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SWBAT identify the function of an anemometer and wind vane SWBAT analyze the relationship between the formation of wind as a pressure gradient and the uneven heating of the Earth’s surface

Big Idea

In this lesson, students first identify the instrumentation used to measure wind speed and direction, and then analyze what wind really is - a derivative of air pressure normalization on Earth's surface

Lesson Introduction

This is a lesson that has us doing a whole lot. There are videos, some notes, some textual analysis, and a super-quick demo for students that allow us to decipher some weather instruments and figure out the source of wind production. We also dive deep into some practice in an attempt to correct and solidify some common student misconceptions (i.e. wind is always named after the direction is blows from, not the direction it's blowing toward). 

Materials Needed: (for demo - not completely necessary for lesson mastery)

  • Fan or natural/artificial wind source (I brought this one off of Amazon)
  • Anemometer (real or model is fine - I also purchased mine from Amazon)
  • Wind Vane (again, off of Amazon)
  • Balloon

[Note: For embedded comments, checks for understanding (CFUs), and key additional information on transitions and key parts of the lesson not necessarily included in the below narrative, please go to the comments in the following document: 5.9 - Wind (Whole Lesson w/comments). Additionally, if you would like all of the resources together in a PDF document, that can be accessed as a complete resource here: 5.9 - Wind (Whole Lesson)[PDF]. Finally, students may need their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] for parts of the lesson (a document used widely in the New York State Earth Science Regents course) as well.]

Do Now & Objective(s)

10 minutes

Students come in silently and complete the (attached) Do Now. In this case, the Do Now is a review of material from Unit 3 (Geologic History), Unit 1 (Rocks & Minerals), and some recent material in the current unit on Meteorology. After time expires (anywhere from 2-4 minutes depending on the type of Do Now and number of questions), we collectively go over the responses (usually involving a series of cold calls and/or volunteers), before I call on a student and ask them to read the objective out loud to start the lesson.

As a general note, the Do Now serves a few purposes:

  1. It serves as a general review of of material from the previous day (or unit)
  2. It is a re-activation of student knowledge to get them back into "student mode" and get them thinking about science after transitioning from another content area or alternate class;
  3. as a strategy for reviewing material students have struggled with (for example, using this as a focused review for material that they have struggled with on unit assessments or recent quizzes); and,
  4. It is an efficient and established routine for entering the classroom that is repeated each day with fidelity (I never let students enter the classroom talking. While it may seem potentially severe to have students enter silently each day, this is both a school wide expectation and a key component of my classroom. In many respects, I find that students readily enjoy the focus that starting with a quiet classrooms brings each day).

Video I & Notes

25 minutes

I start the lesson by posing the question at the top page of the Video I & Notes resource while holding a balloon. After asking the question, I blow up the balloon, tie it off, and then take a few responses. Every time I taught this lesson, students more or less circulated around the idea of air pressure, but my "teacher response" is outlined below, and excerpted from the embedded lesson comments in the Word document attached at the Introduction:

"It has to do with air pressure. When you breathe in, the air pressure is greater outside your body than inside your lungs because your lungs and the muscles inside them have contracted, pushing all the air out. When you breathe in, your lungs swell up with air (which is often why you feel your ribcage and chest expand), and the air pressure is now greater outside your lungs. So when you let the air out (exhale) you are equalizing the pressure. So you breathe in and out because of differences in air pressure. The air is moving from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure."

We then transition into the two weather instruments, the wind vane and anemometer, by reading out the associated notes on the first page of the Video I & Notes resource. When each is introduced, I show them the demos that I've purchased (see Lesson Introduction for links!), and quickly demonstrate how the anemometer works with my fan setup (the air isn't powerful enough to really move the wind vane, but it's helpful and interesting for them to see up close - especially for my students who grew up in the city). 

On the next page, you'll see an excerpted weather report from that day. I ask, based on the notes we read, "what direction is the wind blowing from" (the northwest) and "what direction is the wind blowing toward" (the southeast)." This is to emphasize the (often confused) point that wind is always labeled after the direction that the winds blow from

 Then, we participate in some short, Regents-based practice that I ask the students to participate in independently. After about 2 minutes of silent work time, we get the chance to collectively review before transitioning into the first video, which is embedded below:

If you have time (and you may not), have the students just watch the video the first time, as they often get sucked into following along with the posted/guided notes and trying to figure out what to put next - often causing them to miss essential and important information and visuals in the actual video. Either way, it's likely you'll have students who have notes only partially filled in, so feel free to consult the embedded comments in the Word document (posted in the Lesson Introduction) for the associated answer key. 

As a final check/CFU in this section, I ask students to use the Earth model on the last page of the Video I & Notes resource to label the areas of the globe where most of the heat is concentrated (the Equator) and where the heat isn't concentrated (the Poles) and then connect that to rising/falling air and air pressure. We then annotate the model by drawing a convection cell of rising air at the Equator and similarly falling air at the poles.

Video II & Notes

20 minutes

In similar fashion to the first video in the above section, there is another (embedded) video below, with associated notes on the first page of the Video II & Mini-Practice resource. 

On a similar note, it may be helpful (although not possible) to play the video twice, and necessary to conference with the class to fill in any "missing" information on the video notes section. 

Post-video, there is a scientific text for students that summarizes the information in the videos by getting into the scientific applications of how wind is formed. I ask students to read the text together in groups, making sure to answer any of the embedded comprehension questions as they read together. After giving them about 4-5 minutes to do that in partners/small groups, we collectively go over their responses to those comprehension questions before launching the practice section for the day. 

Exit Ticket & Closing

5 minutes

In the last few minutes of class, I have students complete the daily Exit Ticket. For the sake of time, I have students grade them communally, with a key emphasis on particular questions and items that hit on the key ideas of the lesson (Note: This usually manifests as students self-grading, or having students do a "trade and grade" with their table partners). After students grade their exit tickets, they usually pass them in (so that I can analyze them) and track their exit ticket scores on a unit Exit Ticket Tracker. 

After students take a few seconds to track their scores, we usually wrap up in a similar way. I give students time to pack up their belongings, and I end the class at the objective, which is posted on the whiteboard, and ask students two questions:

  1. Do you feel that you mastered the objective for the day?
  2. Can you reiterate one thing you learned about (in this case, information on wind speed or weather instruments, etc.)?

Once I take 2-3 individual responses (sometimes I'll ask for a binary "thumbs up/thumbs down" or something similar), I have students leave once the bell rings.