Water, water everywhere

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Students will be able to explain the different parts of the water cycle and gain an understanding of where water goes and how it is used when it falls to Earth.

Big Idea

Water is a valuable resource that we sometimes take for granted.


5 minutes

Warm-Up: “What is the significance of water in the environment?” 

Before engaging students in a discussion of this question, make sure that all students in the class know the definition of the term, significant. Ask, “Does anyone know what significance means?”  Listen for the different definitions that arise and make sure that the one definition that is correct is clearly identified. 

Vocabulary acquisition of students is not always on grade level so I have found it to be a helpful practice to explicitly teach non-content related words during instruction, as well. Once it is established what the definition of significance is, move into the warm-up question.

Allow students to brainstorm all the reasons why water is significant.  Brainstorming is a “free-thinking” or unedited way to compile a list of ideas from students.  Remind students that they do not comment on other student ideas during brainstorming.  Students are free to share whatever they think as it relates to the question. Encourage them to cite evidence that supports their responses.  Jot their responses on the whiteboard and explain that we will refer back to this list later in the class.

Introduce New Material

20 minutes

Inform students that the learning target for today’s lesson is they will be able explain the different parts of the water cycle and gain an understanding of where water goes and how it is used when it falls to earth.

Project a list of 20 Interesting and Useful Water Facts. This list provides an opportunity to make real world connections to today’s lesson on water. To increase student engagement, have students “popcorn read” each of the statements on the list aloud.  One student reads the first item, then throws a ball to another student who reads the second item, who throws the ball to another students who reads, and so on until the reading is done.

Expect students to engage in this sharing of facts.  Many of them will want to catch the ball so expect some of them to resort to calling out their names to get the attention of the reader.  Make sure that the behavior expectations are established up front to alleviate this occurring.  Allow students to engage and participate in the sharing of comments for no more than 5 minutes, or else the instruction might veer off course. 

Note: When time does not permit for extended questions and conversation, the “parking lot” strategy is a useful tool that allows students to continue to share or ask questions. The parking lot strategy involves posting a piece of chart paper in the room.  Questions that are “tabled” are posted on the chart paper by students.  As time permits at the end of class, read and respond to the questions on the board.

Students typically are amazed to learn that so little of earth’s water is fresh drinking water. For real-world application and impact, show two videos, Water Changes Everything and The Coming Global Water Crisis.  I really like both videos because they help students appreciate that most of the world does not have the access to clean water like we do in the U.S and that our unrestrained consumption of water in the U.S. may create a water crisis in the future. Before watching, remind students of the viewing expectations. Let them know that they should be able to cite 1-2 things that they learned that they did not know before watching the clips.

After viewing the videos, ask students, “How is it that we continue to have fresh water since water is not a resource that we can increase?”  Look for students to make the connection that the planet’s water supply is recycled through the environment.

Introduce vocabulary for this lesson: water, transpiration, evaporation, condensation, percolation, precipitation, cycle, biogeochemical cycle, dependence.  Instruct students to add the term, biogeochemical cycle to their Vocabulary Map. “Dissect” the term into its word parts to build students’ vocabulary acquisition.

Show students a visual image of the water cycle and present details about each part of the cycle. Instruct students to take notes.  If you do not provide guided notes, use a note taking strategy that you have taught students previously.   I make it a practice to walk around to check students’ notes to ensure that they are writing down what is being taught. 

Follow the presentation of content with a short video clip, The Water Cycle.   This clip, found on the Discovery Channel website is a great tool to reinforce the water cycle.  It is an older clip but it helps students better comprehend some of the more conceptual characteristics of water, like how water has an effect on climate and how transpiration works.  Before watching the video, share 2-3 questions with students, letting them know they should be able to answer the questions at the end of the clip:

  • Where does most of our precipitation come from in the summer?  Explain how it works.
  • Why does it rain?
  • What effect does water have on climate?

At the completion of the clip, ask students to respond to the questions.  Take 1-2 responses for each question.  Make sure that you clearly identify the correct responses so that there are no misconceptions in the group.

Guided Practice

10 minutes

Inform students that they will complete a “gizmo” today, using the Explore Learning technology.  Gizmos are computer simulations that help students see science in action.

Note: Explore Learning is an inquiry-based learning application using online simulations.  My school district subscribed to the service a couple of years ago and I have found the lessons to be highly effective in helping my students grasp science concepts.  Sign up for a free trial if you are interested in accessing the resources and student exploration worksheet associated with this lesson.

If you use a computer cart, issue the computers so that students have them before you model use of the site for the lesson.  Instruct students to log in and access the main site after they sign for a computer. 

Because students have to create individual accounts to use the site, require them to use their first initial, last initial and student ID when creating their user names.  Many students don't keep up with their user names so this format makes it easy to remind them of their usernames without having to look up 25+ user names every time gizmos are used.

Walk around to monitor that all students are on task, able to access the site and log in with their individual user names.  Identify 2-4 students who are skilled computer users and utilize them as a resource to assist other students who are not.  Once it is determined that all students have accessed the site, model how to access the lesson and navigate the gizmo. Instruct students to watch and perform each action that you take, using the computers they have at their desks.

Decide beforehand if you will provide copies of the worksheet or if students will complete and submit electronic worksheets.  Some students work best with hard copies so decide in advance who will need a hard copy and have copies available for those students. If you decide that students can complete the assignment online, model how to download a “word” copy, type their answers onto the worksheet and submit the assignment electronically.

Point out the vocabulary that is associated with the lesson and give students 1-2 minutes to answer the “prior knowledge questions”.  As a formative assessment, take responses from 1-3 students so that you can hear students’ answers and reasoning.  If you note that students are not able to provide an accurate response, spiral back and reinforce the water concept before you release them to work independently.

Model 1-2 of the gizmo warm-up activities for the class.  The gizmo warm-up is intended to help students learn how to navigate the controls for the lesson that follows.  As you complete each action, instruct students to use their computers to perform the same action. Release students to complete the warm-up activity as you walk around to ensure that everyone is able to navigate the controls for the lesson.



Independent Practice

30 minutes

Once you determine all students are able to navigate the lesson, release students to work independently to complete the Water Cycle student worksheet that can be accessed on the Explore Learning website. Remember, you can join the site for a 30-day free trial period to gain access to the resources associated with this lesson.  The activity allows students to see how water moves from one location to another, and learn how water resources are distributed in these locations.  Instruct students to answer all the questions using complete sentences. 

Remind students to consider everything that they've learned today when responding to the “think and discuss" question at the end of the gizmo.   Instruct student to also complete the gizmo assessment to self-assess how well they know the content.  When they finish all parts of the assignment and the assessment, encourage them to turn and talk with a nearby student who has also completed the assignment about the possible causes of global water shortages.

Walk around the room to monitor and provide assistance, as needed to students. 



5 minutes

Refer back to the list that was created during the brainstorming at the start of class.  Count how how many of their ideas were mentioned during today’s lesson.  Ask students to share one “WOW!” thing that they learned today.  “Wow!” things are those new pieces of information that students think that they will likely repeat to someone else because they were really surprised to learn the information.  Use this activity as a quick formative assessment to determine if the learning target was met.