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Weather or Not: Lesson

Lesson Objective

Learn the characteristics of tornadoes and hurricanes, and use these characteristics to compare and contrast them.

Level: Middle School


Time needed: Computers, paper, pencils, paper resources; five 40-50 minute classroom periods needed.

Action steps/tasks

  1. Introduce the topic of tornadoes and hurricanes to class. Hold a brief discussion.
    Time to write! Ask your students to share their experiences with hurricanes, tornadoes, or other severe weather events. Possible questions:
a. What would you do if you saw a tornado in your hometown?

b. How might you deal with losing all you own to a tornado or hurricane?

c. What would you take with you if you and your family had to evacuate for a hurricane?
  1. Present the students with their task. They will endeavor to uncover information about tornadoes and hurricanes.
  1. Students will use the following guiding questions:
  • What three conditions are needed to form a tornado?
  • What three conditions are needed to form a hurricane?
  • What causes a storm surge?
  • Upon what is the Fujita wind damage scale for tornadoes based?
  • Upon what is the Saffir-Simpson damage potential scale for hurricanes based?
  1. Using their gathered research, students will work in small groups to create a SpicyNodes nodemap that could be used to teach other students about tornadoes and hurricanes. Their target audience should be elementary school students, or alternately, their fellow classmates (at your discretion). Use this basic outline to create individual nodes and sub-nodes:
A. Tornadoes – A Definition
  1. Three causal factors of tornadoes
  2. How tornadoes are rated (Fujita Scale)
  3. Seasons and areas of prevalence in the U.S.
B. Hurricanes – A Definition
  1. Three causal factors of hurricanes
  2. How hurricanes are rated (Saffir-Simpson Scale)
  3. The Atlantic and Pacific hurricane seasons (Where are they most common? During what months?)
  4. Hurricanes vs. typhoons (differences)
C. Tornadoes and Hurricanes – Comparison
  1. Three similarities
  2. Three differences
  1. Students should assemble their information and work in small groups to discuss their findings. After they have organized their ideas, place students in small groups and have them complete their SpicyNodes presentations. Students can either complete nodes I, II, and III in their groups, or, depending on teacher preference, time constraints, or student abilities, create only one of the three. An idea for the latter would be to have students create their single nodes, and then link to two other students’ nodes, so that they have all three. For example, a student doing a comparison nodemap would need to link to a hurricane nodemap and a tornado nodemap, respectively.
  1. Provide a public service. Assume the role of your local emergency management organization. Use SpicyNodes to create an interactive tool that students, teachers, and other community members can use daily to be advised of weather conditions. What type of information would you be most interested in knowing about? For example:
* Home node: Welcome to Billy’s weather center. Click a node to start:
  • Check school closings
  • What’s today’s weather? (Image/satellite uploads could go here)
  • Weekly forecast
  • Tornadoes
  • Learn about tornadoes
  • Stay safe (or some other kind of advisory, or fun tips)

Assessment/evaluation ideas – Going further:

  1. Use SpicyNodes as an assessment. Use a modified version of the Venn Diagram Rubric as a guide for scoring students’ work.
  1. Work with your language arts, math, and social studies teachers to create a cross-curricular product. Students could create a video podcast incorporating all that they have learned and describing its applications. Students would be responsible for all content, script-writing, props and sets. Have students link their video product to their SpicyNodes presentation.

Ideas for variations/Extentions

Connection to US geography: Tornado alley
Tornado Alley Forecast Center
U.S. Tornado Climatology

Other Resources

Video Clips of Tornadoes and hurricanes from FEMA

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