Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Cloud Watchers

Jennifer Slichter
Santa Rosa District Schools


This is the third lesson in the second grade unit on weather called Weather Trackers. Students identify the main types of clouds and the type of weather they typically bring as far as rain is concerned. The concept of matter as a gas and liquid will be observed by a classroom experiment where “clouds” are produced using hot water and ice. Students do a group activity where they draw their special cloud formations and make a class graph.


The student uses mathematical language to read and interpret data on a simple concrete graph, pictorial graph, or chart.

The student knows if a given event is equally likely, most likely, or least likely to occur (for example, spinners, coin toss, election results).

The student knows examples of solids, liquids, and gases.

The student knows how to sort organisms, objects, and events based on patterns.


-[The Cloud Book] by Tomie de Paola (Holiday House, 1985)
-Blue markers
-Pictures of different cloud formations
-Word cards labeled cirrus, stratus, and cumulus
-Five premade sky scenes on large blue construction paper, showing cirrus clouds, stratus clouds, cumulus clouds, cumulonimbus clouds and a sunny sky
-Sticky notes
-Two liter plastic bottle
-Black paper
-Bag of ice
-Vocabulary/picture word chart


1. Obtain [The Cloud Book.]
2. Get pictures of different cloud formations.
3. Make pictures of different cloud formations.
4. Prepare word cards with cloud names.
5. Prepare sticky notes.
6. Have vocabulary chart started in the first lesson available.
7. Prepare a two litter bottle and a bag of ice.
8. Locate a match.
9. Find tape and black construction paper.


1. Read [The Cloud Book] by Tomie de Paola aloud. NOTE: The book can be read aloud and discussed during your class Read Aloud time or in small groups prior to beginning the science lesson. Place the book in a center or make it available to students to look at during the day. If the book is read separately from the science lesson, conduct a brief review for students prior to doing procedure 2.

2. Write the words solid, liquid, and gas on the board. Remind students about the characteristics of each. Tell students that we are going to review what we learned about matter by making a cloud. Fill a 2 liter plastic bottle 1/3 of the way full with warm water. (Tape black paper on the back of the liter bottle in order for students to better see the future cloud.) Light a match, drop it into the container, and immediately cover the container with a small bag of ice. Watch for the cloud to appear.

3. Discuss the experiment with children as follows: Looking at our experiment, what word can describe water matter in a solid form? (ice) Remind students that solid matter is hard and has a shape of its own, liquid is runny and takes shape of its container and gas is invisible, takes shape of its container and travels in an upwardly direction. Ask students what object in our experiment is a liquid? (warm water) Ask the following questions: Can we see liquid? Does it have a shape of its own? Ask students what in our experiment is a gas? (water vapor that made the cloud) Ask students if the gas traveled up or down? (up)

3. Draw an outline of a cloud on the board. Discuss how clouds are made. Write Step 1: Sun heats water on Earth Step 2. Water vapor rises in to the air and forms clouds. Step 3: Rain falls to Earth.

4. Tell students that we are going to learn about different cloud formations today and how clouds can help predict weather. Take a class trip outside and have children bring blue markers to observe and draw pictures of clouds they see. (Optional: Show pictures from the Internet, a magazine, or a video depicting one kind of cloud.

5. Come back to the room and discuss what they saw. Ask the students the following questions. Did every cloud look the same? Do you think clouds change or stay the same as they travel in the sky? Remind students that clouds impact weather, for example, if the cloud hides the sun the day will be cloudy. If there are no clouds to hide the sun, the day is sunny and you can feel the heat on your skin, even in the winter.

6. Write the word cloud on the board or vocabulary chart. Discuss that clouds are made up of tiny droplets of water vapor.

7. Ask students to think of possible reasons clouds might move in the sky. Generate responses such as air makes the clouds move. Ask students to predict if clouds would move faster on a windy day or a day when the wind wasn’t blowing. Show a picture or an example of a wind vane and tell the class that this measures wind direction, and radar and satellites measure wind speed.

8. Show pictures of different types of cloud formations. Get the formations from a book or the Internet. Discuss with students that scientists observed that the different clouds produced different types of weather

9. Point to the picture that shows a cirrus cloud. Ask students what they think these clouds remind them of. Generate responses such as “feathers” The water vapors that make up this cloud are high in the sky where the air is colder and ice crystals form. Add cirrus to the vocabulary chart with a picture to help students "read" the word.

