Teaching Weather Conditions with Data and Graphs

Teaching weather conditions? Surprisingly, kids as young as third grade can organize data in tables and graphs. That way, they can describe patterns expected in particular seasons.

Ms. Sanchez Prepares for Teaching Weather Conditions

Our favorite third grade teacher sat at the back table with her teaching partner. As she stared at their earth science standards, her eyes grew wide. “Listen to this,” she said.

NGSS 3-ESS2-1 Represent data in tables and graphical displays to describe typical weather conditions expected during a particular season.

“Whoa,” Mr. Jones responded. “That sounds too sophisticated for our students. Let me see if I can find any resources to address this standard.”

Quickly, he opened his laptop. As he searched, Ms. Sanchez looked over his shoulder.

“What about that one?” she suddenly said. “Kids use data from states in the U.S. They organize it in tables and graphs.”

“Perfect!” Mr. Jones said. “I love how it integrates science and math.”

Ms. Sanchez Begins Teaching Weather Conditions

The following week, Ms. Sanchez was ready. “What weather conditions can we expect each season?” she asked her class.

“Hot in summer and cold in winter,” one student responded.

“Yeah, and snowy in winter too,” another added.

“Can you remember any warm days in winter?” the teacher asked.

A few kids nodded. “One time, my mom washed her car on Christmas Day,” said one. “That year, it was warm.”

“So,” said Ms. Sanchez, “it’s usually cold and snowy in winter. But weather changes from day to day. As a matter of fact, some days in winter may be rather warm.”

Clarifying Climate and Weather Conditions

Next, the teacher displayed an anchor chart. “Weather,” she began, “is the condition of the air outside in a specific place at a specific time. On this map, you see that it’s 58 degrees Fahrenheit and raining in northwest Indiana. At the same time, it’s 87 degrees and sunny in Arizona.”

As she flipped to another anchor chart, she continued. “Climate, on the other hand, describes the weather conditions of a specific place over the course of a year. For example, northwest Indiana has hot, wet summers and cold, snowy winters. Arizona has hot, dry summers and mild, dry winters.”

Ms. Sanchez displayed two more posters that defined precipitation and temperature. “Notice that both weather and climate include both of these.”

When teaching weather conditions, begin with vocabulary. These anchor charts define weather, climate, precipitation, and temperature.
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Ms. Sanchez Launches the States Data Project

“Over the next few days, each of you will analyze the temperature and precipitation of a specific state.”

The students wiggled in their seats. A few whispered to one another.

“I hope I get California,” Ms. Sanchez heard one child say.

Color-Coding Weather Conditions in Tables

The teacher randomly distributed pages to her students. With excitement, they showed one another which state they got.

“Now you can get out your colored pencils,” Ms. Sanchez said. “You’ll color-code the temperature and precipitation in your chart. Just color straight across.”

First, she explained the temperature key:

  • 90s – very hot – dark red
  • 80s – hot – red
  • 70s – warm – orange
  • 60s – mild – yellow
  • 50s – mild – yellow
  • 40s – cool – green
  • 30s – cold – blue
  • 20s – very cold – dark blue
  • 10s – very cold – dark blue

Second, she discussed the precipitation key:

  • <1 inch – very dry – red
  • 1 inch – dry – moderate
  • 2-3 inches – moderate – yellow
  • 4 – wet – green
  • 5+ – very wet – blue

The kids got busy. As they finished coloring the temperature, Ms. Sanchez heard someone say, “Look! Summer is red, and winter is blue.”

As they worked, students shared and compared the patterns that they saw.

As usual, a small smile spread across Ms. Sanchez’s face. She loved when a good plan came together.

Color-coding tables of temperature and precipitation disclose weather conditions.

Creating Picture Graphs

The next day, the class reviewed picture graphs. Then they cut out symbols to create their own temperature and precipitation graphs.

When they finished, Ms. Sanchez hung their work on the wall. Naturally, they all ran over to compare other states’ weather conditions with theirs.

Once again, a smile spread across their teacher’s face.

Students create picture graphs of monthly temperature and precipitation for a certain state.

Comparing with Bar Graphs

The following day, Ms. Sanchez introduced bar graphs. “Like pictographs, these graphs compare. Instead of pictures, they use bars.”

She explained the x- and y-axes. Then she showed them how the month was labeled under (or next to) a space, while the numbers were next to lines.

After the students colored their bar graphs, Ms. Sanchez asked them to compare them with their picture graphs. Yep, they looked almost the same.

Kids create bar graphs to compare temperature and precipitation for specific months.

Visualizing Seasonal Changes with Line Graphs

On the third day of graphing, the class learned about line graphs. “Instead of comparing,” said Ms. Sanchez, these charts show change over time.

“People always list time across the bottom, on the x-axis. The numbers begin with zero at the origin and continue up along the y-axis.

“You should notice that on this type of graph, the months are situated below lines, not spaces. You will use your pencil to find the intersection of the time and amount.” She spent several minutes demonstrating the process.

Finally, the students were ready to try it on their own. When they finished, their temperature graphs, they noticed that it dipped down in the winter months. For most states, precipitation decreased in winter too. Interesting!

Kids create line graphs for precipitation and temperature for a particular state. Seasonal changes in weather conditions can be clearly seen.

Analyzing Weather Conditions

During the next class period, Ms. Sanchez asked students to pull out their state weather tables.

As they rummaged around in their desks to find them, the teacher distributed two worksheets.

“Now you will consider the data to describe temperature and weather by season. At the top of the page, you’ll list the data for winter, spring, summer, and fall. Then, at the bottom of the page, you’ll use words to describe it.”

After kids analyze weather conditions for a particular state, they analyze its temperature and precipitation.

Describing Weather Conditions Over the Course of the Year

When her students had finished that task, Ms. Sanchez asked them to generate a statement to describe the climate of their state. “If you need a little support,” she said, “I have a worksheet that will help you.”

Soon, each student had written a short paragraph.

As a culmination, kids describe weather conditions by season.

Enjoy Teaching Weather Conditions

After school, Mr. Jones poked his head into Ms. Sanchez’s room. “Did you finish teaching weather conditions?”

She nodded and dramatically slumped into her chair. “Yep. It was a lot – but it was great!”

Mr. Jones grinned. “Same here. I can’t believe that our third graders did all that! Not only did they describe climate, they also created a variety of graphs. I’m so proud!”

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