cloud    How are Clouds and    cloud
     Precipitation Connected?

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Table of Contents

Georgia Performance Standards
Clouds Review
Types of Precipitation
Instructional Topic Web Sites
Topic Activities
Software Programs

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There are several types of precipitation that our country experiences.
The types of precipitation are: drizzle (tiny rain drops falling close together), rain, freezing rain (water droplets that contact sub-freezing air), sleet (frozen raindrops), snow (falls from the cloud as snow) and hail(frozen water associated with thunderstorms).  Each type of precipitation are different and form under different weather conditions. Do you know what they all have in common?  Clouds! All of the different types of precipitation come from one source - the clouds.   Why clouds?  Clouds are actually large collections of very tiny water droplets or ice crystals that float in the air because they are so small and light.  As the droplets "float" in the air, they start coming together to form a visible cloud. When the cloud droplets become too heavy, they fall to the ground as a form of precipitation. Which type of precipitation falls to the ground depends on the weather, including temperature.   There are also many types of clouds. They have different shapes and appearances while "floating" along.  The types/names of the clouds are:  Cirrus, Cirrostratus,Cirrocumulus, Altocumulus, Stratocumulus, Altostratus, Stratus, Nimbostratus, Cumulus, Cumulonibus, Mammatus, Lenticular, Fog and Contrails.

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Georgia Performance Standards


Fourth Grade:

S4E3 Students will differentiate between the states of water and how they relate to

the water cycle and weather.

c. Investigate how clouds are formed.

e. Investigate different forms of precipitation and sky conditions (rain, snow, sleet, hail, clouds, and fogs

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Below is a chart made of the most common types of clouds that form in the Earth's atmosphere.  There are also separate photos of real clouds that someone took.  Do you recognize any of the clouds?  If so, you now know the names of the clouds!  If not, you can now learn and investigate which type of clouds are looming overhead any day. I wonder what type of clouds are in the sky at this moment?

                                                                                  cirrus                               cumu         
                                                                         Cirrus Cloud                             Cumulonimbus Cloud
cloud chart    
                      stratus                                   cumulus
                                                                                       Stratus clouds                                                      Cumulus

  image     Types of Precipitation        image
Drizzle - a dense, light rain with super small drops.
image      Rain - drops of water falling from the clouds that are larger than drizzle drops and less densely together.
image   Hail - frozen pieces of water that filter through clouds through an updraft. Mostly associated with strong thunderstorms.

image    Freezing Rain - droplets falling and then freezing once they contact a surface on the Earth.
image    Sleet - droplets that freeze once entering the freezing layer of air.
 image  image     Snow - precipitation that remains frozen from the cloud to the ground.

  image      Instructional Web Sites     image

image  This website is great for kids and adults to find out anything about the weather.  There are also games and activities related to weather that kids would enjoy.  This site was created by a meteorologist!

This site allows kids to learn about different types of weathering events along with clouds and how they form. There are also great activities that are associated with the weather.

This is linked to a site that gives a brief description of each type of precipitation.  It is very helpful to distinguish what the difference is and why certain types of precipitation fall from the clouds.


This site is a great module to see the different types of precipitaition and clouds.  It is really intricate and it details everything about clouds and precipitation. This site would be better for older students to research on.

  image The Weather Channel is a great website to find information about the forecast locally and                internationally.  I visit this website or the television channel daily.

   image       Topic Activities        image

How do Clouds Form?
Brief Description
We will learn the how clouds form and what they are made of.  Then, we will do an activity of making a cloud inside a jar.

  •  Students will learn that all clouds are made of droplets water(and ice crystals) and dust particles.
  • Students will learn how the clouds form.
Web Site and Other Materials
  • image 
  • image 
  • Gallon jar
  • Food coloring
  • Hot and cold water
  • Rubber glove
  • Matches
  • Lamp
  • Rubber band
  • Begin by asking if anyone knows what clouds are made of?  How do they form? We will discover the answers to those questions by visiting a website and completing an activity.
  • Students will go to the website, Web Weather for Kids @ On the homepage, there is an additional link to "How in the World do Clouds Form?"  It gives and explanation in the reading, along with questions that gives immediate self-checking answers.
  • Next, we will do the experiment that is given on the website, "Make a Portable Cloud."
  • <>During the experiment, ask students what is happening.  What do you see?  Why is it doing that?
  • After we complete the activity/experiment, ask the students, "What does this have to do with weather?" 
  • Then, the students will work with a partner to write a paper on how clouds form. Students may go back to the website to find information.  Along with the paper, I would like an illustration of a cloud - using crayons, markers, color pencils, water color or on the Paint program on the computer.
What are the Types of Precipitation?

Brief Description
Students will visit a website to find out what the different types of precipitation are. 

