Is It A Hurricane Or A Tornado? How Do They Compare?

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Compare and Contrast a hurricane to a tornado by writing an essay and citing evidence showing at least three similarities and two differences.

Big Idea

Extreme weather systems have many similarities and many differences.


1 minutes

Warm up

5 minutes

After completing a unit on hurricanes and a unit on tornadoes, many of my students had come to the the realization that they are both deadly storms. Nothing gets third graders more excited than putting an idea to a vote. We held an informal vote, with a show of hands as to which one they thought was the worst storm, however, in my class they know that they must offer evidence to substantiate their ideas. We held a short discussion on the similarities and differences between tornadoes and hurricanes and this got their attention and was a perfect warm up for this lesson.

Guided practice

15 minutes

I created a PowerPoint, Hurricane vs Tornado, in order to guide my students through the lesson visually, auditorily and interactiively rather than just lecturing. The PowerPoint also enables me  and to highlight the areas of focus for this particular lesson. I wanted my students to have as must practice with close reading in a Science setting as possible. They had to find five facts about each storm. Rather than just have them write a list I created, Hurricane Facts vs Tornado Facts. To help them keep the facts easily accessible when writing their essay, they cut them out and glued them in their notebook on opposite pages, which they then referred to when completing the double bubble map. I used two free sources from NOAA to help with this process, Owlie Hurricanes  and  Owlie Tornadoes . Both sources have a lot of information and my students love the illustrations that help them better understand the information.


40 minutes

Writing a compare and contrast essay is not an easy task. I sometimes use a double bubble map to help guide my students through the process. I created a specific one, Double Bubble Compare and Contrast Hurricane to Tornado, for this lesson. In this particular map, I added some of the signal words they could use , if they wanted to, when writing their essay. I find that by setting it up this way, my students have an easier time when they write their essay. They have transferred the information from the fact sheet onto the double bubble organizer and it gives them a rather clear picture as to the differences and similarities instead of using a Venn Diagram where they tend to jumble the information.

Class Discussion/Wrap up

10 minutes

The scaffolded support that  was provided during this lesson, helped my students write a more detailed essay than if I had just asked them to write an essay comparing and contrasting hurricanes to tornadoes. I created a rubric,Hurricane vs Tornado Essay Rubric, which not only served as an assessment but also as a guide while they were editing their work. They each had a copy to use, which I then stapled to their essay when they turned it in to me for grading. I've included 3 different sample essays, Hurricane&Tornado Compare and Contrast Sample1Hurricane& Tornado Compare and Contrast Sample 2Hurricanes & Tornado Compare and Contrast Sample 3.