- This work by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
To help students develop some prior knowledge, I normally spend one to two weeks introducing water concepts and conducting hands-on experiments.
The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks [shop.scholastic.com] by Joanna Cole; illustrated by Bruce Degen
or another book of your choice that provides many facts about water.
The Magic School Bus Wet All Over: A Book About the Water Cycle [shop.scholastic.com] by Patricia Relf
or another book of your choice that describes how precipitation, evaporation, and condensation work together to form the water cycle.
- Cycle Graphic Organizer (PDF) from The Big Book of Reproducible Graphic Organizers: 50 Great Templates That Help Kids Get More Out of Reading, Writing, Social Studies, and More! [shop.scholastic.com] by Dottie Raymer, Jennifer Jacobson
- Paper for publishing student writing
Note: I use the water/weather sheet from The Big Book of Classroom Stationary but students may also publish on any paper of your choice or by using your favorite word-processing program.
- Chart Paper
- Light Blue Construction Paper
- Two contrasting shades of 9 x 12 construction paper
- Tag board
- Paper and pencils
- Understand that water is reused over and over again through the water cycle.
- Understand how precipitation, evaporation, and condensation are interconnected in the water cycle.
- Define and use water vocabulary words correctly.
- Use reading resources to develop a list of ten facts about water.
- Record events in sequential order as they complete a graphic organizer on the four parts of the water cycle.
- Write a summary detailing how the water cycle works.
Part One: Getting the Facts Straight
Step 1: Using chart paper or your white board, review with students the facts they already know about water. Record answers. Ask students if they ever think about what happens to water after it falls from the sky or goes down the drain. Discuss the ideas.
Step 2: Tell students you are about to read a book that will give them many facts about water, some that they may already know along with some new ones. Before you read, provide students with notepaper or sticky notes to record facts while they read. Tell them specifically to listen for eight to ten important facts. Read Magic School Bus at the Waterworks [shop.scholastic.com] or a similar title of your choice. Afterwards discuss the facts that students have recorded. Write a complete list on chart paper. Below are some examples:
- About 2/3 of your body is made up of water.
- Water is the ONLY thing that can be a liquid, a solid and a gas.
- There is water in the air we are breathing. We can’t see it because it is water vapor (a gas.) On humid days, there is a lot of water in the air.
- Clouds are water. The higher up you go, the colder the air is. When water vapor rises, it attaches to dust particles. The cold air makes the vapor form droplets, which hang in the air as a mist. This is a cloud.
- Fog is a cloud that forms near the ground.
- There is exactly the same amount of water on earth now as there was millions of years ago. The water keeps going around and around in the water cycle.
- Less than one-percent of all the water on earth is fresh water that we can drink. Over 99% is salty water or water frozen in glaciers or ice caps.
- Clear water is not always clean water. It can still contain germs that can make you sick until it is purified.
- The first pipes in North America were made of hallowed out logs. Today, water pipes are made of concrete, metal, or plastic.
- Many cities add fluoride to the drinking water to make teeth stronger.
Step 3: Provide students with a tag board raindrop tracer. Have students trace ten drops on blue construction paper then cut out. One water fact should then be written on each raindrop. Students will need to save these to use in Lesson Two.
Part Two: Building Vocabulary
Step 1: Ask students to tell you words come to mind when they think of water. Write their responses on chart paper or a white board. Have students define each one. Prompt students for words if you think the list is not thorough enough. This list will become your set of vocabulary words you would like students to define and use properly. If necessary, assign additional vocabulary enhancing activities to practice the water words. Below are some examples:
- Accumulation: All processes, which include snowfall, condensation, snow transport by wind, and freezing of liquid water, that add snow or ice to a surface.
- Condensation: Water vapor turns to water droplets as it lifts and gets colder. These droplets come together to form clouds. When a cloud has too many water droplets the water returns to the earth as precipitation.
- Evaporation: The heat from the sun or another source causes water to go up in the form of water vapor.
- Ground water: Water that is held in the rocks and soil beneath the surface of the Earth. Ground water feeds wells and springs.
- Precipitation: How water returns to earth. It can be rain, snow, sleet, or hail.
- Purify: When you use a specific process to clean the water. Our drinking water is purified water from the Detroit River.
- Surface run-off: Water always heads for the lowest spot and moves towards oceans, rivers and lakes.
- The Water Cycle: How water keeps going around and around. It evaporates, forms clouds in the sky, then returns to earth again as rain or snow.
