In preparing this unit on weather, I have had to keep many things in mind. I had to constantly think about who I was teaching it to. What can these children succeed at and what is too advanced? I also had to think about what my goals were of this unit. What am I striving for them to learn? What skills do I want them to walk away with? I had to keep in mind how and where I would be teaching this unit as well. How do I want to set up the classroom for maximum learning? Will I use whole-class activities, grouping in pairs, centers or a combination of all three? And, lastly, I had to keep in mind when I was going to teach it. I knew I only had a limited number of days in which to teach the unit. This would help me to organize how to teach everything and would also serve to make me limit the number of topics to be covered. I think it would be helpful to the reader to explain all of these factors which played an integral part in the creation of this unit.
This unit was created for my third grade classroom. Of course it could work in any third grade classroom with modifications, but it was specifically designed for the classroom which I have done my student teaching in. The students in my classroom have a tremendous range of knowledge. What I mean by saying this is that some students have advanced knowledge of many aspects of life, while others have minimal knowledge of it. Basically, it is typical of any diverse classroom. The students come from a variety of cultural, racial and socio-economic backgrounds. As a result, this makes planning some lessons difficult. One does not want to teach material that is too difficult for some children and boring for others. I will discuss how I will combat this problem later.
I will be teaching this unit at Yankee Ridge elementary school in Urbana, Illinois beginning on March 25, 1996 during my take-over. The unit will probably last for four weeks, depending on how long we take on the various topics. I do not want to create a time schedule to follow, as this may inhibit the class from taking extra time on subjects of interest! The room I will be teaching it in is an average size, but with 28 students in the class, it seems much smaller. The desks are situated in 5 different clusters of about 6 students in each cluster. This does not leave much room for open areas, but there is a “carpet area” at the front of the room. This is a wonderful spot to gather the children to read books, share stories, share pictures and discuss. There is also ample bulletin board space and chalkboard space. This helps the visual learners and also provides an atmosphere which provides information associated with units in progress. In addition, there is a sink in the room and one rectangle table, which seats about 8-10 students. It is a condensed atmosphere, but all the necessary fixtures are provided.
The classroom is now set up in a way that there are math and reading groups which are grouped by ability. In order for me to teach a fully integrated unit properly, I will not continue teaching ability groups. I am going to teach my unit in a combination of ways. The children will be paired, working in groups, working independently and participating in whole-class activities. This will provide them with a variety of experiences and will allow students to work with others they have not worked with before.
It is my belief that children (and adults) benefit greatly from reading and writing. There is so much to be learned! I have put together a “Weather Book” which the class will read from before discussions in class. The book provides a fun way to introduce various weather topics and provides fascinating facts the children are sure to enjoy. I have also created a journal for the children to write in periodically. There is an entry space for them to write things in nearly every day. I have given the journal a structure in that I provide questions which they are to answer in written form. I have also allowed for creativity by writing open-ended questions. I would like them to write as much as possible during this unit. I felt that the journal was an essential aspect to this unit because not only will it give them a chance to practice their writing skills, but it is evidence of what they understand and what they do not. I will be able to assess their learning by reading their entries. I will be responding to the journals periodically throughout the unit so that I can see where they are in their understanding of weather and help them understand the parts where they were confused. The journals will help me modify my teaching.
As I created my lessons, I kept certain general goals that I had for my weather unit in mind. First and foremost, I want my students to have a greater understanding and appreciation of the phenomena we call weather. I want them to understand the great extent to which weather effects our everyday lives! I also want them to not only know that it is raining, but I want them to understand why it is raining. I want my third graders to see the processes. I am hoping to foster a greater sense of inquiry and interest in science in general. Secondly, I want this unit to be fun. I want this unit to be enjoyed by the entire class. So much can be learned if material is stimulating. I do not want information to be passively learned through a textbook or a lecture. It was my goal to incorporate demonstrations and hands-on experiences that would provoke my third graders to learn and retain information.
A third goal of this weather unit is that I want it to be integrated. I believe that children learn more if information on a unit is presented to them many times throughout the day. I want them consumed by weather for the duration of this unit. I have found PE, music, math, reading, social studies and science lessons all relating to weather. I do not want to teach them isolated facts about weather only at “science time”. I want them learning weather throughout the day, through all subject areas.
My final goal of this unit is that I would like to give the students some practice at using weather instruments. My lessons have the students working with thermometers, rain gauges and barometers. Without a doubt, they will be using more! This gives them the opportunity to be real scientists and mathematicians. It also gives them practice doing things that they will surely need to know how to do later in life. I want this unit to give children knowledge that they will use later in life. It is not my intention to lecture them on material that will be memorized (and forgotten!), I want my students to gain a better understanding of weather, how it works, and how it effects us all!
In order to achieve all of these goals, I had to carefully think through the lessons which I was to present to the class. I only wrote up ten of the lessons though, with out a doubt, I will teach over thirty lessons on weather! The first lesson is an introductory lesson with the purpose of getting the children thinking about weather and getting the children excited about learning more! The second lesson describes the daily calendar activity that the children will be presenting each school day. I felt this important to include, as it will be an extended activity which will occur throughout the unit. The third lesson gives the children an opportunity to learn how to use a thermometer and actually take some temperatures. The next lesson provides the children with the concept of evaporation. Through examples and demonstrations this otherwise difficult concept can be easily understood! The water cycle is the topic of the fifth lesson. Through hands-on activities, observations and recording, the children will put the 3 phases of the water cycle together.
The sixth lesson centers around clouds and how they are formed and the purposes they serve. The next lesson discusses rain and how to set up a rain gauge. This rain gauge will be used in the daily calendar activity. Though language activities run throughout this unit, the eighth lesson is devoted solely to language and literacy. The children will be given the responsibility of creating their own weather book modeled after Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. The last two lessons are social studies lessons. One is an activity relating to “Tornado Alley,” which runs through the United States, and the other calls for the children to hold a debate in the classroom about whether they believe people should unnaturally change the weather or not. I have tried to write up lessons which cover a variety of topics across the range of subjects to create a truly integrated unit. Oftentimes, there is more than one subject area represented in each lesson.
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