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Identifying Clouds

Grade Level:

  • Grade 8


  • Working in groups, students will research and present to the class information about cloud categories
    Students will practice the process skill of qualitative observation

Estimated Time for Completing Activity:

  • Two 60-minute class periods

Applications to Technology and Society:

  • This activity will prepare students for participating in the S'COOL observation program, and will be the first step for integrating S'COOL into various parts of our 8th grade physical science curriculum.


  • Directly in this lesson:    PS.1 (scientific investigation

  • Setting stage for S'COOL Participation:
PS.6 (energy transfer); PS.7 (heat transfer);
PS.9 (electromagnetic spectrum



Class of Activity:

  • Exploratory for cloud categories
  • Application of observation skills

Materials Needed:

  • Reference material about clouds -- books, posters, pictures, web sites, etc.
  • Overhead projector
  • Transparencies and markers.
  • Class computer with Internet access attached to TV monitor (A classroom computer plugged into a wall-mounted monitor allows the entire class to view any Internet pictures available)


  1. The previous day's lesson covers qualitative observation as a science process skill.

    DAY 1

  2. At the beginning of class, each group of 4 students will be assigned two cloud categories to research and prepare. Groups will be given 30 minutes to determine and list characteristics of cloud types. Each group will write main points on a transparency to share with the class, and will find pictures to illustrate their assigned clouds. Attention will be paid to the qualitative characteristics of the cloud types -- height, appearance, type of weather associated.

  3. Groups will present their information to the class--each student will have a guided outline to fill in various cloud characteristics (attached). Posters of clouds and web site photographs displayed on the monitor will provide visual backup. Teacher will make sure that all important information has been included by the presenting groups, and that distinction is made between high, medium and low cloud types.

    DAY 2

  4. Groups will finish presenting information to the class if not completed the first day.

  5. Students working within their groups of 4 will help each other study for a cloud identification quiz.

  6. A cloud identification quiz will be given. Students will take the quiz as a group activity and will compete for group points. This should take no more than 10 minutes.

  7. The class will go outside to observe and determine the type of clouds present on that day.


  • A final quick review of cloud types will lead to a brief explanation of how identifying cloud types fits with the S'COOL program to be carried out.

Teacher's Notes:

References and Background Information

  • The "PCS Meteorology Program Cloud Boutique" has good concise cloud descriptions and wonderful pictures.
  • Other useful references are:

    Moore, Karen Wenning, 1992. Weather Classroom. Atlanta: The Weather Channel Education Services.

    Weather or Not?, 1989. Washington: National Air and Space Museum.

Evaluation Tool

  • Student presentations and results of the cloud identification quiz will provide formative evaluation about student understanding of cloud types.

  • The quiz will consist of identification of cloud pictures printed onto inkjet transparencies and shown on the overhead projector. The "PCS Meteorology Program Cloud Boutique" is one excellent source of cloud pictures, but many others may be found through the S'COOL web site.

  • No grade book grade for this activity is planned since it is a small part of a much larger unit on scientific investigation. However, the quiz could be structured as an actual grade if necessary.

Extension Activities

  • Students can collect magazine photographs or personal photographs and identify cloud types shown on the photographs.

  • Students can research specialized clouds such as cap clouds or lenticular clouds.

Cloud Identification Notes (PDF)

Lesson Plan submitted by Karen Nester, Toano Middle School - Williamsburg James City County, Virginia, USA, for NASA S'COOL Project