Rain, Ice, Steam: Using Reading to Support Inquiry About the Water Cycle
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- Standards |
- Resources & Preparation |
- Instructional Plan |
- Related Resources |
Rain, ice, and steam—water takes on all three forms as it moves between the land, the ocean, and the atmosphere. In this unit of study, first and second grade students discover the repetitive topic of water. Read-alouds of several books related to the theme are used to introduce the topic of rain, and several hands-on experiments and classroom centers teach students about the water cycle and how it functions. After exploring the different parts of the water cycle, students demonstrate the knowledge they have gained by working in groups to write and perform a play.
From Theory to Practice
- Although the study outlined in this article focused primarily on six low-literacy learners, the researchers concluded that literacy development is likely to occur when language arts and science are connected in the classroom. Students activated prior knowledge, developed their own lines of inquiry, used books to get information, and participated more eagerly in classroom discussion.
- Integrating reading, writing, listening, and speaking is an effective way to improve content area learning in early-childhood classrooms.
- Allowing inquiry to drive lesson planning helps link literacy to the learning of scientific concepts.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin and John Archambault (Henry Holt & Co, 1988)
- Come On, Rain! By Karen Hesse (Scholastic, 1999)
- The Incredible Water Show by Debra Frasier (Harcourt Children’s Books, 2004)
- Food coloring
- Ice cube trays
- White and blue paper
- Plastic bottle
- Potting soil
- Small plants
- Bottle cap or shell
- Plastic wrap
- Rubber bands
- Measuring cups
- Recording of water sounds
- CD player
- Student journals
|1.||Obtain and familiarize yourself with Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin and John Archambault, Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse, and The Incredible Water Show by Debra Frasier.
|2.||Learn about the water cycle using The Water Cycle: Water Storage in Ice and Snow and the Water Cycle Teachers Page. Cluster the information you gather into three categories: evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. You should also familiarize yourself with the student websites for this lesson — Drinking Water & Ground Water Kids' Stuff, The Water Cycle, Drinking Water, and Droplet and the Water Cycle — which contain valuable information about the water cycle as well. In addition, Activities for an Unforgettable Water Study Extravaganza has ideas for helping students write a play about the water cycle.
|3.||Familiarize yourself with the Water Cycle Boogie from the Water Cycle Teachers Page. You will use this song with your students (see Session 2, Step 2).
|4.||Create a chart of the water cycle to share with students. Draw a circle on a large sheet of paper or cardboard and create cutouts of the sun, clouds, rain, the ocean, the ground, and evaporation that you can place in appropriate spots. See a Diagram of the Water Cycle or The Water Cycle for sample charts.
|5.||Prepare materials for the water cycle experiment (see Session 2). You will need a one-liter bottle, potting soil, some small plants, a bottle cap or shell, gravel, plastic wrap, and a rubber band. This experiment will need a sunny corner, warm light, or hair dryer as well. Visit Thirstin's Water Cycle Activity for an explanation of how to conduct this experiment.
|6.||Assemble materials for the evaporation experiment (see Session 3). You will need to make trays of red, green, and yellow ice cubes, including enough so that each student gets one ice cube of each color. You will also need one sheet of white construction paper for each student.
|7.||Write the following list of words from Listen to the Rain on a sheet of chart paper:
|8.||Prepare the following centers for your students to use during this lesson:
|9.||Get a recording of water sounds including running water and rain.
- Practice activating prior knowledge by discussing evaporation, condensation, and precipitation
- Gain knowledge of the water cycle by participating in individual and class experiments through self-directed activity at various classroom centers, and by listening to read-alouds of appropriate books
- Demonstrate how water can be a liquid or a solid and can go back and forth between these two states through classroom experiments
- Synthesize the new information they have learned by taking notes on it and using this information to write and present a play
Session 1: Introduction
|1.||Introduce the topic of rain to students with the goal of accessing their prior knowledge. Questions for discussion might include:
|2.||Explain to students that they will be learning a lot about why it rains, what rain does, and how water works in the environment. Then they will take what they have learned and use it to help them write a play that is designed to teach other students about the things they have learned. Therefore, as they read, listen, and discover information about the water cycle, they are to add this information to their journals. Their notes will help them write the play at the end of the study.
|3.||Ask students to close their eyes and listen for sounds in the classroom. Explain that different environments produce different sounds. Read Listen to the Rain by Bill Martin and John Archambault asking students to think about the different sounds they hear in the book.
|4.||Play the recording of water sounds, one sound at a time, and have the students discuss what they think made the sound and how they can tell.
