Unit Design:

Learning Goals (Performances):
The unit will provide students with the relevant information to allow them to understand processes and interactions that take place in the atmosphere. Upon completion of the unit students will be able to:
  • explain the source of energy in the atmosphere/Earth's surface
  • recognize the 3 different ways of heat transfer, explain each, and compare/recognize modes of heat transfer for different phenomena (apply concepts of convection, conduction, radiation) --
  • understand the process of wind formation and factors necessary for such; apply wind formation to the development of local vs. global winds
  • explain the Coriolis effect, reason it exists, and its importance (relationship with circulation cells)
  • apply Coriolis effect to recognize how humans are impacted/adjustments humans make to deal with the Coriolis effect
  • identify global wind belts and circulation cells
  • understand the mechanism/interactions which results in wind belts/circulation cells
  • apply knowledge of atmospheric interactions to weather conditions/specific climates (i.e. deserts and rainforests)
  • identify relationships and describe how Earth processes interact (i.e. rotation of Earth and convection produces 3 circulation cells per hemisphere).
Note: more detailed learning performances are included in each individual lesson plan.
Unpacking Standards:

Establishing Purpose:
Students must find relevance and desire to learn the content in the unit if they are to successfully achieve the learning performances. Prior to the beginning of the first lesson, the unit should be introduced with driving questions which student curiosities desire to answer. Driving questions: Have you ever wondered what is happening in the sky above us? Can we see processes in the atmosphere taking place? (How do we know they exist?) How could knowing about atmospheric interactions and wind formation be vital for our survival?

These questions are (somewhat) unanswerable until students explore the content material of the unit. The teacher should frame the driving questions as a feat which the class must conquer by learning the answers to the questions. The driving questions encourage students to ponder things they most likely have never concretely thought about. Students have observed atmospheric phenomena and winds, yet they might not have considered the importance or impact of such on their lives. The unit engages students through the ability of the lessons to answer the driving questions. The last driving question allows students to make a personal connection to the material. When students consider factors which affect their survival, the information becomes highly desirable. The question is personal relevance of the question becomes apparent when the topic of human survivability in incorporated.

Each lesson attempts to engage students and grab their attention through multiple approaches such as; warm-up thought questions, interactive activities, thought-provoking discussion, and application of the material. Discussion questions challenge students to use the material in a new context and identify ways they use/experience atmospheric phenomena in their everyday lives. Students are allowed to show their creative side as they make personal connections to the material through assignments such as “Journey to the Earth” and the class Rap. Both activities demonstrate how students can apply the information they have learned. Much of the discussion focuses upon review of the material and helps students identify how they can relate to the content. Discussion questions force students to identify real-world examples or observations of atmospheric interactions. Students must evaluate what they know about the material and link it to a personal experience/observation. Additionally, teacher-led explanation offer as many examples as possible (i.e. no deflection occurs when throwing a baseball, therefore the Coriolis effect has no impact), in hopes that students can connect to at least one of the examples provided.

Lesson Sequence: see unit calendar

inquiry lesson-unit plan
Global winds and circulation cells lesson
winds assessment lesson
Note: Some activities (convection labs; heat transfer writing assignment) were manipulated from lessons created by Ms. Leigh Ann Dalton (science teacher at Saline Middle School). Lessons referring to the use of a textbook as an additional resource correspond to: Brooks-Simmons, Barbara. Prentice Hall: Science Explorer-Weather and Climate. 2000. Needham, MA

Assessment Program:
Assessment is done in various forms throughout the unit. Students can demonstrate their understanding of the material via various expressions (writing assignments, rap, teaching others, global map, lab questions, worksheets, inquiry questions, class discussion). Most of the assessment will be formative and occur throughout the class period. Formative assessments will help the teacher gauge student understanding and allow the teacher to review misconceptions or concepts which are still unclear. Each lesson includes an accompanying assessment, although such assessments are often found in different forms (as described above). The assessments include activities or questions which forces students to demonstrate whether they have met the specific learning performances for the lesson.

