September 27, 2015
by Theresa Talley

Lesson plan

Got Water? How the Water Cycle Works

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Grade Subject

Students will identify the stages of the water cycle with a picture match activity.

(2 minutes)
  • Ask students to think about how the ocean gets full of so much water and how it stays so full.
  • Project the Water Cycle: From the Sky to the Land and Back Again worksheet. Explain that the answer to this question is part of what is called the Water Cycle and that we’ll learn more about it today.
(18 minutes)
  • Refer to the labeled pitcher and flashlight and explain that these two items will be our model for the ocean and the sun. Point to the cotton ball and bowl of water and refer to each as a cloud and rain puddle model, respectively.
  • Point to the pitcher and ask students to predict what happens first to fill up the ocean. Students will likely give the response of rain.
  • Students are then asked to wonder about where rain comes from. Ask them to think about a puddle on a sunny day that disappears. Explain that the water is evaporated by the sun (swab a cotton ball into the bowl of water while holding the flashlight with the other hand above) and is transferred into clouds in a process called evaporation.
  • Hold the flashlight over the plant and explain that the sun even draws water out of plants in a process called transpiration.
  • Announce it’s raining as you squeeze the cotton ball into the pitcher ocean, adding that the cloud is full of water droplets that fall as rain if the air is warm enough. Refer to rain as just one form of precipitation.
  • Prompt students to think of how the moisture falls if the air is cold and point to the white patches of mountain snow on the projected worksheet. Explain that snowmelt runs down and is called runoff. Add that what doesn’t fill up bodies of water soaks into the earth as groundwater that can be held for a long time there in what is called aquifers.
  • Model the steps of the water cycle to summarize as follows:
    1. Sun heats water that becomes a gas. Hold the flashlight over the bowl of water.
    2. Gas cools and turns into water drops that form clouds in a process called condensation. Display the water glass with droplets on the outside. Add that we can see this condensation on the bathroom mirror after we’ve taken a hot shower, because as the water droplets rise and cool they turn into fog clouds you can see on the mirror!
    3. Dip a cotton ball into the pitcher of water and pour it into the bowl, then use the same ball to swab it up again.
    4. Prompt students to consider that you used the same cotton ball to show both precipitation and evaporation. Add that this shows that the same water gets recycled, or reused, over and over.
    5. Announce that we are seeing water that gets recycled over and over, and that this water is the water the dinosaurs tasted! Tell students that water never goes away, it just changes form.
(10 minutes)
  • Project the Water Cycle: From the Sky to the Land and Back Again worksheet.
  • Choral-read the paragraph as a class and pause when an underlined word is read.
  • After each pause, ask for volunteers to say the fill-in-the-blank word.
  • Allow correct responders to come up to the whiteboard and write the answer in the blank.
  • Minimize the projected image after all answers have been written on it.
(10 minutes)
  • Distribute the Water Cycle: From the Sky to the Land and Back Again worksheet and give the directions at the top of the page.
  • Rotate around the room and monitor understanding as students complete the page independently.
  • Enrichment: Challenge students to create an experiment to show the water cycle process.
  • Support: Allow partners to assist others who need help with the worksheet.
(10 minutes)
  • Open and project the worksheet completed during guided practice.
  • Distribute markers and direct students to circle incorrect answers and write correct answer above the circle.
  • Collect worksheets to assign a percentage grade.
(5 minutes)
  • Hold up each item used to model the water cycle and ask students to choral-say what it represents.

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