Sweltering Summer - Measuring Temperature

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SWBAT discuss characteristics of summer temperatures in their location and around the United States.

Big Idea

There is a general pattern to summer temperatures in the lower 48 states but there is variation within regions.


15 minutes

I teach this lesson at the very start of the year, so I remind students that vocabulary will be part of our routine.  

Note to the teacher:

After the initial vocabulary lesson at the start of a unit, the vocabulary lesson will be conducted more rapidly or  I teach it during part of my English Language Arts block or as part of their morning work.  This is the first week of school, so I am spending longer with all the sections and retaining more teacher control.  As I get to know my students and they learn the routines of our classroom, they will be gradually released until about 85-90% of the time they are working actively and I am facilitating.


I will use stars (*) to denote more advanced questions that I might ask my gifted students.


Vocabulary Routine:

Yesterday I simply gave the students the definition.  Today I add the step where I ask them to think about the definition on their own prior to providing it to them.

1 minute:

I write the word, broken into syllables and I also mark the phonetic sounds.  I have the students write it as I'm writing it as this is a chance to start to improve their handwriting - we write it letter by letter.  We write the part of speech.  They say the word a few times aloud or in their head.

2 minutes:

For each word, I ask them to think (silently) about what the word means and be prepared to share.  I do not let them talk as I count to 20 in my head.  I am a big believer in think time!

Then I either have them share their idea/definition with a neighbor and I listen in, or I call on a few students randomly.  

3 minutes:

Then I give them the definition in my own words and ask them to repeat some of it to a neighbor.  I give them a model sentence and then have them create a sentence of their own.  I will add more to this routine later but his is how I structure it at the start of the year.

Here are the words:

Sweltering Summer Vocabulary



Guided Discussion

15 minutes

I tell students that today we will continue what we started yesterday, our discussion of seasonal weather, focusing on summer right now because that’s the current season!  (We start school at the beginning of August).  We go over the data for last night’s temperature, today’s early morning temperature, precipitation, humidity and wind direction. 

I use the following prompts to initiate discussion, and I have them write some of the responses in their new science journals.    I explain to them that we are focusing on characteristics of the weather, not what people do during the summer. 

  • Summer is a season when…
  • The temperature in the summer is (always, sometimes)…
  • In the summer it…
  • In the summer there are…

Why do we have summer?

I model how to exchange ideas with another student and then have them briefly exchange thoughts with each other about what characterizes summer weather.

I enter their observations onto simple chart that I project using my document camera.  I call on about 6-9 students, not all 30!  I always encourage students who want to share and don’t get a chance to come up and tell me later/ add their information to the chart. 

Notes for the teacher:  (For a science journal, you can use a notebook and have them write straight into it or you can staple in pages.  Another option is to hole punch papers and put them in a small (1/2 inch) 3 ring binder, which can also hold notebook paper for journal prompts and basic note-taking.)

**Teachers, if you would be willing to share what your students wrote yesterday, and their observations today, I would love to compile this information into a brief little movie showing the responses of students all across the United States.  I think children would find that interesting.  I would post it within this lesson.





Guided Practice

15 minutes

I pick 4 locations in the United States and use weather.com, and  accuweather.com to pull up the day's weather.  For each location, I use Google Earth to give them an idea of where the location is in relation to our city, as well as to start introducing the idea of latitude lines as a way to describe north-south location.  Here is an example of how I do this: Looking at the Weather Around the U.S. Here is a static version of the temperatures in four different states in July, 2014.

Students create and fill in a table in their science notebooks or, as a time-saver, you could use one of these documents: Student Temperature Chart with Four Locations or Student Temperature Chart Blank.


Active Engagement

15 minutes

In this part of the lesson, students will work at a computer with a partner to look up 5-10 different locations in the United States.  They will record the temperature for each location.  I do not have them use Google Earth yet, as it's very easy to become sidetracked.  They simply use one of the weather sites.  

As they are looking up and recording the data, I walk around and confer with them so that this isn't simply a search and find task.  Questions I ask might include:

Do you notice a pattern?  What is it?

Are the temperatures more similar/more different than you expected? How so?

Why do you think the temperature in _________ is so much lower/higher than the temperature in __________ if it's summer in both places?  Isn't the summer supposed to be hot?



5 minutes

For their homework tonight, I will ask students to record 5 of the locations on the graph and fill in the temperature for each one.  I have provided a Blank Temperature Graph  with more than 5 columns because there are always some students who want to do more.  That is one of the many joys related to teaching in a gifted classroom!  I ask them to repeat the directions, step by step, to make certain that they understand.  As this is a start-of-the year lesson, I also take a moment to remind them that the value of homework is to give them a chance to think a bit more about something we've done in class during the school day.  I explain that a different kind of learning occurs when one goes away from a topic and returns to it after a little time has passed.  I also let them know that I hope they will use this as an opportunity to talk to their caregivers about what they have done in school today!