teaching through trade books
Humans have improved their ability to predict when and where severe weather may occur and also understand more about reducing the impact. Using one fictional and one nonfiction story, students are asked to consider how humans approach both understanding signs of extreme weather events and learning how it impacts humans. It is also important to recognize the recent disasters that have occurred in the country and be aware of how those may have impacted your students and their families.
Purpose: Students identify different types of severe weather and determine which ones are more likely to occur in their region.
Begin by sharing the cover of the book Hurricane with the class and ask them if they have ever heard about hurricanes. If so, where, and what do they know? Allow students to discuss their initial thoughts and experiences first. Depending on where in the country the school is located or where they have lived, students may have varied experiences. Now ask students to listen as you read the book through the first time as a story so that they are focused on the storyline. After reading through the book, place the following questions on the board or on chart paper and ask the students to share answers to these questions.
Read through the story a second time, stopping at the following pages to discuss specific points with students and help students connect their answers back to these two questions.
Bringing natural hazards or disasters related to the weather into the classroom is a bit challenging. Therefore, each of the severe weather events utilizes a short video to help the students understand what the event is and where it might happen. For each event, begin by asking the initial question to generate student thinking, followed by showing the video. Following the video, allow the students to work in groups or lead a whole-class discussion around the questions on their Weather Watchers student sheet (see Supplemental Resources). The severe weather events are Thunderstorms, Lightning Storms, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, and Blizzards. The initial question for all the events begins with showing the students a picture (see Supplemental Resources) and asking them to share what they already know about the event. Questions include what is it called? How is it similar to or different from other events? Record this information on chart paper. The specific questions associated with each of the events can be found on their student sheets. As students watch the video, they should use the questions to help make observations about that type of weather and record them.
After students have had a chance to consider each type of severe weather, bring them back together and help them organize their thinking with the following questions:
Ask the students to return to the initial question: What types of extreme weather have you experienced where you live? Ask them to think about what information they would be able to tell people about different types of severe weather if they were asked. Using the Severe Weather Poster Template (see Supplemental Resources), ask the students to create a poster that provides information about a particular type of severe weather using words and illustrations. Once they have completed their individual poster, ask all the students with a particular type of severe weather (e.g., hurricanes) to get together and compare what information they included. Once all the groups have discussed their particular type of weather, ask them to share their posters with the other members of the class.
While severe weather occurs all over the world, students at this level are asked to focus on severe weather in their local area. They are asked to share information about severe weather events they may have experienced. As they learn about specific types of severe weather, they are asked to consider the individual parts of weather such as wind or precipitation that accompany each type. Finally, students are asked to describe different types of severe weather and then select one of those to create a severe weather information poster.
Purpose: Using the topic of tornadoes, students identify ways that humans can learn more about natural hazards to take steps to reduce the impact of the event.
Share page 3 of the book The Tornado Scientist: Seeing Inside Severe Storms with the class and introduce the scientist Robin Tanamachi by explaining that she is a meteorologist who studies tornadoes by “chasing them.” Ask the students to discuss why a scientist would want to chase a tornado when other people are moving away from the tornado. Why do you think it is important to gather information about these events?
The students will break into groups and view the five different tornado videos that were taken by Dr. Tanamachi’s team or others who do the same kind of research. Each video shows a tornado, and along with the video is the data/damage report from the National Weather Service. Some reports include photos. As these reports were written in different years by the National Weather Service, there are different formats and amounts of information included. The process for making sense of these tornadoes is as follows:
After students have had a chance to make observations using the videos, return to the book and read the selected pages and discuss the questions. Ask the students to incorporate their observations and notes from the explore part of the lesson.
General discussion questions also include, how do scientists like Dr. Tanamachi help us better understand severe weather? Look back at the reports. Are there any differences that you notice? Why do you think the National Weather Service provides this type of information after a tornado has hit?
It’s your turn to chase a tornado—well, at least one that has already happened. Select from either of the following tornadoes that were mentioned in the book: May 31, 2013, El Reno, Oklahoma Tornado, and May 22, 2011, Joplin, Missouri Tornado.
Use the Tornado Research Guide (see Supplemental Resources) to help conduct research on the tornado you selected and prepare a report that you could share if someone was looking for more information about these events. (There is a link in the Online Resources for each tornado.) After students have had a chance to conduct their research, ask all of the meteorologists for each tornado to hold a meeting where they confirm their information and data. This can be facilitated by asking specific questions that would have right/wrong answers such as what EF scale was the tornado. Ask the students to also note where there are/are not differences in what they found. Why would there be differences in some data?
Students share their initial understanding about tornadoes and about why a meteorologist would want to chase a tornado. After this initial discussion, they take on the role of storm chasers (after the fact) by watching videos and looking at data about tornadoes to make observations and answer questions. When they return to parts of the book, they are connecting their understanding from the videos to what Dr. Tanamachi discusses in the book about chasing tornadoes. Finally, they are asked to generate their own report after research about a single tornado and confirm their information with other peers.
Lightning Storm https://youtu.be/DQSeWzIkceI
Thunderstorms (Show 1:00-4:00) https://youtu.be/NSGZ1FKDWPs
Tornado1 https://youtu.be/J6PLdRm_KhU (Rozel, Kansas)
Tornado2 https://youtu.be/w8hdDbdR_ks (Tornado in the Witchita Mountains)
Tornado3 https://youtu.be/QbQjvCnLzxg (Poynette, Wisconsin, Tornado)
NWS Data/Damage Report www.weather.gov/mkx/june16_columbiacountytornado
Tornado4 www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kmLkgwFEic (Laomi, IL)
NWS Data/Damage Report www.weather.gov/ilx/15mar2016-tornado
NWS Data/Damage Report www.weather.gov/ict/event_20220430
El Reno Tornado Starting Point https://theweatherstationexperts.com/el-reno-tornado-2013/
Joplin, Missouri Tornado Starting Point www.joplinmo.org/DocumentCenter/View/1985/Joplin_Tornado_factsheet?bidId=