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A Thematic Unit on Thunderstorms

written by: Tracey Bleakley • edited by: Amanda Grove • updated: 6/6/2012

Spring is a great time for a unit about thunderstorms. Thematic units are a fun, interesting way to teach students skills across the curriculum. Use these thunderstorm ideas to teach science, math, language arts and more to primary students.

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    These activities for a thunderstorm thematic unit are perfect for first and second grade children. They will love learning about thunderstorms through books, poems and experiments. Use these ideas alone or as part of a larger thematic unit about weather or springtime.

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    Thunderstorm Poetry

    Poems are perfect for shared reading lessons or circle time.

    Storm

    Outside, thunder crashes!

    Outside, lightening flashes!

    Outside, wild rain lashes!

    Inside, we are safe.

    Inside, we are warm.

    Inside, there is comfort.

    Outside, there is STORM!

    by Helen H. Moore

    I Like to See a Thunder Storm

    I like to see a thunder storm,

    A dunder storm,

    A blunder storm,

    I like to see it, black and slow,

    Come stumbling down the hills.

    I like to hear a thunder storm,

    A plunder storm,

    A wonder storm,

    Roar loudly at our little house

    And shake the window sills!

    by Elizabeth Coatsworth

    With either of these poems discuss the words and phrases used to describe a thunderstorm. Brainstorm a list of other words that could describe a storm. Let the children write their own thunderstorm poems or paint pictures of storms inspired by the poems.

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    Science and Math

    Here are few science and math activities to go with a thunderstorm theme.

    • Discuss thunderstorm safety precautions. Then let the students make thunderstorm posters that show ways to be safe during a storm. Hang them around the school.

    • Make lightning. Blow up a balloon and turn off all of the lights in the classroom. Rub the balloon on your hair for a few seconds to build up the static electricity. Then hold the balloon near the end of a fluorescent light bulb. The bulb will light up, because the electrical charge will jump to the light bulb when the balloon touches it.

    • Teach students how to tell how far away lightning is by counting the number of seconds between the time you see lightning and hear thunder. It takes five seconds for the sound of thunder to go one mile. Simulate a thunderstorm by flashing the lights on and off to represent lightning. Then count to five slowly and yell "boom" or crash cymbals together for the thunder. The lightning is one mile away. Have students figure out how many seconds they would need to count for the lightning to be 2, 3 or 4 miles away. Then give the students some thunderstorm word problems to solve. If there were 25 seconds between the lightning and thunder, how far away is the lightning? How many seconds would there be if the lightning was 3 miles away?

    • Discuss three types of storms: thunderstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes. Make a three circle Venn diagram to show how they are alike and different.

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    Language Arts

    These book links are a great way to add some language arts into your thunderstorms unit.

    Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco

    A little girl learns that the she is braver than she thought and overcomes her fear of thunderstorms as she helps her grandmother gather the ingredients to make thunder cake.

    • There are many types of graphic organizers that work well with Thunder Cake. Use it to teach beginning, middle and end, story mapping, character webs or text connections.
    • For a writing activity encourage the children to write about a time when they were afraid of something and what they did to overcome their fear or have them write about a time when they did something brave.
    • Use the recipe at the end of the book to make thunder cake with the class. Cooking activities help children practice skills like following directions, sequencing, measurement and fractions.

    Franklin and the Thunderstorm by Paulette Bourgeois

    Franklin worries about an approaching thunderstorm while at a play date at Fox's house and his friends help him be less afraid of the storm with some silly stories about what causes thunder and lightning.

    • Use this book to teach about character feelings. It's especially useful to show that the same event might cause different characters to feel different emotions.
    • Let the children write and illustrate their own silly tales for the causes of thunder, lightning and other weather events. Put the paper into a class book or hang them on a weather bulletin board.

    How did your class like these activities? Do you have any more teaching ideas to share?

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    Resources

    Weather Wiz Kids

    www.weatherwizkids.com/weather-thunderstorms.htm