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Lesson Plan

Weather Detectives: Questioning the Fact and Folklore of Weather Sayings

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Weather Detectives: Questioning the Fact and Folklore of Weather Sayings

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Six 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Storm Fink

Lisa Storm Fink

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



From Theory to Practice



Before there were weather tools, people looked to the sky, plants, and animals for hints about what the weather would do. To remember these indicators, people coined weather sayings. But are these sayings true and reliable? This lesson explores the truth and reliability of weather-related sayings, such as, “Mare's tails and mackerel scales make tall ships take in their sails.” Students brainstorm weather sayings then investigate the accuracy and origins of the sayings in predicting the weather, using print and online resources in their research. Next, students write about and illustrate their weather sayings then share their results with their classmates. Finally, students discuss skepticism and when it may be a good response to information that is presented to them as fact.

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What happens when we invite students to ask questions about the "facts" they hear and read? By encouraging students to adopt a skeptical stance, teachers urge students to keep the inquiry process in motion. In the inquiry-based classroom, students are encouraged to question and explore ideas and skepticism and doubt are the cornerstone of this process.

In "Learning Is Born of Doubting: Cultivating a Skeptical Stance," David J. Whitin and Phyllis Whitin explain that "Learning is born of doubting . . . Skepticism drives a person's need to know, and it contributes to collective understanding. Skepticism is the force that keeps inquiry in motion. Without skepticism, knowledge is reduced to the fossilized remains of unquestioned facts and unchallenged assumptions" (123). Like the birdwatching project that Whitin and Whitin describe, this lesson plan asks students to become "relentless detectives who persist in asking two key questions: Why? and Why not?" (Siegel & Carey, qtd. in Whitin & Whitin, 128).

Further Reading

Whitin, David J. and Phyllis. "Learning Is Born of Doubting: Cultivating a Skeptical Stance." Language Arts 76.2 (November 1998): 123-129.

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