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Teaching Through Trade Books

Weather Versus Climate: What’s the Difference?

Science and Children—November/December 2020 (Volume 58, Issue 2)

By Christine Anne Royce

While weather in an area may vary from day to day or have different seasonality, climate represents a longer-term condition but is still related to one’s location. For example, deserts have a dry climate, whereas tropical climates are warm and wet. Weather and ultimately climate are influenced by several factors, including geography, location on Earth, and the heating of the atmosphere and oceans. In this issue’s activities, young students focus on identifying the daily weather with multiple days of data being combined and examined over time to help students see patterns. Intermediate grade students take their initial understandings and expand on them to recognize that patterns of typical weather conditions form a region’s climate.

This Month’s Trade Books

What Will the Weather Be?

What Will the Weather Be?

What Will the Weather Be?

Lynda DeWitt
Illustrated by Carolyn Croll
ISBN: 978-0062381989
32 pages
Grades preK–3


Just what will the weather be? Simple diagrams and strategically placed questions, help young students consider exactly what the weather is and the different types of weather they may encounter. Information about how meteorologists predict the weather is also included in the story.

Climate Maps

Climate Maps

Climate Maps

By Cynthia O’Brien
ISBN: 978-0778744962
Crabtree Publishing Company
32 pages
Grades 3–5


This nonfiction informational text helps the reader explore and understand what climate zones are and where in the world different climate zones are found. There are additional topics related to climate changes such as El Nino/La Nina and extreme weather. Activities for students are included.

Grades K–2: What Will the Weather Be?


  • What Will the Weather Be? 
  • Clothing that you would wear in the rain or snow or other particular type of weather
  • Weather Chart for the Classroom
  • Weather Symbols for the Chart
  • Weather Reports
  • What’s the Weather Student Data Sheet, Calendar Outline (see NSTA Connection)

Purpose: Students describe the type of weather in a location and draw conclusions about how the weather changes over time.

Teacher note: This investigation should be carried out over several days or weeks where students are engaging in recording the weather each day. Often, discussing the weather is incorporated into morning meetings if physically in a classroom. If students are in a virtual setting, teachers may want to ask students to look outside their window and respond to a simple poll such as “What is the weather outside your window?” with options being sunny, cloudy, raining, snowing, etc. Depending on the size of the geographic area a school draws from, students may have different types of weather, which would be a great discussion starter.


Come to class dressed as if you were going to go outside in a rainstorm— a rain coat, boots, rain hat, or umbrella would be perfect props to help students consider the following statement and questions.

  • “So today I’m dressed for a particular type of weather, can anyone tell me what that might be? How do you know?”
  • What are some other types of weather that we experience? Can anyone tell me when we have those types of weather?

After engaging students in a discussion about weather, ask the students to consider how long weather lasts? This will probably be a puzzling question to young students, share with them information about local weather over several days that has been collected in advance. Beginning with prompts of “who can tell me what the weather is today? Yesterday?” and so forth going back a few days. After that expand the questions to help focus them on different time periods such as “Does anyone remember if we had any rain last week? Between then and now, what kind of weather did we have?” These initial discussions engage students and focuses their thinking around different types of weather conditions.


Ask the students to collect information about the weather each day over a period of time and record their information in a central location for the classroom or in an online format. A minimum of two weeks is needed for comparison purposes, but incorporating information gathered from a longer time frame will better assist in detecting the patterns. As part of the process each day, keep the following question available to help remind students of the focus: What is today’s weather? How is it similar or different from yesterday’s weather? During the morning meeting or another designated time, ask the students to record the following information on their data sheet: the weather that day using one of the labels listed and a description of the weather as it relates to their daily lives (i.e., it is rainy and cool out today, so we won’t be able to do recess outside), and the temperature at the time it is observed (which should be a similar time each day).

Allow students to engage in conversation about the weather or ask questions that they have. As part of the discussion, prompt students by asking questions that will help them discuss the weather: Can you compare the weather today to weather yesterday or over the weekend, or last week? Why did you say today was (insert weather such as sunny) instead of saying it was (insert weather that might be used such as partly sunny/partly cloudy)? Discussions such as these will help students develop their own explanations for terms and start to see weather patterns. As this will be a carried out over a period of time, help the students record the questions they have on a piece of chart paper, which will allow students to return to the questions later as they learn more about weather.


Read What Will the Weather Be? to the class, stopping to discuss the different questions below. Please note that there are no questions connected to pages 22–27 as that content is above grade level. Teachers can choose to skip these pages or include them if they desire. As the book is shared with the students, ask them to not only answer the question posed about the story but also to connect their answer to the information and data that they collected.

pp. 4–7 In the photos, there are some clues to things that we use during different types of weather, who can spot one of these items? What kind of weather was happening outside? How much snow are they predicting? What happened to the amount of snow?

pp. 8–11 Some new words are used in this story—forecast and predict—who can try and explain these terms based on our book and activities? What helps weather change? What kind of new air might blow into an area to help change the weather?

pp. 12–17 When cold air blows in to an area, what type of weather are we likely to have? When warm air blows in to an area, what type of weather are we likely to have?

pp. 18–21 Who are the scientists that help us predict or forecast the weather? In the pictures, there are different types of instruments that help meteorologists. What do the instruments measure? How do the pictures help to show what the instruments measure and more about the type of weather?

pp. 28–29 How does knowing what the weather is at a different location help meteorologists predict the weather in your area?

pp. 30–32 What are ways that the weather forecast can be shared with people?