10. Point to the picture that shows a cumulonimbus cloud. Ask students to predict the weather that this cloud will bring. Tell students that these large dark clouds are a sign of possibly rainy weather that may produce thunderstorms.Add cumulonimbus to the vocabulary chart with a picture to help students "read" the word.

11. Show a picture of stratus clouds. Explain that these clouds look like gray sheets in the sky. These clouds may produce rain or fog. Ask students to think about why the sky looks gray. Point out that the clouds often hide the sun. Add stratus to the vocabulary chart with a picture to help students "read" the word.

12. Show a picture of cumulus clouds. Tell students that these clouds are an indication of good weather. These clouds look like giant cotton balls in a bright blue sky. Add cumulus to the vocabulary chart with a picture to help students "read" the word.

13. Display four made construction paper cloud drawings. (Make examples on an oversized blue construction paper and cotton balls of the following clouds: Cirrus- glue several cotton balls on the paper and when almost dry pull the cotton off leaving only a feathery wisp remaining. Cumulonimbus- glue on gray paper large cotton balls grouped together. When cotton is dry, color edges of clouds with a gray or black marker. Stratus-layer cotton balls on bright blue paper. (For fun you may cluster in shapes and have students guess what shape is represented.) These should be displayed in the room for the remainder of the unit.

14. Attach the drawings to front board and write the name under each cloud as a reinforcement of the types/names of clouds. Review typical weather different clouds produce. Ask student volunteers to point to clouds that might produce rain and clouds they might see when there would be a less likely chance of rain.

15. Ask for a volunteer to tell you what clouds are seen when a thunderstorm is likely to happen and point to that cloud name on the board. Ask students to point to the clouds that are high in sky and full of ice crystals and look like feathers that typically mean sunny weather.

16. Hand out sticky notes prepared in advance.(one to each student) Ask students to read the word written on the back of each sticky note and draw a cloud formation that illustrates the word. For example if the note reads sunny, draw what clouds might typically look like that day. Pass out sticky notes to each student. (one per each) For Example: 10 notes having the words written that say rain likely/cumulonimbus clouds, 8 notes having the words written, rain not likely/cumulus clouds, 5 notes having the words written, light rain or fog likely/stratus clouds, 1 note saying, rain impossible to happen since there are no clouds in the sky. Each student draws a picture of a cloud type that generally predicts the weather described on the card.

17. While students are completing their drawings write the following words on the board: cirrus, stratus, culumbus, cumulonimbus clouds, no clouds (sunny), and prepare to make a pictograph.

18. Walk around and monitor students. When the activity is completed, students take turns attaching their pictures under the right word on the board. A pictograph will be made. Students will discuss results. How many stratus clouds do we see? How many cirrus clouds do we see? Count results for each and discuss which cloud formations mean rain is most likely, least likely or basically improbable to happen. Discuss which cloud formations had the least number of drawings or which had the most.

19. Play a game called Weather Watchers. Divide the class into two teams and have each side earn points during a three-minute time period to tell you one thing that they learned about clouds. Set a timer and the side with the most points will win. They must raise their hands and take turns. This will be a fun way to review. Ask: What did we learn moved clouds? (Wind) Do clouds move faster on a windy day or a day that is not windy? (Windy) Which clouds are highest in sky and are formed with ice crystals and look like feathers? (Cirrus). Which clouds may produce lightning or thunder? (cumulonimbus) What is a good indicator that rain will not happen at all? (clear sunny sky)

20. Hand out the worksheet and give directions.

21. Students complete worksheet. Walk round and monitor offering feedback as necessary.


Students are formatively assessed by observation during the lesson plan. Keep a list of students who are observed having difficulty with the concept or who cannot answer class discussion questions. Make sure to call on those students throughout the lesson again, reinforcing the ideas and concepts, offering extra feedback and guidance.

Assess students using a formative worksheet. (See Associated File) Students complete the worksheet with 80% accuracy or students will be given more opportunity to master the skills in the future. Directions for using the formative worksheet:
Tell students to use the words on the vocabulary chart or board, as well as the pictograph to answer the questions that you will read aloud. Demonstrate finding question #1, read the question carefully and walk around to make sure all students are drawing in the correct spot as they work. Do the same for question #2. As students are answering the questions about the pictograph, they may need to walk up to it and count or relook at the data. You might want to administer this assessment in small groups so as to provide more freedom for looking at the words and pictograph.


1. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page of by using the following URL: Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, Associated Files. This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

2. The pictograph could be used in math to extend the idea of graphing data.

Attached Files

Cloud Watchers Assessment     File Extension:  pdf
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