Grade: Middle
Subject: Science

#1604. Tornado Unit Plan

Science, level: Middle
Posted Tue Feb 29 18:29:11 PST 2000 by Virginia Martin (
Ketron Middle School, Sullivan County, TN
Materials Required: Computer lab with internet connection; PowerPoint or other presentation software; poster materials
Activity Time: 8 class periods
Concepts Taught: The cycling of water in and out of the atmosphere plays an important role in determining climatic pa

Tennessee Standard 2.4b - Interactions of matter and energy shape our world.

Benchmarks for Grades 6-8:

The cycling of water in and out of the atmosphere plays an important role in determining climatic patterns.

Teacher preparation: Test all links to be sure they're still working.

Twisters represent a form of energy that is at once terrifying and fascinating. The recent movie Twisters has made this a topic of great curiosity for young people who get caught up in the adventure and danger of the chase. But how much do they really know about this natural phenomenon? This unit seeks to enlighten them in a way that will be both informative and enjoyable as they surf the Internet in search of Twisters.

Day one: Introduction to unit. Explain to the students that they will be doing two posters: one explaining the Fujita scale, the other on tornado safety procedures. Divide the class into groups of 4-5 students and explain that each group is responsible for doing a 5-min. PowerPoint (or alternate software program) presentation on what they learn in this unit. There will also be a unit test. Give due dates for posters and presentations and acquaint students with the evaluation scale. Class time not spent in research should be spent working on these projects.

Using an overhead, chalkboard, or large paper pad, ask students to volunteer what they know about tornadoes. Write down whatever is said without comment and have students copy it into their notes. Tell them they will be learning all they can about tornadoes during the week, and at the end of the week you'll take another look at the notes to see what they might want to add and if they might want to change or delete some of what they had written down before. Give them the address of the Tornado Project Online ( and have them follow the links to "Recent Tornadoes" and "Tornado Top Tens" and find five interesting facts they would like to share with the class and write these in their notes.

Day two: Begin by having some of the students share their notes on yesterday's activity, then ask if anyone can explain what a tornado is and how it forms. Point the students to the links below and tell them to find out what tornadoes are and how they are formed and include this in their notes.

Day three: Go over yesterday's notes about what tornadoes are and how they form. Ask if anyone knows what the Fujita Scale and Fujita-Pearson Scale are. Point them to these two sites to find out and take notes: (follow the link to The Fujita Scale)

Day four: Using overhead or chalkboard, go over major points of Fujita scale. Ask the students to define the word "myth." Point them to the Tornado Project Online ( again and ask them to follow the link to Tornado Myths and write down whatever they find surprizing.

Day five: Using the blackboard or overhead, list what the students can recall about what to do if a tornado threatens their area. Point them to the Tornado Safety sites below to take notes for their projects. (follow the link to Tornado Safety)

Day six: Have students refer to notes they took on first day of unit. Discuss what they would add or change. Allow remaining class time to finish up posters and presentations.

Day seven: Posters and presentations in class

Day eight: Unit test


Unit test 50%
2 posters 15% each
Group Presentation 20%