|5.||Display the chart of words that you created (see Preparation, Step 7). Ask students what they notice about these words. Questions for discussion include:
|6.||Students should spend the remaining time during this session at the centers doing the following activities:
Session 2: Water cycle
|1.||Show students the water cycle chart you created (see Preparation, Step 3). Discuss the importance of each element on the chart.
|2.||Use the Water Cycle Boogie song to acquaint students with the vocabulary terms evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and saturation. Recite the song for students and define the terms as follows:
|3.||As a large group, create the water cycle using the clear plastic one-liter bottle with the top cut off. Place gravel, soil, plants, and water in it, discussing the importance of the balance of each ingredient and what each contributes to the cycle. Seal the bottle with clear plastic and a rubber band. Place in a warm sunny area if possible; if not, a hair dryer will speed the process.
|4.||Show students Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse. Do a picture walk where you ask students how they think watercolor pictures relate to the story, where it takes place and if this location affects the heat and wind levels, and what the hints are that rain is coming. Then read the text.
|5.||When you are done reading, talk about whether they think this book is fiction or nonfiction. Discuss the fact that fictional books can contain facts from nature.
|6.||If there is time, students can return to the following centers:
Session 3: Evaporation
|1.||Review the definition of evaporation from the previous session. Have students discuss with a partner what they think happens to water after it evaporates.
|2.||If weather permits, take students outside to a protected location where they can leave a piece of construction paper until Session 4. If not, select the warmest area in the school, such as a room with windows, near the cafeteria, or in a courtyard, to complete this activity. Give each student a green, a yellow, and a red ice cube and a piece of white construction paper. Students should write their names on the papers, tape them down, and place one ice cube of each color on them so that the ice cubes are not touching.
|3.||Bring the class back together to discuss the experiment. Ask students what they think will happen to the ice cubes. What do they expect to find on the paper when they return? List students' responses on chart paper.
|4.||Students can spend the remaining time in the session at the centers. They can continue the work they started in the Reading or Writing Centers during the previous session or they can work at the Science Center as follows:
Session 4: Precipitation
|1.||Students should get their white construction paper from Session 3. Ask them what happened to the paper and the color. Questions for discussion include: Which color is the strongest? What happened when the ice melted? If the colors mixed, what happened? Write students' responses next to their predictions from the previous session and post in the classroom.
|2.||Talk about evaporation in relation to the ice cubes. Connect it to water in a swimming pool, lake, or puddle in the yard. Where do they think the water goes? What happens with it next? What happens when there is no water to evaporate?
|3.||Review the definition of precipitation. Ask students to list different kinds of precipitation. Questions for discussion include:
Session 5: Application
|1.||Review the definitions of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation and their role in the water cycle using the chart from Session 2. Ask students to share what they have learned about these terms during the previous sessions. They should refer to the notes they have taken in their journals. Write down students' contributions on chart paper.
|2.||After completing the above activity talk about students' findings. Questions to extend discussion include:
Session 6: Play writing
Note: It will take longer than one session for students to complete their play; you can determine how best to give them time to research and write based on your classroom schedule.
|1.||Read The Incredible Water Show by Debra Frasier to students. Explain that they can create a play based upon the information they have already learned just like the students in this story.
|2.||Talk to students about the elements of a play (i.e., characters, script, and props). Explain how songs, visuals, and a story can all be parts of a play and that what sets a play apart is that it is performed. Tell them the class is going to produce a simple play to share the information they have learned about the water cycle with other classes.
|3.||Explain that you will be dividing them into four groups and that each group will write a script to act out. Each group will design their own props, setting, and costumes. At the end, all four groups will come together and determine the best order for all of the scripts to create a four-act play. Be sure to stress that the important part of the play is the information. All other items are to be kept simple.
|4.||Divide the class into four groups (a simple way to do this is to have students count off). There will be one group for each of the following four topics: evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and water cycle.
|5.||Groups should begin work on their sections of the play. Each group will need to:
|6.||Support students in a variety of ways as they work. Make yourself available to answer questions. Make sure that students understand the writing process. Help students to get the props and costumes they need. Create an area of the classroom where students can perform the play and help them create any backdrops they might need to use.|
Session 7: Performance
Invite another class to come and watch the play. When you are finished, conduct a question-and-answer session where students in the audience get to question your students about the water cycle.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Informally assess students' participation at the completion of each whole-group activity and discussion. Are students responding to questions and sharing their research findings?
- Review students' journals for documentation of their research.
- Ask each student to write or draw one point he or she remembers from each section of the play.
- Ask students to explain the experiments you conducted. What were the results? What do these results explain about the water cycle?
- Conduct a whole-class discussion where you ask each student to share something he or she did not know before studying this unit about the water cycle.