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May 16, 2013

Is the world’s climate changing? – Lesson Plan


Secondary science, Geography, Climate change

Estimated Time

Four 50-minute class periods plus additional time for classroom presentation and extension activities. NOTE: Each part of this lesson can be used as a stand-alone lesson for teachers with time constraints.

Grade Level

10-12 (lesson can be modified for lower grades)


Students will:

  1. Use their prior knowledge about weather topics to answer questions on a weather quiz activity that will be used as a starting point for instruction.
  2. Participate in class discussions about weather related topics
  3. Hypothesize about how and why weather patterns and climate may be changing
  4. Use critical reading skills to gather facts about weather and climate changes from selected articles
  5. Conduct research about an assigned weather topic and create an interactive project/presentation that can be used to teach classmates about a weather topic
  6. Work with a partner or group to teach classmates about the selected weather topic
  7. Engage in active listening and active learning strategies while listening to classmates’ weather presentations/projects


Hurricanes, tropical storms, tornadoes, and other extraordinary weather events have been a big part of the news headlines in the U.S. for months. With a record number of named hurricanes and tropical storms and killer tornadoes striking in November, many are asking, “What’s up with the weather?” The winter forecast for much of the U.S. calls for above normal temperatures, with some areas experiencing a winter with temperatures as high as 20 or more degrees above normal. Looking at past weather patterns, weather cycles, and what causes these patterns and cycles can help students understand more about the type of weather events we are experiencing and what is contributing to what many consider to be unusual weather and maybe even a change in the world’s climate.


Part 1: Weather Quiz
  1. To get students interested in the weather topics being discussed, begin by using the overhead or a photocopied version of the Weather Quiz to see what students already know about the topic.
  2. Using the answers to the questions on the Weather Quiz, discuss and teach students basic information about the weather events and topics that are part of the quiz.

NOTE: The Weather Quiz Key contains a number of links to specific Web sites, articles, graphic organizers, and other resources that can be used to teach students basic information about the ideas/events featured in each question.

Part 2: Hypothesizing About the Weather
  1. Once you have completed the class discussion using the weather quiz, ask students the following questions:
    • Is the Earth’s weather changing, or is the weather we have seen this year and in recent years just part of the Earth’s natural weather cycle?
    • Assume the weather is changing. In your opinion what is causing these changes?

    Facilitate a short discussion about this question. Have students use their prior knowledge to hypothesize about the answer to this question.

  2. Direct students to read the following articles in small groups. This can be done by accessing the Web sites directly or by providing printed versions of the articles for students. As students read, they should be thinking about the questions from step 1 above and looking for data that will help them answer the two questions. Students should use the Finding the Facts worksheet to document what they learn.
  3. When groups have completed the Finding the Facts worksheet, conduct a class discussion about what students have learned about the Earth’s changing weather and the factors that could be contributing to this change.
Part 3: Learning About Weather Topics
  1. Divide the class into pairs or small groups. Using the topics listed below as well as those you provide as well, assign each group/pair to conduct research and create an interactive project or presentation that they can use to teach their classmates about the topic they have been assigned. Following the Project Guidelines, each group should be prepared to teach their classmates about what they have learned.Topic List:
    • How Do Hurricanes Form?
    • How Has the Weather Changed in the Past 10 Years?
    • What Causes a Tornado?
    • What is Global Warming?
    • How Do We Forecast the Weather?
    • What are the Effects of Rising Global Temperatures on People, Plants, Animals, and Ecosystems? (this could be split into 4 different projects)
    • What are the Positive Effects of Global Warming?
    • What is the Historically Normal Weather Pattern for Your Area of the U.S. and How has the Pattern Changed Over the Past Ten Years?
    • What Can be Done to Combat Global Warming?
    • Other: create your own project and get teacher approval
  2. Have pairs/groups share their projects with their classmates as they teach them about the topic they have been assigned.

Extension Activities

  1. Using The Farmer’s Almanac or similar resources, create a graph or chart that compares the weather from 10, 20, 50, and 100 years ago. Document precipitation, average temperatures, number of damaging storms (tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, etc.). Using the graphs and charts, draw conclusions about whether or not the weather and climate in your region is changing or has stayed the same over the past century.
  2. Using what you have learned about weather, make a long term weather forecast for your region. Compare your forecast to what experts are forecasting. Provide specific reasons why you forecast the weather the way you did. Keep track of the weather for the following months and go back and assess the accuracy of your forecast at the end of the season.

Lisa Prososki is an independent educational consultant who taught middle school and high school social studies, English, reading, and technology courses for twelve years. Prososki has worked with PBS TeacherSource and has authored and edited many lesson plans and materials for various PBS programs over the past nine years. In addition to conducting workshops for teachers at various state and national meetings, Prososki works as an editor, creates a wide range of educational and training materials for corporate clients, and has authored one book.

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  • Standards

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    Relevant National Standards:
    • Standard 1: Understands atmospheric processes and the water cycle
    • Standard 12: Understands the nature of scientific inquiry
    • Geography
    • Standard 7: Knows the physical processes that shape patterns on Earth’s surface
    • Language Arts
    • Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes
    • Reading
    • Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process
    • Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
    • Listening and Speaking
    • Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
    • Working with Others
    • Standard 4: Displays effective interpersonal communication skills

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