- Water pressure: The force of water as it moves through the pipes.
- Water Vapor: Water in the form of gas. Water exists in three phases at the Earth's surface depending on temperature: liquid water, water vapor, and frozen water or ice.
Step 3: Provide students with an arrow shaped tracer. Have students trace five arrows on one color of construction paper, then five more arrows on a different color of paper. Next, students cut out the arrows and write one word and definition on one side of each arrow. One water word along with its definitions should fit on the front side of each arrow. The back of the arrow should be blank. Have students save these for Lesson Two.
Part Three: Summing Up the Water Cycle
Step 1: Bring your students together in a large group, on the carpet or at their seats. When you have everyone’s attention, take an exaggerated drink from your water bottle, cup of coffee, or any liquid you choose. Exclaim, “Wow! That was really fantastic water. It’s hard to believe that George Washington might have washed his dirty shirt in that water I just drank!” This comment is sure to capture their attention even more and bring on shouts of “Eww, yuck!” Tell students what you said is true and ask how water from George Washington’s time could have possibly made it into your water. Conclude the discussion by emphasizing to students that there is the exact same amount of water on earth today as there was a million years ago. The water keeps being recycled over and over again through the water cycle.
Step 2: Read the Magic School Bus Wet All Over to the class, or choose a similar book of your own. As you read, stop at pertinent points and discuss the different parts of the water cycle. Discuss how precipitation, evaporation, and condensation are related.
Step 3: On chart paper or your board, draw a rolling hill. Invite students to come up one at a time and add to the picture as you direct. For example, ask “Who would like to show precipitation coming down onto my hill? Who would like to add run-off? Who would like to draw condensation?” etc. Ask students to label the following components: precipitation, evaporation, condensation, water vapor, accumulation, run-off, and groundwater. When you have finished modeling the illustration of the water cycle, let students know they will be writing about what they see. If possible, keep this diagram available for Lesson Two.
Step 4: Distribute copies of the Cycle Graphic Organizer to each student. Discuss how the water cycle can be divided into parts. Have students complete the four parts by first describing what the water cycle is, then telling about precipitation, evaporation and condensation.
Step 5: Next, students use the graphic organizer to write a draft of how the water cycle works. Remind students they must use each term that was labeled in the illustration. After writing, provide students with time to revise their summary before meeting with a peer group for more revision and editing.
Step 6: Bring the students back together as a group with their graphic organizers to help them write the beginning sentence. Remind them how the day before you “drank George Washington’s water.” Tell them to think about whose water they might be using the next time they take a drink. Provide some time to discuss among themselves whose water they might have had. Tell them that if you were writing a paper on the water cycle, you would want a catchy beginning to capture their reader’s attention. Help students write their beginning sentence by following this pattern:
- First part of the sentence: Think of something you do with water such as drink, swim, cook, clean, etc.
- Middle of the sentence: Think of a person or event from long ago.
- End of sentence: Think of some way that water was used long ago in relation to the person or the historical event.
Step 7: Instruct students to put the three parts together to come up with one complete, attention grabbing sentence, such as “Can you believe my mom cooked our spaghetti last night in a pot of water that might have come from the iceberg that sank Titanic?” or “Isn’t it amazing to think that you may have gone swimming in the same water that dinosaurs once drank?”
Step 8: Once students have written their beginning they can put it together with the completed summary and prepare to publish. Have students publish on a paper of your choice or on the computer. I use backline master stationary or stationary I have created on the computer with a cloud background and thin gray lines. Have students display these published pieces by adding them to the cloud project in Lesson Two.
To help students visualize the processes involved in the water cycle, students can work in small groups to build three dimensional models. Using a plastic shoe box and modeling clay, direct students to build a hilly landscape that includes lowlands, higher elevations, and a river that runs lengthwise across the box. Students can then use spray bottles to mist their landscape in order to emulate precipitation. Water droplets will run down the clay, fill the river, and accumulate in the low areas. Place the plastic lid on the box and place near a heat source where, over the course of the school day, students will be able to witness the rain condensing on the sides and lid of the box before it “rains” down again.
- Did students come prepared with prior knowledge from previous lessons?
- Were students able to take notes on important facts?
- Were students able to put the steps of the water cycle in sequential order?
- Could students define and use water vocabulary?
- Use a writing rubric to evaluate the completed written report. You can make your own rubric with the Rubric Maker [teacher.scholastic.com]. How did students score on the rubric?