Climate Research- Independent

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SWBAT use electronic resources to conduct research and collect data about different climate zones.

Big Idea

Weather patterns around the world can be predicted based on long term observations of a particular climate.


15 minutes

I open this lesson with a quick activity on differentiation between Climate and Weather.  Developing students ability to use appropriate and precise scientific vocabulary starts with us, elementary teachers!  Weather and climate are basic words that are easily confused so in this activity I work with students to develop their understanding of the meaning of these words by giving them specific situations and asking them to apply the appropriate word.  I ask them to read the scenario and answer using a sentence stem,

which is a strategy that provides ELL students with the necessary scaffolding.  Proficient English speakers also benefit from having a solid jumping off point.  It allows them to expand their thinking and looking for context clues, as this girl does by using the word "often".

 When students answer in complete sentences, it is much easier for us (me and them) to pinpoint misconceptions, such as this child's understandable belief that if clouds mentioned, it's automatically a weather scenario, not a climate scenario.  

I know exactly where this came from - we have, after all, been watching the clouds on a daily basis for the past six weeks!

Developing Scientific Vocabulary

10 minutes

Next I have students read and pronounce the names of the climate zones.  I do this because it gives them an example of specific vocabulary used in context while also providing a content-based opportunity to work on basic decoding of unfamiliar words (chunking, basic phonemes) which many of my students still need. I also may point out basic spelling patterns, such as the rules for the five different kinds of silent e's.  (Spalding). 

Overview of the Report

7 minutes

In this section of the lesson, I hand students the note-taking  guide and then show them this PowToon as an overview of exactly what kind of of information they will be obtaining from print and online resources.  At the end of their research, they will combine the information (and verify it) before creating an informative poster that they will use to teach their classmates about their region.

The plant and animal components of this report are for students who need or want enrichment.  This information will tie in nicely to our studies of plants and animals later on this year, but the main focus of this report is to have students use specific scientific language and data to define their climate region.


35 minutes

Climate zone information at the appropriate level is difficult to obtain.  I have therefore taken information from Wikipedia (I verified the sources) and simplified it in order to provide students with reading passages related to the five climate zones in the US. This, combined with notes they take from the NOAA NSTA interactive climate map  give them enough information to practice combining the data into a final, short presentation.  

Struggling readers may struggle with the cognitive load of all the new vocabulary in addition to the concept of climate.  These resources are an alternative to the research above, and will give students a basic understanding of the idea that certain regions of the world consistently have different daily weather, and that this is a function of climate.

struggling readers:  Whatever the Weather

Ask a Meteorologist

In my extensive research, I unearthed many sites.  Most of them were high quality but written at the high school or college level. One that tempted me because it is written for kids is full of errors and confusing generalizations.  Do not use the resource Climate Types for Kids.  It contains inaccurate information.




Extension - Collecting Data from a City in My Climate Zone

5 minutes

This is an easy, fast way to check  local forecasts.  Students can then look up locations within their assigned climate zone and record monthly or seasonal precipitation, wind and temperature data. This will assist them in building a broader understand of the variability that exists within a general pattern for a climate zone.  For example, it is much colder in Ithaca, New York than it is in Boston, Massachusetts but both areas experience colder and longer winters than Phoenix, Arizona.

Notes for the Teacher

I find that the complexity of weather and climate means that regardless of how many times I teach these topics, I am still always learning and revising what I do.  Here are a few resources that I found helpful, and which are pertinent to this lesson.  There is a free ebook at and this website, Climate Classification and Climatic Regions of the World, is also informative.