I rang my chime to get the class’s attention. I announced that we were about to begin the sixth Science lesson in our unit about weather. I asked them to return to the carpet squares and ‘Show Five’.
Once seated, I asked for a volunteer to predict the weather and explained that a 'prediction' is like a guess with reasons. I suspected the student would just say what they had seen earlier this morning and I was right. "Cold and rainy". I wanted to clarify the precise vocabulary, so I reflected, "So it seemed like the weather was cold and wet, a little misty.". To give this step more Science creditability, I then asked the student to open the door so they could make a direct observation and collect accurate observational data. I hoped that the time in between the beginning of school and recess would have made a difference, which is why I chose to do the lesson later in the morning. “Take a look at the weather outside. What do you see?" “It was way more sunny.” "Is it what you expected?” "I thought it would be really cold.” “So the weather was different than you thought. You discovered it’s not easy to predict weather without reasons. Take a minute with our partners to share reasons you think that may have happened.” This 'mindbreak' was an opportunity to share, not necessarily a point of instruction so I kept this step very casual. I gave them 2-3 minutes to explore this idea before I get their attention with the ring of our chime.
I make a quick transition back to the weather. “Who has ever seen a person on TV talk about the weather?” “Me!” “People who do this for a living are called ‘meteorologists’. Today, we get to be those people.
"A weather forecast tells us what the weather will be in the future. The weather tracking we did last week just used observation and told us the weather on those days. We didn't think about what will come next. Much of the time, weather stays the same for days so it’s easy to track. Meteorologists record data from their weather tracking to help find patterns with these days. That helps them predict the future weather. How do you think they do this?” “Umm..guess?” “Some people think that! Actually, they take many of the things that we’ve just learned about like air pressure, seasons, and atmospheric conditions. They gather data from these areas and others, put them in a jar, and shake them. Out pops a weather forecast!” “Really?!?!” “What do you think?” “Noooooo!!!” “In reality, there’s a lot more to it. Many different factors contribute to this prediction, called a forecast." When I teach potentially complicated subjects like this, I use questions to help the students break it down. That way, they get an opportunity to both process the material and predict an application. Their answers aren't always correct, but that's what Science is all about- make a prediction and adjust your thinking.
"Remember when we learned about air pressure?” “Uh huh!” “New air pressure combines with old air. The place they meet is called a front. Cold fronts come from…” “Cold places?” “Yep, and warm fronts come from..” “Warm places! “They measure the origin of these warm and cold fronts and collect the data from that day. Fronts are something that meteorologists observe and track to find patterns in the weather." I use hand motions to represent these different meteorological elements- hands moving fast, pressing down, waving near my face, and wiping my forehead. Any time I can take an opportunity to 'talk with my hands', I do it because it adds a valuable visual element to the lesson that helps the students (especially English Learners) better remember the material (plus, it's just part of my nature!).
"We're going to look for a pattern in our weather and record it on our Worksheet, something that helps predict it to create a forecast."
• First, record yesterday's weather.
• Next, observe and record today's weather.
• Last, make a prediction for tomorrow's weather.
My goal is to help the students see that something like weather is often established on a pattern, an essential step to processing lessons not only in Science, but also Math and Reading. Developing skills like this that support multiple subjects is a valuable way to scaffold a variety of learning opportunities for our students. When this step is complete, I ring the chime and have the students' return to their carpet squares.
After we make our predictions with the weather results, I ask the class, "How easy is it to predict future weather?" "'It's hard because you can't always know." "It is difficult because it's what we call in Science an 'educated guess'." "So it's OK to guess?" "Of course, as long as your guess is based on a pattern, things you know that help you predict things you don't know. If your guess is wrong, then you change things, look at the data, and guess again! Can we agree that it's important to know how to predict so we can discover new things in Science? "Yes!" "Tomorrow, we can practice that."