Land & Sea Breezes

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SWBAT characterize land and sea breezes

Big Idea

Students look at the meteorological conditions that lead to land and sea breezes on the coastline

Lesson Introduction

In this lesson, we discuss and explore an important phenomenon that related to our recently learned concept of specific heat - land and sea breezes. We get into the exact why and how behind the formation and types of coastal wind patterns, and we explore in detail how specific heat plays a major role in the pattern of winds over the course of the day. I always appreciate lessons that very directly explain a commonly experienced phenomenon, and my students, living so close to the ocean in NYC often have the ability to make those very important self-to-content connections that help transition the material into their long-term memories. As a final note, there are no special materials 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: 6.4 - Land & Sea Breezes (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: 6.4 - Land & Sea Breezes (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 Climate (as well as a review question from the previous Meteorology unit). 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 & Text

25 minutes

I introduce land and sea breezes via a presentation of two images on the first page of the Introduction & Text resource. Primarily, I think it's super important to connect the previous lesson's material, as it very directly explains the formation of both of these coastal breezes. The following section is excerpted directly from my attached Word comments (available in the Lesson Introduction section), but I think it fully encapsulates what I'm trying to do with the images. For example, here's what I do with the first image:


Say: “On a hot summer day, let’s think about specific heat and what we learned about the difference between water and soil. Which one, water or land, will heat up faster? [Land]

Why? [It has a lower specific heat]

So, what will happen to the air above the land when if it’s warmer than the water? [Pressure will decrease – air will rise]

Then, what will happen? [The air from the ocean will rush in to replace it – air always moves from high to low pressure]


I then reverse that with the bottom image (the land cools down faster at night, causing an area of low pressure over the ocean due to its higher temperature, and this uneven heating causes the wind to blow out toward the ocean, which we characterize as an ocean breeze). We also annotate with arrows and images (I use the circled L and H to signify areas of high and low pressure, and arrows to show air movement) so that students see the process unfold on the images.

After this, we transition to a block of text with a slightly different layout than what most of my lessons consist of. In this format, I have students take the time to collaboratively summarize what they've read after each paragraph. I do this for a few reasons, which are detailed more specifically in the Reflection in this section (definitely watch for more information!).

Students work in partners to read through and answer the summarizing questions as they go. At the bottom of the Introduction & Text on the second page, they're tasked with identifying the visual areas of high and low pressure by marking each area with a capital L or H on the images directly.  


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

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:

  • Do you feel that you mastered the objective for the day?
  • Can you reiterate one thing you learned about (in this case, the process of land and sea breeze formation, 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.