Fronts (Day 1/2)

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SWBAT define a front as an interface where air masses meet and identify the four (4) major front types, including their symbols

Big Idea

In the first day of this two-day lesson, students learn about fronts and then begin to create a poster for a front type that they've been assigned and "expert" role in. These will later be used in a gallery walk so all students have the opportunity to lear

Lesson Introduction

Fronts! This is a two (maybe three, depending on the time you take) day lesson detailing everything and anything about front types, travel, symbols, and major characteristics. There's some video, some text, some lab work, and a lot of practice. Keep in mind, if you're just finding this as a result of a search on BetterLesson or through a similar manner, there is a healthy degree of prerequisite knowledge that students need in order to be successful. Information on air masses, cloud formation, density, storm tracking, and general weather are all components that lead to a greater conceptual understanding of front types and systems. Additionally, for whatever reason, this is one of the concepts that I find students struggle with the most throughout the year. Many "get it" fairly quickly, but my most struggling learners have always struggled a bit with it - so bear in mind depending on the group you're teaching!

Final note - as alluded to above, this lesson is designed to be taught over two days, or roughly two (2) full hours of instructional time. You can locate the subsequent lesson here

[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: 5.15 - Fronts (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: 5.15 - Fronts (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 some "hot standards" from the current unit - relating mostly to cloud formation and the air pressure gradient. 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 (here's a photo).

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,
  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).

Videos & Notes

20 minutes

Like in many of my weather-based lessons, this has a technological/visual component associated with it. There are two videos, each with an attached Notes section on the first page of the Videos & Notes resource. 

The notes for 'Video I' are relatively brief and straightforward, while the 'Video II' notes require some more in-depth searching in order for students to capture all that's going on and all that's said. If possible, it may be necessary to play either (or both) videos fully two times, as I've always found that when they have to take notes and watch the video, they end up either doing one of those things really well, or both pretty poorly. 

Video I can be found here (link opens in a new window - it won't embed here), which is a well-illustrated video that also clearly explains the connection between fronts and air masses (which they've covered in a previous lesson). Likewise, Video II can be located here, and it is also embedded below:

Post-video (it's your call whether you want to play one or both of them more than once), we very quickly go over the assembled student notes (key is attached in the embedded Word document in the Lesson Introduction section). We then jump into an introductory text, which we read as a class, which details the basic overview of what a front is and their connecting symbols (the symbols, like the air masses, can be found on Page 13 of the Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT], although they are also on the last page of the Videos & Notes resource). 


25 minutes

This section involves students working in lab groups to get all the information they need on the note-taking template, which is on the first page of the Fronts resource. Essentially, students have to work together to gather the necessary information from the readings (information is included on cold, warm, stationary, and occluded fronts), and then illustrate the actual frontal boundary by drawing the warm/cold air masses and their respective positions, analyzing the text and inputting any weather that is produced as a result of the front, and indicate what happens to the actual air masses (is one rising? getting pushed away?) when these air masses meet at a front (there are some student work samples herehere, and here).

The next few pages after the note-taking template on the Fronts resource all detail the actual information on fronts (pulled from an Earth Science textbook). I've found that for students to fully read through, think (and talk) about, and get down all their notes, it takes at least a full thirty (30) minutes or so. I had my students work on this for the remainder of the class period (as seen here, I use a timer so they can pace their work appropriately), and subsequently ask them to gather in their groups and finalize their notes during the early part of tomorrow's class

While they are doing this (and this should be relatively self-guided from a student perspective), I try to circulate as much as possible to make sure the work is distributed evenly, all are understanding the conceptual nature of fronts, and there are fidelity to the actual directions (for example, making sure that the illustrations are neatly drawn and they encapsulate all the information in the Weather Produced section). As noted above, students have the remainder of the period to work on this - we only stop the lesson to pack up and officially close right before the bell rings.


3 minutes

Since this is a two-day lesson, there is no summative exit ticket yet, as my lessons usually feature. In this case, in the last 2-3 minutes of class, I usually have students take about 30 seconds to put away any materials or deliverables that they need to in order to clear their desks, and I end the class at the objective at the front of the room, 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 front types and associated air masses, 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.