Weather & Temperature

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SWBAT define weather and differentiate between weather and climate | SWBAT define temperature and correctly read a thermometer to determine the temperature of an object | SWBAT identify radiation, convection, and conduction as the three (3) main types of heat transfer

Big Idea

This is a busy lesson! In this introductory lesson, students identify thermometers as the instruments used to measure temperatures, examine kinetic energy as a function of molecular movement, and then examine the differences between weather and climate

Lesson Introduction

Welcome to Unit 5, which is our unit on Meteorology! In this introductory lesson, we definitely have a lot going on. We do a (very) brief introduction to temperature and Fahrenheit and Celsius conversions (something they've done in previous years in their scientific learning), differentiating between weather and climate, and then figuring out and defining the three (3) main types of heat transfer: convection, conduction, and radiation. As a note, while students don't need to arrive with any prior knowledge or context, they should definitely be familiar with basic units of temperature measurement and how to read a thermometer. Additionally, there area  few materials needed (posted below) for a brief demonstration on heat transfer that's done toward the middle of the lesson (so everything should be set up before kids arrive!).

Materials Needed:

  • Hot Plate/Heat source to heat beaker of water
  • Water beaker or heat-safe container
  • 500 - 1000 mL of water
  • Food Coloring
  • Small prizes 
  • Thermometer 

[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: 5.1 - Weather & Temperature (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: 5.1 - Weather and Temperature [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 from their unit on Insolation, with a generic focus on some standards in which the entire grade needs a bit of extra help and support. 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; (again, this is a bit different, as they are reviewing for the quarterly Interim Assessment)
  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).


10 minutes

In the start of our lesson at the start of your unit, I wanted to start our meteorology and weather section with a focus on Temperature, what students most generally associate with the state of the atmosphere. I usually start it off by having students attempt to guess the correct temperature in the room. I have a thermometer ready to check, and give students the opportunity to guess, with a prize for the student who gets it right (I had a small piece of candy that the winner received).

Then, once they know the room temperature in Fahrenheit, I ask them to give me the same temperature, but in Celsius. Generally speaking, some of them aren't as sure how something like 65 degrees Fahrenheit is converted to Celsius, so I ask them to look in their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] on Page 13 to find two printed thermometers with printed degrees in Fahrenheit, Kelvin, and Celsius, respectively. After introducing this, we then read the paragraph at the top of the Temperature resource. 

Weather & Heat Transfer

15 minutes

After briefly covering information on temperature and the location of thermometers in their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT], I then introduce concepts of Weather & Heat Transfer, where we define weather and the process of heat movement, which ultimately drives the processes of energy and weather around the globe. 

At the top of the Weather & Heat Transfer resource, I posted the daily weather report (this was a screen capture from The Weather Channel) and give them the chance to look it over for a few seconds. Then, I ask them if any of the terms stand out to them, and a few students usually volunteer to point out their recollections of various points of the weather report. I then transition by indicating that all of these facets of the weather are going to be covered in the unit, but it's also essential that we collectively define what weather is, and how it's different from something we also call climate. 

I then ask students to turn to their partners and read the two paragraph selection on the bottom of the Weather & Heat Transfer resource. After, I ask students to read the small scenarios and select between if the questions are addressing phenomenon associated with either weather or climate. 

We then have a very brief demonstration that I have for students. I have two beakers, one filled with still, cold water, while the other beaker is brought to a rolling boil. I first take the cold water in the first beaker and ask students to observe as I drop a couple of drops of food coloring into the water. The food coloring will begin to slowly diffuse. I then do the same with the beaker with the boiling water, which will completely diffuse almost immediately (Note: This can also be done with raisins). Students can see that the speed of diffusion is much higher with the hot water, meaning that as the water's heat rises, the molecules in the water are actually moving faster (remember - and kids don't need to know this in terms of the Earth Science course - temperature is the average kinetic energy of a substance, so a higher temperature indicates molecular movement is higher) which I then use to illustrate the process of convection, conduction, and radiation. To note, some information below for your use in extrapolating the ideas here:

  • Radiation: This is when electromagnetic energy (or infrared waves, or heat waves) travel through a medium. A real-life example is if you put your hand near a warming hot plate, you can feel the heat on your hand without actually making contact
  • Conduction: This is when heat transfers through physical contact. A real-life example is the glass beaker (or, unfortunately, your hand, if you were to touch it accidentally) touching the hot plate, and the beaker's temperature rising as a result. You could also say that the water is in contact with the hot glass, which in turn heats up the water
  • Convection: This is the hardest for students to "get," but this idea is effusive throughout the course (and something they'll see throughout this unit). This is when heat transfers though differences in density. A real-life example is when the water at the bottom of the beaker, closest to the hot plate, gets heated more than water at the top of the beaker. That water then starts moving around more, becomes less dense (as the molecules slowly spread apart) and then rises. This causes the less dense colder water to sink, which is then heated, repeating the cycle over and over again.

I use the beaker to answer the following questions based on a drawn image of the hot plate/beaker system. The below is excerpted from one of my embedded lesson comments, but the questions usually flow in the following fashion:

  • How is the beaker getting hot (touching the heat source)?
  • What process of heat transfer is this (look at picture if not sure)? [Conduction]
  • How is the water then getting hot? (touching the beaker/heat source)
  • How does the heat spread throughout the water? (Water heated at the bottom rises because it is less dense, which causes the colder water to sink and get hot, which in turn rises. This creates a convection cell).
  • If I put my hand over the burner, what type of heat am I feeling? [Radiation]

After this explanation, we read the information in the Weather & Heat Transfer resource before we arrive on official definitions (Note: I have embedded definitions listed in the Word document at the top of the web page, but I often rely on students in the classroom to generate vocabulary).  


20 minutes

The Practice section in this lesson is, unlike the vast majority of questions found in all of my classwork and homework, is not 100% Regents-based. In this context of being such a basic and introductory lesson, while there are a few Regents-based problems here, I really wanted to take the time to emphasize the distinction between heat transfer with some questions applying their newfound knowledge (confusing and alternating the definitions is a frequent error seen with questions of this type). I think it's only important to emphasize the key points of the lesson on a basic level, especially since the lesson itself is so information-dense with the amount of material covered in a single period. 

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 - here is a video example of me reviewing with some of these strategies) to go over the responses, where students correct their work and ask any clarifying questions. 

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, focusing on the main types of heat transfer, defining weather, 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.