Explain to the students that they have been asked by their principal to assist some local meteorologists who will be giving a presentation to students who have moved to your city from a different state. The students and parents want to know what kinds of weather happens here and what they should expect so they can have clothes ready. When the meteorologists arrive at the school, they drop their notes and need help putting them back in order. While organizing the information, they realize that they have also lost some of the information and will need help to fill in the missing parts based on the student’s knowledge of the weather.

Provide students with a series of weather reports that have been simplified (see NSTA connection). These reports are general enough that they allow students to talk about the basics of weather such as temperature, precipitation, type of day (sunny, cloudy, etc.) over a series of days. In classrooms with younger students, assist the students in extracting the information and recording it on a calendar. Older students may be able to work on this task in small groups with sets of materials.

As students look at the information presented on the reports, ask them to transfer the information to the calendar outline. They will notice that there are a few days that are missing reports, so they don’t know what all of the information is. As they look at the blank spots on their calendar, ask them to try and predict what the weather may have been by looking at the information the day before and the day after the missing information. Guide them through this process with questions such as: “If the temperature is missing, what was the temperature the day before? What about the day after? While we may not know exactly what the temperature was, we can predict what it might have been with the information we have.”


While young students may have an awareness of the weather, it is important to first determine their understanding about how weather changes over time and how people adapt to the weather. By asking students to think about and identify the weather over a short time period, they are starting to identify weather types and possible patterns that emerge in their location. Students are then asked to connect their experiences with the information from the text. Finally, students take what they know about patterns of weather, how weather affects a person’s life, and develop a presentation for future kids at their elementary school.

Grades 3–5: Considering Climates


  • Climate Maps
  • pictures representing each climate zone
  • clothing pictures for each climate zone
  • news articles
  • Climate Zone Ambassador Templates
  • I’m in the Zone Student Sheet
  • Climate Zone Teacher Information Sheet (see NSTA Connection).

Purpose: Students use different media sources and current news articles to examine how climate regions in the world differ.


Break students into six different groups and provide them with a series of pictures that represent the clothing that they might wear in a variety of different climate zones and pictures that represent each of the zones. (Teacher note: Different sources often call these zones by slightly different names. For these lessons, the six zones will be Temperate, Polar, Tropical, Arid/Desert, Mountains, and Mediterranean.) Place a copy of each picture across the front of the room and pose the following question to the students “What clothing would you want if you lived in each of these locations?” Allow students to try and match the pictures of clothing to the different areas and ask the students to explain why they made the different matches. Additionally, ask the students to try and locate where on Earth the picture might represent. As students are describing their reasons for the matches, prompt them to explain more when they get to a particular reason related to the weather, temperature, and climate. Once students have finished their descriptions, present the students with the terms weather and climate and have them brainstorm what they might know about each and complete the “what do we think we know about each of these climate regions?” part of their student information sheet “I’m in the Zone” (see NSTA Connection).


After allowing students to generate their initial understanding of weather and climate, ask the students to consider if the weather is always the same in that location, how it might change over time, and what they know about weather in different areas of the Earth. Keeping the students in their original small groups, distribute the following materials to each group: Climate Maps book; news articles about various locations (see NSTA Connection). Students should also keep their I’m in the Zone sheet available. Note to teachers, this particular book is used as a reference for students rather than a read-aloud in which students ask questions or engage in the storyline.

Ask the students to use the information they find in the news articles, the book Climate Maps, and other resources to generate a list of characteristics about each area specifically related to location, weather, and patterns. Ask them to consider patterns that develop related to weather. As students begin to engage in the discussion about information, ask them to not only list things that the articles have in common but also things that they notice are different about the articles, locations, weather, etc. By prompting students with some possibilities about what to examine, it will help them focus in on the different types of weather each location has over other factors about the areas. Questions could include: When you examine the different regions, what do you notice about the temperature ranges? What about the amount of precipitation? If you were to place these locations on a map, what do you notice about where they are located?

As students use the different resources for each climate zone, ask them to focus on items that relate to what the weather may be, what temperatures the region has, and if there are different seasons in that area.


Ultimately after the investigation, students should be able to answer the overarching questions of What is a climate zone? What are the different types of climate zones in the world? Assign each group one particular climate zone and tell them that they are going to serve as climate zone ambassadors and they need to create a presentation for their climate zone to share with their peers. The presentation should provide the key information about a climate zone that they were researching, reasons why it would be a great place to visit, what types of clothing they should plan on packing when they visit, and point out where on the map this particular climate zone can be found (see Internet Resource). As student groups give their presentation, ask the other groups to collaboratively look at the information they originally recorded about the different climate zones to compare their answers.


Continuing to work in their groups with an assigned climate zone, ask the students to develop a postcard or travel flyer that they can use as an ambassador to encourage people to visit different their climate zone. Templates for each are provided for the students (see NSTA Connection). Depending on the age level of the student and ability for them to work independently on a creative project, the teacher may choose to assign particular locations within that climate zone. Different cities that would fall within these zones can be found on the Climate Zone Information page for teachers (see NSTA Connection).


Students are asked to share observations about locations in the world and connect their observations about the type of weather to types of clothing that one would wear. Once students have made descriptions of the idea of weather, they begin to connect the patterns of long-term weather to climate zones and then begin to differentiate between characteristics in climate zones on Earth. Finally, students develop a presentation and flyer about an assigned climate zone.

Internet Resource

Climate Zones Map

NSTA Connection

Find a list of alternate books, student data sheets, and other resources at

Earth & Space Science Literacy Teaching Strategies Elementary

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