  • Students will identify the different types of precipitation: rain, freezing rain, snow, sleet and hail.
  • Students will understand that the types of precipitation that falls to the ground are in a different state of water.
Web Site and Other Materials


  • Clear jar (at least a quart)
  • Clear waterproof tape
  • Ruler
  • Begin by asking the students if they know what the word precipitation means.
  • We will open for class discussion on what types of precipitation they have observed. 
  • Ask students what type of precipitation we mostly see.  Why?  Why doesn't snow fall here (often)?
  • At this point, give the students a paper with a chart/table on it with the types of precipitation listed at the top of the columns or the beginning of the rows.
  • Next, the students will visit the website to learn more about rain, hail, freezing rain, sleet and snow.
  • On the website, students look for the following info and complete the handout with table.The students will give details of the precipitation and why those certain types fall to the ground.  What are the conditions/temperatures for rain to fall? Hail? Freezing Rain? Sleet? Snow?
  • Afterwards, we will gather around and talk about what we have found on the website.  We will discuss why rain, hail, freezing rain, sleet and snow fall.
  • Activity:  We will construct a Rain Gauge. You can print a copy of the directions to create a rain gauge by clicking here.
To extend this new knowledge, give another assignment that would be due in a few days or by the end of the week.  Students will be given an outlined map (showing the states) on a large sheet of paper (11 X 14). Students will be instructed to fill-in what type of precipitation falls in a certain areas.  For example, the Northeast mostly receives all of the precipitation types.  The students can write the words or draw illustrations of the precipitation on the map.  The students can use any source to find this information: internet, encyclopedias, books, magazines, etc.

Brief Description
Teacher will read the book, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.  Discuss events in the book and if it is fact, fiction or opinion.  Students will create a Precipitation Pamphlet.

  • Students will know the science terminology: atmosphere, precipitation, rain, freezing rain, sleet, hail and snow.
  • Students will decipher between fact, fiction and opinion.
Web Site and Other Materials
  • This topic page
  • The book, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
  • Colored Pencils or crayons
  • White paper
  • Pencil
  • Stapler
  • Students have already gone over the content of clouds and precipitation. A brief review of what we have learned.
  • Introduce the book, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. Follow by reading the story.
  • During the story, ask questions if this could be true or if it could really happen.
  • Afterwards, ask the students what came out of the sky during the story.
  • Ask: Would you labe this story as a fact, fiction, or opinion?  Why?
  • Tell the students that we will be making a Precipitation Pamphlet. It is a tiered pamphlet to that you can see the different pictures at the same time.  Show the students the one the teacher created. Each tier should be labeled, from top to bottom:  My Precipitation Pamphlet; Rain; Freezing Rain; Sleet; Hail; and Snow. 
  • On each tier, students will illustrate that type of precipitation falling from the cloud (the cloud is on the first tier). With the cloud being on the first tier, it should look as though rain is coming out, then freezing rain, etc.  The students should illustrate how the different types of precipitation leaves the cloud.  For example, the freezing rain should look like rain coming out of the cloud as a liquid, then freezing once it hits a cold surface.
  • If students have trouble remembering in which state of water the precipitation leaves the cloud, they can visit the website  by clicking on the title of this activity (or go to  to refresh their memory.
The students are completing the Precipitation Pamphlet to satisfy the first PLO. For the second PLO, the students and teacher are having a discussion about fact, fiction and opinion. Then, the students will work in groups to write a story about the weather in fact, fiction or opinion format.  The groups will meet several times before sharing with the entire class.

     image                      Software Programs       image

Title of software program: Clouds: A Paws Science Adventure/ASL
Published by: ASL
Use: This software can be used as an accomodation, extension or resource for learning about clouds.  This software is available in English and signed in ASL.  There are fun rescues to watch, pictures and facts of clouds, and then test you knowledge with fun games and activities.
Evaluation: The software seems to be fun and that would motivate and interest students to learn about the clouds.  They would have fun while learning! I love the fact that it is available to sign in ASL.  It would be even better if there was an option for Spanish language to be used. 



Title of software program: Microsoft Word 2003
Published by:  Microsoft
Use:   Microsoft software is a common yet useful tool for any setting - including the school setting.  Students will be asked to write papers and type them for legibility.  Microsoft allows users to save the work that has been completed and come back later to finish.  Students can learn and improve on their typing skills. 
Evaluate:  This is a tried-and-true software package, so I foresee no problems.  I use Microsoft Word frequently; therefore, the students will be using this program more and more in the future. 


Title of software program: Cloud Types Downloadable Software
Published by: Sagoware
Use: This software introduces 10 different types of clouds with pictures.  It also provides information of what type of weather you can expect from a specific type of cloud.
Evaluate: This software would be interesting.  To know what type of weather to expect from certain clouds would be an asset to making plans or to stay at home.  Clouds are an intricate element to the type of weather and precipitation that falls to the ground.  The only problem that I could foresee would be the quality of the images because it suggested to use with color palm-pilots and it is high-resolution enhanced.



Title of software program: SkyWorks for MacIntosh

Published by: ScienceWorks
Use: This software is essential to interactively involving students to explore the cloud history, water cycle,  types of clouds and emphasizing the fact that weather plays a huge role in our everyday lives.  The kids are able to explore all of this with Captain Cloud by their side.
Evaluate: This seems to be a great software that is extremely informative and fun for students for the grades 3 - 9.


Title of software program: Excel
Published by: Microsoft
Use:  Excel is an interesting program.  The more you learn and  use it, the more you find out that you can do with it.  the students could use this program to record the amount of precipitation that we get for each month while we are in school.  We could begin taking measurements the first month, continue to record each month and then comprise a chart/graph of the recorded measurements.  We can see how the precipitation fluctuates throughout the year.
Evaluate:  This is another tried-and-true software program.  It continues to be updated along with the other Microsoft programs.  The teacher would need to be knowledgeable and comfortable with this program so that he/she can teach and assist the students while using.


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