouds. We have a great discussion because they usually don't know much and end up basing their thoughts on things they have seen.
At that point, I talk to students about the fact that there are many types of clouds. I ask them to think: "Why do you THINK that there are different types of clouds?" After about twenty seconds of wait time, I allow students to share their thoughts with each other. As they talk, I make sure to write down their thoughts and to monitor and adjust their conversation where needed. So then, they are having some in-depth conversation with each other that is weather based; it is a great stepping stone to begin our lesson!
In order to answer the question, "Why are there different types of clouds," we will have to do some researching. I tell my students that the best way to find out the answers to their questions is to read and find the information! So, that's what we do next!
I have many books about clouds (like this clouds book) that I love to use; the key is that they are all informational! I love to show students the real photographs and provide them with clearly written descriptions! Within these texts, there are so many teachable moments- rain droplets make clouds, this relates to the water cycle, which relates to evaporation and runoff, which relates to changes in matter! There are so many great teachable moments that come within informational texts about clouds; however, I try to keep students centered on finding out why there are different types of clouds.
As a personal preference, I focus on the three main types of clouds: cirrus, stratus and cumulus. I do this because it's actually a large amount of information for the students to take in and I want to make sure that they can remember their facts for comparing and contrasting. As we read our books, I write down descriptors about each type of cloud on a reference chart (that we will need later).
After we have read our book(s) about the different types of clouds, I continue to engage the students by allowing them to watch a video about them! Our video is really interesting because it is narrated by a storm chaser! The storm chaser hobby/occupation gave us a little break from clouds as we discussed what she does and why it would be important for her to know information about clouds! Once we have a really cool conversation about that, we get back to the clouds and watch this video!
After the video is over, we review our Clouds Reference Chart. We go over each cloud's characteristics as a whole group and add anything that's missing.
Once we review the reference chart, I allow students a minute to think about the following question: "Now that we have found out WHY there are different types of clouds, I would like for you to think... think about which cloud type is your favorite and why." After the minute or so of thinking, I encourage students to talk to each other. "I want you to share your opinion with a partner, but you cannot change your mind. So, before you talk, make sure that you have chosen either cirrus, cumulus or stratus. Once you are sure of your opinion, share it with a friend!" After about two minutes of talking, I end the conversations.
"We have our opinion about which cloud we like best... now, I want you to go and tell me why you think your type of cloud is so interesting!"
At this time, students go and write interesting facts about the type of cloud they chose. Students are allowed to use the Clouds Reference Chart if needed.
I provide students with a cloud shaped piece of paper that they record their facts on. I encourage students to write in complete sentences; however, I differentiate this process of writing so some students simply copy their characteristics.
After about ten minutes, I have students bring their clouds back to the carpet. I then give them the sentence frame, "The ___________ cloud is the best to me because ___________." I have students share two or three sentences with their partners here. They have their clouds with them, so it is easy for them to refer to their evidence from the text because it is written down.
I walk around and listen to students' sentences. If students are giving information that wasn't from a text (or the video), I redirect them to text-dependent information!
Once I have heard students sharing an adequate amount of information, I call attention to a few students' great sentences and/or thoughts.
"Now, I would like for you to think about what your partner shared with you." I provide about twenty seconds of wait time. "I would like for you to share a new thought. My ___________ cloud is different than your ____________ cloud because ______________."
This conversation takes a bit longer because most students are thinking and looking at their information while talking. So, I allow students the necessary time to share their thoughts. Again, I call attention to some great things that I heard.
"Wow! You all did a great job talking about your clouds and each others' clouds as well. So, you have chosen your type of cloud and given us reasons, and so has your partner. Now... here is my "thinking question" for the day- is one type of cloud more important than the other?"
After some wait time for the students to ponder their "thinking question," I bring them back to summarize. "Well, we learned a lot about clouds today. I just asked you to think about whether or not each type is more important than another. I want you to share your thoughts."
Here, it is easy for students to go off on a tangent. I lead the conversation by having students speak about why all of the types are important OR about why a certain type seems to be more important. I pick a couple of students to speak first who I know will give a good example! Once we have discussed how certain types seems more important and also how all of them seems to work together, we close our cloud conversation.
At this time, I allow students to complete their clouds appropriately.
I give students a second piece of cloud paper and I staple it to their writing page, leaving a small hole on one side for stuffing! Students stuff their clouds as follows:
Cirrus clouds are stuffed with feathers (because they are feathery).
Cumulus clouds are stuffed with cotton balls (because they are marshmallowy).
Stratus clouds are stuffed with tissues (because they blanket the sky).
Then, I hang students' clouds up from the ceiling with string! Voila!
Before I hang students' work, I check the clouds for the following rubric:
1- Did you name your cloud?
2- Did you support your cloud type with text-dependent facts?
3- Did you give me your facts in complete sentences?
4- Did you follow the rules for writing and use your foundational skills properly?
5- Did you stuff your cloud properly, based on the type of cloud you chose?
If students get all 5 points, they exceeded expectations. If students get 3-4 points, they have met expectations. In the end, most students get at least 3 points every time I teach this lesson (which, to me, means success)!