4: It's Raining, It's Pouring...Precipitation is Forming!

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SWBAT distinguish among four forms of precipitation: rain, snow, sleet, and hail. They will predict precipitation based on temperatures in a given area, and sequence each one's formation.

Big Idea

Students will distinguish among the various forms of precipitation (rain, snow, sleet, and hail) and compare each of them by reading descriptions and a graphic organizer to sequence the steps of how each one forms.

Lesson Overview

5e Lesson Plan Model

Many of my science lessons are based upon and taught using the 5E lesson plan model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. This lesson plan model allows me to incorporate a variety of learning opportunities and strategies for students.  With multiple learning experiences, students can gain new ideas, demonstrate thinking, draw conclusions, develop critical thinking skills, and interact with peers through discussions and hands-on activities.  With each stage in this lesson model, I select strategies that will serve students best for the concepts and content being delivered to them.  These strategies were selected for this lesson to facilitate peer discussions, participation in a group activity, reflective learning practices, and accountability for learning.

Lesson Synopsis

The It's Raining, It's Pouring ... Precipitation is Forming lesson provides students the opportunity to identify four types of precipitation. They develop an understanding of how each one forms by rotating through stations reading passages, writing key facts on a graphic organizer, and sequencing each one's formation.   Students apply their understanding to analyze a model of hail's formation and generate an explanation of each step through paragraph writing.

Why do I teach this lesson?

Many of my students have limited science background as they have not had formal science instruction prior to entering middle school; therefore I incorporated stations throughout this lesson that required students obtain information on four types of precipitation.  Since the overall question throughout this unit is how weather happens and why it changes, these stations on precipitation distinguish how changes in temperature within the atmosphere create specific ones. Students develop an understanding of each kind of precipitation in relation to certain interactions within atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere. This knowledge that is needed for other lessons within this unit and to further investigate how weather happens and why it changes.

Next Generation Science Standards  

This lesson addresses the following NGSS Standard(s): 

5-ESS-2 Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.

Science & Engineering Practices

Students are engaged in the following scientific and engineering Practices.

2.)    Developing and Using Models: Students will use a model of hail forming to explain each phase of it forming with the use of transition words.

6.)    Constructing explanations: Students will use evidence from reading passages on the four forms of precipitation to sequence the formation of each type.

8.)    Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information:  Using the notes collected at the station reading passages, students will use the evidence to formulate a written explanation of hail's formation in sequential order by using transition words.

 Crosscutting Concepts

The lesson "Forms of Precipitation" will correlate to other interdisciplinary areas.  These Crosscutting Concepts include

1.) Patterns: Precipitation can be predicted based on air temperatures, humidity, and air masses

2.) Cause and Effect: Understanding how air temperature impacts the form of precipitation and is used to explain changes in precipitation.

4.) Systems and Models: When air temperature changes, method of precipitation forming will change.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas within this lesson include:

ESS2.D Weather and Climate: Climate describes patterns of typical weather conditions over different scales and variations.  Weather patterns can be predicted, observed, and analyzed.


Classroom Management

Modeling to Develop Student Responsibility, Accountability, and Independence 

Depending upon the time of year, this lesson is taught, teachers should consider modeling how groups should work together; establish group norms for activities, class discussions, and partner talks.  In addition, it is important to model think aloud strategies.  This will set up students to be more expressive and develop thinking skills during the activity.  The first half of the year, I model what group work and/or talks “look like and sound like.”  I intervene the moment students are off task with reminders and redirecting.  By the second and last half of the year, I am able to ask students, “Who can give of three reminders for group activities to be successful?” Who can tell us two reminders for partner talks?”  Students take responsibility for becoming successful learners.  Again before teaching this lesson, consider the time of year, it may be necessary to do a lot of front loading to get students to eventually become more independent and transition through the lessons in a timely manner.



10 minutes

To start off today's lesson, I recap what we have learned so far and connect where we are going in today's lesson by stating varying air temperatures create precipitation within a weather system.

I introduce today's lesson with the precipitation video.  

