I explain to students that they will be using Google Earth (physical atlases are an alternative) to choose 3 different locations within the United States. We will be making predictions about their climate during this season (for us, it was winter) and looking up data online. I review how to use Google Earth:
Student groups will use Google Earth or physical atlases to look up 3 different locations in the United States. One of the locations must be in a northern state and one of the locations must be in a southern state. The city or town must be large enough to be searchable on Weather Underground. They will collect the high and low temperatures for each of their chosen locations.
We discussed possible graph titles together to give them the opportunity to build off one another's ideas and language.
Then I had each team share their 3 pieces of data with the class and everyone entered the temperatures into the graphing program.
After they had compiled all their data, I rewarded several students by taking them on a visual Google Earth field trip to one of their locations. Here in this short "trip" to Boise, ID you can see several different students working on developing the language of their response.
The first student includes all sentence elements but is redundant in her use of half. The second student speaks in fluent, complete sentences but draws a conclusion he can't elaborate upon. (He stated that the hills were caused because there was open land and that makes things pushed together. We later discussed how he may have come to this conclusion because in our city, Tucson, the flat valley is developed and the mountains are not, but that lack of development isn't what caused the mountains to form. He knew this, but I have found that even my fluent English speakers struggle a bit when they are trying to put several complex, specific details into one sentence. This is natural!) The third student speaks English as a second language. While he is always eager to respond, I try to call on a few other students first so he has a sentence structure and model to follow. He absorbs new vocabulary like a sponge and can sometimes become frustrated with himself when he can't put it all into a cohesive sentence immediately, so I try to make sure support is in place for him to have a successful experience like this one. All good speaking and writing skills start at the sentence level, after all.
In closing, I ask students to make a connection between the observation they made and those they heard shared out with the class as a whole. I listen and prompt for vocabulary, most importantly, the correct use of weather and climate. I also listen for temperature, Fahrenheit, vary, change, expected, unexpected, typical, season, and winter.