I ring my chime to get the class’s attention. I announce we were about to begin the first Science lesson in our unit about weather. I ask them to return to the carpet squares and ‘Show Five’.
Since weather has been a big factor lately, I want to give the class a visual. I hold up a thick jacket, a hat, sunglasses, and a sweat shirt (I found plenty of things in Lost and Found to use!). “Who thought about weather when they got dressed for school?” “I did!” “Why did you think about it?” “Because it was cold!”. “Right. We have to think about these things before we get ready.” Referring to our previous unit, I add “It’s an important way that we adapt to weather. We are going to learn more today about where weather originates.”
I make a quick transition back to weather. “Who has ever seen a cloud?” “Me!” “Who has ever seen rain?” “Meeeee!.” “These are two examples of weather that we’ve seen recently but we don’t usually think about how it starts. Our earth is covered by a layer of air- like a balloon around the earth- called atmosphere. Repeat the word 'atmosphere'." "Atmosphere" I often have students repeat words, both to give a bit of a learning break and also to practice new vocabulary. "The hydrosphere is the moisture- ‘water’- that’s on or around the surface of the earth, like in the ocean or air. Now say 'hydrosphere'." "Hydrosphere" "The amount of moisture in the air is called humidity. It’s important to think how these two things, atmosphere and hydrosphere, work together because atmosphere can change at any time when it’s influenced- that means ‘changed’- by things like air, moisture, and heat.” While I always use academic vocabulary in my lessons, I define words they may not have heard before to provide better context and comprehension. “Weather is what happens when the atmosphere and hydrosphere combine over the course of a short period and air either moves, stays, becomes more warm, cold, or wet. Sometimes, these things happen at the same time.”
I want to introduce some details about the atmosphere and hydrosphere, so I continue, “Both air and water are affected by the same thing, something that can change and create weather conditions. Let me give you a hint..it’s something that can either heat or melt things.” “Fire” “Close..what is the biggest source of heat we see almost every day?” “Sun!” “Right! The sun’s effects are what control the weather on Earth because it can heat up both air and water. That creates energy that nature uses to create, grow, and move things. Weather changes every second. Sometimes it‘s a slight change; sometimes it’s much more dramatic. The main point is the atmosphere and hydrosphere work together to affect your life all the time, even when you don’t feel it.
“This is the very basic description of weather. Think of it as two things that go from something really big place- atmosphere and hydrosphere- to create weather that affects every inch of the Earth.” As I describe this function, I use my hands and spread them out wide when I talk about atmosphere, then move them in towards each other when I talk about weather. Subsequent lessons in this unit go deeper into the elements of weather (humidity, air pressure, weather effects) so I stop at this place and move on to the project piece of the lesson.
After the whole class instruction finished, I tell them “It’s time for us to label a diagram that shows the levels of weather. The first level, the big layer of air around the earth is called… “Atmosphere!” “Right. Atmosphere originates in air. The moisture in the air comes from…” “Hydrosphere” “Right again. Hydrosphere comes from the water sources on Earth. Those two terms are the vocabulary words that you’ll use to label the earth diagram. When you look at this diagram, I want you to think about how all weather starts in the se two places. To fill out the worksheet, you need to look at the diagram and fill in the box that points to the element of weather to its origin.”.
Since this is the first lesson in a complex unit, I make the introductory lesson and formative assessment simple, yet significant. I couldn’t see diving into something as varied as weather without giving information about it’s origin. The concrete illustration of the two elements (atmosphere and hydrosphere) will provide the ensuing lessons with much more dimension because the terms set a solid foundation. I circulate among the students as they complete this assignment. I want to spend adequate time listening to their comments (“The atmosphere is around the earth.” “Hydrosphere is where water comes from.”, so I could ask for clarification (“Tell me more about that.”) when necessary.
After the weather diagrams were complete, I use a chime to single the end of this lesson piece. I ask the students to put away the papers in their bags before the returned back to their carpet squares. I ask them a simple question, “Tomorrow, when you get dressed for school, what is the first thing you will consider?” “The weather!” “Because…..?” “We don’t want to get sick!” Looks like they took the connection about how weather affects us and took it one step farther. Sounds like my job is done.