Smog in our Atmosphere

7 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Student will be able to define smog and discuss its impact on humans as demonstrated through class discussion, watching a video, performing a reading, and answering questions.

Big Idea

Smog is a mixture of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that combine with sunlight to form ozone. Smog, which develops from behaviors such as burning coal and driving cars, can have a negative impact on human life.


In this lesson students continue to learn about earth's atmosphere in terms of how smog is formed and the impact of smog on the earth.  Additionally students learn about how scientists study smog and have improved the smog situation.

  • This lesson does not align with any specific NGSS Performance Expectation; however, I feel that my students are interested in the environment and that this concept is a nice way of tying the unit's goal of helping students understand gases in the atmosphere with the important issue of smog and pollution.
  • This lesson also aligns with the Next Generation Science and Engineering Practice 8: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information.  It does so because students are reading about smog in order to improve their understanding of the topic.

For this lesson the only resource needed is some type of ball for popcorn reading.


10 minutes

To begin this lesson I take the time to see what students already know about smog. 

  • To do this I pose the question to students, "What is smog?" on the first slide of the PowerPoint
  • I encourage students to think about the question on their own first, then share with the partners at their tables. 
  • As students finish thinking and sharing I call on students to share out.
  • Some of my students did not know what smog is, but from others these are some of the ideas that I heard:
    • smog is pollution
    • smog is bad
    • smog is black
    • smog gets things dirty
    • cars produce smog
    • factories cause smog


10 minutes

To help students prepare for the reading in the lesson I have them fill out an anticipatory set at the top of their Graphic-organizer.   I adapted this set from the resources on page 16 of the Chem Matters Teacher's Guide.

To do this I give students about 5 minutes to read through the anticipation set and choose either A for Agree or D for Disagree.  I tell them that it is okay if they are not sure, but to just pick the one that seems like the best option to them.  As students are working I walk around to ensure that they are all on task.  I also make sure that students are only filling in the first column and let them know that we will revisit this as we read.

I tell students that if they are done early that they should discuss with the people at their tables while they are waiting for others to read.

This is one example of a student's responses.

As students are completing the anticipatory set I go through slides 2-4 of the PowerPoint to give them a better visual of smog.  These include pictures of Los Angeles, China, and Egypt.


35 minutes

In this part of the lesson I have students read the article In the Fog about Smog

We read the article out loud as a class using the strategy of Popcorn Reading.  To learn more about this strategy see my reflection in my "Ionic, Covalent, and Metallic Bonds" Lesson.

I pause the reading on the second page before the section labeled Taming the Culprits in order to give students a minute to look back at their anticipatory set at the top of their Student Graphic Organizer.  I tell them to look over the statements and determine if they now have evidence to either support or refute the statements.  They should then indicate whether or not they agree with the statements at this point.  I also tell them to make sure to cite where the evidence is located in the article.  At this point students should be able to answer the 2nd and 3rd statements.

I then continue Popcorn Reading until the end of the article and then again have students revisit the statements.  At this point they should be able to complete answers to the statements. 

Here are several examples of students responses.  Notice how students views changed over the course of the activity and the varying degrees of citing that students used.

As students complete their analysis of the anticipatory set I have them share at their tables in case they have a hard time finding the evidence.


10 minutes
  • After the article I show students the video Keeping Tabs on Air Pollution from Space
  • As I show the video I put on the subtitles.  They are not perfect but are helpful for my students, especially my English language learners.
  • This video gives a summary of some of the information from the article and also gives students a better visual of how scientists study the earth's atmosphere.
  • When students are done watching the video I have them answer the question in the middle of their Graphic organizer, "What are some of the things that the Aura satellite detects".


10 minutes

As a closure for the lesson I have students reflect on what they have learned.   I show them the last slide of the PowerPoint and have them explain what they learned about smog on the back of their Graphic Organizer.  

Here are some examples of student responses:

Fog smog student 1: This student did a good job explaining some of the parts of the article which increased their learning.

Fog smog student 2: This student also did a good job of explaining what they learned.

Fog Smog student 3: This last student did what some of my lower level students tended to do which was just write a quick sentence on the front of the paper.  Although I wrote that they should write their answer in a complete sentences on the back, many of my students ignored that and just tried to fit in a bit of information on the front of their papers.