This video is a three minute snapshot of rain, snow, sleet, and hail. It provides students a glimpse of each type of precipitation and presents pictures of each to activate prior knowledge.  In addition, the music throughout the slide is fun, engaging, and maintains students attention.  While the video is playing, I walk around the room looking at student reactions.  I notice students enjoying the video as some are smiling and chuckling, while others are shaking their head yes when a slide connected with them, like the children sledding on snow.  One student sais" Oh my gosh, is that hail?" 

Once the video ends, I direct students to a turn and talk discussion with their elbow partner on the four types of precipitation mentioned in the video. I remind them of our turn and talk norms  While the students are discussing, I am walking around listening to student conversations. I hear students mentioning experiences such as sledding and snow-tubing in the winter and commenting on the size of the hail shown compared to the storm we had over the summer in August. 

After turn and talk, I get the quick pick bucket and select students to share aloud one thing he or she discussed with his or her partner. I want students to make connections about air temperatures to precipitation formation.  


30 minutes

To begin, I direct students to take their interactive notebook from the center of the table.  Once notebooks are desks, I move students attention to the standards board and call on one students to read it aloud:

"Today we will research how varying temperatures cause four different types of precipitation to form by reading about each one.  With our research notes, we will sequence the steps of each one's formation, draw a model of one, and write a summary explaining how one type of precipitation forms."

Here, I instruct students to open their interactive notebook and write the lesson title, Precipitation-and today's date on the input page and paste in a precipitation station task card. Then I hand out the precipitation four square graphic organizer and a card with a number on it to each student. Students report to the station with the corresponding number on it. This is how I transition them to a station. 

Students follow the precipitation station task card directions. They read the precipitation passage and write details about each in the graphic organizer. I walk around observing students reading and taking notes on the graphic organizer.  

Students continue rotating through research stations until all four types of precipitation- rain, snow, sleet, hail,  are completed.  I continue moving throughout the room and checking in at different stations.  At the end of our research, I direct students to return to their seat and answer the questions on the task card.  



25 minutes

I direct students to a group turn and talk discussion. I walk around listening to students details about each type of precipitation that differentiates them from other forms.

After the discussion,  I use the quick pick bucket and select a student to share his or her graphic organizer notes from the station on the document camera.  While the notes are projected, I ask all other students to look at the information from this student and compare it to their own information.  I invite students to share similarities and differences between the one projected and their own.  I ask them to use these sentence frames, (which I have posted on the board)

* I notice that____________ is similar (or different).  My evidence to support this is __

* I respectfully disagree with the notes on _________(name the precipitation) because...

I use these sentence starters for students to practice articulating their information in a clear, precise, and respectful way.  It also helps ESL and Special Education students improve their sentence structure formation.

After we compare notes, I engage the whole class in a discussion using the responses to the the output questions. (student sample 1, student sample 2) I engage other students as active participants by asking them to raise their hand if they hear incorrect information and respectfully share correct information.  They use the sentence frame:  "I respectfully disagree with...because..."  

In addition, other students may be called upon by the student sharer if they gets stuck during the discussion. If that happens, the sharer can phone a friend for help.  We listen to the phoned friend clarify information and the sharer repeats the clarified information. I ask students to repeat the information so they hear it as they speak it.

One misconception made by students is thinking sleet and hail are the same.  For students who present this misconception, I direct them back to our station notes have them reread the information and compare and contrast each detail about sleet and hail.


Elaborate / Evaluate

20 minutes

I instruct students to look at their precipitation graphic organizer notes on hail. I inform them they are using their notes to sequence hail formation according to a diagram, which I display on the overhead projector.  I hand out the sequencing the formation of hail graphic organizer and review directions. I selected this graphic organizer for students to easily organize details sequentially on hail formation.  The numbers correlate with diagram numbers, so students can focus on one step at a time.  

Then, I ask them to take out the transition words reference chart from their binders and direct student's attention to the section: to show order, and remind them to select transition words from this section to connect their ideas together. 

Once we review the directions, students work independently explaining each step of hail formation. I am walking around the room, stopping randomly to check in with a student. by looking at details on their graphic organizer on hail formation and reviewing transition words selected to connect the steps. 

Then I ask students to use their  graphic organizer on hail to write a paragraph for homework tonight.  The next day I collect it and use as a formative assessment.