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Stormy Skies Unit
Mystery 2 of 4
How can we predict when it's going to storm?
Mystery 2 image
Stormy Skies Unit Mystery 2 of 4
How can we predict when it's going to storm?
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Discuss:
What’s the worst thunderstorm you have ever experienced?

Have you ever noticed a thunderstorm coming toward you, before it arrives? What clues would you look for to know if a thunderstorm was coming your way?

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Discuss: Look at this map. From what direction do winds typically blow where you live? (Ex.: from east to west?)

Wind Map

So which way should you look to see if bad weather is coming your way?

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Finish your book! Turn to pages 5-6 and fill in the blanks. For the last blank, your teacher will tell you a local landmark to write in—that’s where you can look to see bad weather heading your way.

Pages 5 and 6 of Storm Guide

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Photo #1 of 5

Look at the picture and answer the questions on your handout.

Photo #1

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DISCUSS: Photo #1

Do you think there will be a storm soon? Why do you think that? If you think there will be a storm, how long will it last?

Here’s what we think...

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Photo #2 of 5

Look at the picture and answer the questions on your handout.

Photo #2

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DISCUSS: Photo #2

Do you think there will be a storm soon? Why do you think that? If you think there will be a storm, how long will it last?

Here's what we think...

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Photo #3 of 5

Look at the picture and answer the questions on your handout.

Photo #3

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DISCUSS: Photo #3

Do you think there will be a storm here soon? Why do you think that? Are there any clouds here that you think might change — clouds that you want to keep an eye on?

Here’s what we think...

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Photo #4 of 5

Here's that same beach later in the day. Now do you think a storm is coming? Answer the questions on your handout.

Photo #4

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DISCUSS: Photo #4

Do you think there will be a storm here soon? Why do you think that? Do you think it will be a short storm or a long one?

Here’s what we think...

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Photo #5 of 5

Look at the picture and answer the questions on your handout.

Photo #5

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DISCUSS: Photo #5

Do you think there will be a storm here soon? Why do you think that? Are there any clouds here that you think might change — clouds that you want to keep an eye on?

Here’s what we think...

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Beginning Complete!

You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading, and extension activity in the optional extras.

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Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & exploration which you just completed.

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Readings:

These Common-Core-aligned readings are free with registration on ReadWorks. All readings include comprehension questions.

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Cloud poetry

Poets and scientists both carefully observe and describe the world around them. Develop these skills with your students by having them write poetry about clouds.

  • Read Clouds, a poem that compares clouds to sheep.
  • Show your students pictures of clouds from the Cloudman’s Gallery. Ask students to describe these clouds. Fill the board with cloud words and cloud comparisons.
  • Write a poem that answers a question, like “how does the cloud make you feel?” or “what does the cloud do?” or "what does this cloud make me think about?"
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More Sights in the Sky

Now that your students are watching the sky with their Storm Spotter’s Guide, they may notice these sky sights.

  • Cirrus clouds — These wispy clouds usually signal fair weather. Learn more about them here.
  • Contrails — These white lines that stretch across the sky are clouds that form around small particles that exist in airplane exhaust. Learn more about them here and here.. See photos of contrails here and here.
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Activity: Weather Watcher’s Journal

Have your students keep a daily weather journal — observing the sky, drawing the clouds, noting wind direction and weather (sunny/cloudy, warm/cold, windy/still), and predicting the next day’s weather. (Here’s a form for each day’s observations.)

Each day, discuss what students are noticing. Are there any observations they would like to add to their journal? Have they noticed patterns that help predict changes in the weather?

At the end of a week, review the results. Has students’ awareness of the sky and the weather changed?

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How Far Away Is That Thunderstorm?

It’s easy to figure out how far away a thunderstorm is.

When you see a flash of lightning, start counting off the seconds like this: one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand. Stop counting as soon as you hear the thunder.

Every five seconds you count equals about one mile. So if you counted 5 seconds, the storm is about a mile away. If you see lightning but never hear the thunder, the storm is more than 12 miles away — too far for you to hear the thunder.

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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Exploration
storm clouds by NOAA Photo Library , used under CC BY / cropped
lightning storm by Mary Qin , used under CC BY / cropped, trimmed
thunder storm by Sarah Coyne , used under CC BY / cropped, trimmed
plane flying by Elizabeth Hunter , used under CC BY
plane by TSgt. Michael Haggerty, USAF / heavily modified
clouds seen from plane by Jakec , used under CC BY-SA / heavily modified
cockpit by Airman 1st Class Veronica Pierce, U.S. Air Force / heavily modified
large puffy cloud by Ron Pieket , used under CC BY / cropped
hand break by Ildar Sagdejev , used under CC BY-SA / cropped
man skydiving by skeeze / heavily modified
sky by Kevin Dooley , used under CC BY / heavily modified
man parachuting by skeeze / heavily modified
rain clouds by GPS , used under CC BY / heavily modified
lightning bolt by Unsplash / heavily modified
parachuter by tpsdave / heavily modified
hail by FCB Excalibur , used under CC BY-SA / cropped, adjusted color
cumulus clouds by Colorado Clouds Blog , used under CC BY-SA
wrist watch by stock.tookapic.com
cloud watching by Leland Francisco , used under CC BY / Heavily Photoshopped
cloud formation by epSos.de , used under CC BY
off trail view by Nicholas A. Tonelli , used under CC BY
beach by Darkest tree , used under CC BY-SA
time lapse cloud formation by Mathieu Descombes
cumulonimbious 2 by Sfortis , used under CC BY-SA
cumulonimbious 4 by Neil Tackaberry , used under CC BY-ND
thunder cloud by Neil Tackaberry , used under CC BY-ND
raining cloud by Aislinn Ritchie , used under CC BY-SA
tall cloud by Neil Tackaberry , used under CC BY-ND
bedroom by Amy Gizienski , used under CC BY
map by Ktrinko
grassy area by Nicholas A. Tonelli , used under CC BY
Overview
Grade 3rd
Topic Weather & Climate
Focus Local Weather Patterns, Weather Prediction
Print
Activity Prep

In this Mystery, students learn how to make predictions about the weather by observing clouds and their changes. In the activity, Storm Spotter's Guide, students create a small book to record their notes, identify different types of clouds, and think about wind direction to figure out if a storm is heading their way.

Preview activity

Number of students:
Scissors
30 pairs
Storm Spotter's Guide printout Print 30 copies
Will It Storm? printout Print 30 copies
Will It Storm? Answer Key printout Print 1 copy
Prep Instructions

We recommend students work in pairs. Homeschool students can work alone.

Figure Out Which Direction Weather is Coming From

The wind blows the clouds around. To see what clouds (and possible storms) are coming your way, you need to look into the wind.

windmap

On this world map, arrows show which way the prevailing winds blow in different parts of the world. In the continental United States, winds blow from west to east — so we look to the West to see the weather that’s coming our way. Which way does the wind blow where you live?

Label the Cardinal Directions

Once you know which direction you want to look, use a compass, a compass app on a smartphone, or Google maps to figure out the cardinal directions. Label your classroom walls North, East, South, and West. Find a landmark that will help your students remember which way to look. (Here in San Francisco, we look toward the ocean, which is to our west.)

Overview
Grade 3rd
Topic Weather & Climate
Focus Local Weather Patterns, Weather Prediction