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SWBAT identify the cause of hurricane storm tracks and the rationale behind their formation and dissipation

Big Idea

Students explore how hurricanes travel, and dive into the conditions that lead to the birth and death of hurricanes around the world

Lesson Introduction

In this lesson, we explore what fuels hurricanes, leads to their formation, and the paths that they follow throughout the world. We learn about their presence as massive low pressure storms; this lesson really lays the groundwork for the major lesson study taking place in the next few days. Once students have all the information they need today (think about today as the introduction of new content, while the next few lessons they get to actually and more creatively apply that content). There are no special materials or equipment needed for this lesson. 

[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: 6.10 - Hurricanes (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: 6.10 - Hurricanes (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

10 minutes

Students come in silently and complete the (attached) Do Now. In this case, the Do Now is a review of material and some "hot standards" from earlier units in addition to some needed review on material from the current unit on the Earth's Surface. 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 the previous day's material;
  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,

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).

Introduction & Video

22 minutes

In the Introduction & Video, on the first page, we introduce the concept of hurricanes (and cyclones, as they're called in the Pacific) by discussing a major natural catastrophe - the Bhola Cyclone that hit Bangladesh in 1970. I introduce this by showing them the image on the first page of the Introduction & Video resource, and then state the death toll (about 300,000 - 500,000 people) before asking students why they think the death toll was so high (The answer is, as explained in the embedded lesson comments in the Word document in the Lesson Introduction, is storm surges. 

Many of my students were very directly affected by recent hurricane events, living in low-lying and coastal areas of New York City, so much of this terminology they already have connections to. But what they often don't know is the idea of storm tracks, that storms and pressure systems often follow the prevailing winds and ocean currents in a specific area. To give students an appropriate visual of this phenomenon, I show them a quick video (embedded below):


While we don't watch the entire thing, when playing the video, I ask them to take stock of the following things:

  1. Where are these hurricanes forming?
  2. What path are they taking after they form?
  3. Where on Earth's surface do they start to dissipate?

From there (after watching the video), I have students look at and attempt to answer the questions listed on the second page of the Introduction & Video resource. While they might not have the actual scientific terminology (i.e. storm tracking) perfectly down, they can say, for example, that they notice a pattern of hurricanes traveling up the east coast of the United States (as they're following the Gulf Stream). Once they take about two (2) minutes to look over and answer the questions on that page, we go over the answers together as a class (this is where, if they're lacking in scientific vocabulary, I'll give them the appropriate definition). 

The final thing I ask them to do is, on the Hurricane Katrina diagram, to indicate the relative air movement around the center of the hurricane. As they've learned, since hurricanes are very low pressure storms, the air will circulate counter-clockwise and inward in the northern hemisphere (clockwise and inward in the southern hemisphere). 


20 minutes

The Practice section in this lesson is, like the vast majority of questions found in all of my classwork and homework, is 100% Regents-based. All of the questions come from prior Regents examinations. Likewise, as I try to generally do with all of my lessons, the questions are mostly organized to get increasingly more difficult and increase in complexity, which is why the harder questions tend to come toward the end.

In terms of student work habits, I tend to sometimes make this decision in the moment, and as a response of what I know about the students and how they're processing the material on, but I'll either ask them to work independently, in partners, or (sometimes) give them the option. Usually, before starting practice, we tend to go over some steps for self-help ("What should you do if you're stuck?"), and I might reference a previously used multiple-choice or free response strategy in order to build their skills while simultaneously learning content (as an example - one popular one we always use - "If you aren't sure what the right answer is, see if you can eliminate some wrong answer choices"). I tend to circulate for compliance and then hone in on specific students while they're doing this. 

After about 10 minutes, we go over their responses. Students who finish early are encouraged to work on the exit ticket (resource below) and double-check their responses. We use a combination of strategies (active voting, cold calling, popsicle sticks, volunteers) to go over the responses, where students correct their work and ask any clarifying questions. 

Exit Ticket & Closing

7 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:

  • Do you feel that you mastered the objective for the day?
  • Can you reiterate one thing you learned about (in this case, information on the path and formation of hurricanes, 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.