The quiz is a summative assessment as it evaluates whether students have met the learning performances for the unit as a whole. The quiz incorporates major topics from all of the lessons; therefore, students must be prepared to demonstrate the learning performances from each individual lesson in order to successfully complete the assessment. The summative assessment gauges students’ understanding of the unit as a whole. Performances on the quiz inform the teacher whether or not students have the prerequisite knowledge necessary to begin the next unit.


Driving questions were used to engage students and establish the purpose of learning the content of the unit. The questions were constructed to spark students’ curiosities and stimulate their desire to answer the questions. Each lesson included a question, activity, or assignment which prompted students to make a personal connection to the material. I believe it is essential for students to find relevance in and make connections to the content information if they are expected to fully understand the information. The unit was made meaningful to the students through the incorporation of real-world applicability of the material, examples of concepts, and links to local weather observations and experiences (i.e. lake-breezes in Michigan). Including such components allowed students to explicitly see how the unit material impacted their lives and experiences.

When developing this unit I chose to use a variety of teaching methods incorporated within my lessons. Students will be exposed to visual stimuli, conduct labs, take notes, listen/talk during discussion and jigsaw activity, and express their ideas in lab packets and writing assignments. Exposing students to an array of strategies for learning will help strengthen their skills in non-preferred modes of representation (i.e. strengthen auditory skills for visual-learner). Using multiple forms of representation will also give students opportunities to understand the same concept in different ways (i.e. learn about Coriolis via notes and lab experiments).

Inquiry was used primarily in the inquiry-based lesson (Day 4 and 5), however it was also used sporadically throughout other lessons. During labs and demonstration activities, students were given the opportunity to question, hypothesize, analyze, and explain their thoughts upon why phenomena occurred. I encouraged students to work-through their predictions during lab activities, by asking them guiding questions without providing them with answers. The inquiry-based lesson focused upon inquiry goals as described in the lesson plan (see inquiry lesson).

I thought it would be most helpful to students (and me) if I evaluated student understanding primarily through formative assessments. Each lesson included a formative assessment (in multiple forms) within the body of the lesson. These assessments will give students the ability to demonstrate learning performances and illustrate to me whether students are successfully achieving the desired performances. Formative assessment will give me the chance to adapt the lesson if learning performances are not being met, as I will be able to recognize areas of confusion or misunderstanding. The quiz acts as a summative assessment and challenges students to demonstrate the learning performances they developed throughout the unit. Developing questions using different practices and levels of Bloom's taxonomy allows me to identify students who have a basic understanding of the material, from students who are able to recognize relationships and apply the content to new scenarios (higher-level thinking using the material).

Ultimately, I wanted students to experience content materials in multiple forms and through a diverse array of activities so that student engagement continued throughout the unit. I structured my lessons to build off one another. Each lesson’s prerequisite knowledge was covered in the previous lesson to ensure students were prepared to understand the new concept. Students were exposed to both teacher-directed and student-led activities. Teacher-led activities gave me the opportunity to explicitly explain material and guide students’ understanding. Student-led activities gave students the chance to take a stake in their learning experience. These activities often supported constructivist theories and collaborative work, both of which stimulate further understanding of the material and educational development. I also incorporated technology into some of my lessons to encourage student learning via a new medium. Computers and a smart-board were included to expose students to different teaching methods, while also increasing their levels of interest (i.e. students get really excited when they are able to us technology in the classroom).

This unit is intended to teach students about the essential atmospheric interactions which lead to the weather phenomena we observe. The unit serves as a bridge between understanding the layers/existence of the atmosphere and being able to predict weather patterns and understand severe weather and precipitation formation. Most students understand that we need to learn about weather to predict patterns and storms, yet students do not realize that processes occurring right above our heads are responsible for some of the daily weather we observe. Relating the purpose of learning this material to local weather phenomenon will help students understand why such information is important and relevant to their lives.

Concept Map:

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