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Lesson Plans
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Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for Teachers is divided into three sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the Lesson.
Steps -- Conducting the Lesson.
Extensions -- Extending the Lesson.
Tips -- Managing Resources and Student Activities.


  • Journal folders containing loose-leaf and pockets (one per student).
  • Computers with access to the Web (one per group of three students is acceptable).
  • Classroom map of the United States.
  • Printers with graphic capability (inkjet or laser are best) and printer paper.
  • Floppy disks (3.5 inch) to store animations (optional).
Computer Resources:

You will need at least one multimedia computer workstation with Internet access. We recommend, as a minimum, using Macintosh Power PC series running System 8.1 or higher, or a Pentium PC running Windows 95 or higher. We also recommend a minimum modem speed of 28.8K, 56K is preferable.

You will need the following browser plug-ins which are available for free.

  • Shock Wave
  • Flash (
  • IPIX (
  • RealPlayer 7 Basic

For more information, visit What You Need to Get Connected in wNetSchool's Internet Primer.

Before you begin the following sites should be bookmarked:

  • The Tornado Project Online!

    Everything you wanted to know about tornados. Of note are the sections on the Fujita Scale, Tornado Stories, Recent Tornados, Tornado Safety, and Tornado Oddities.

  • FEMA - Fact Sheet - TORNADOES (CPIRC)

    Written by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, this page discusses tornado safety: what to do before, during, and after a tornado.

  • The Weather Channel - 360 view of Clarksville Tornado Damage

    Unusual views of a damaging tornado. Students can rotate the image 360 degrees and move in for close-ups. Requires the IPIX plug-in which is readily available at

  • WW2010 (the weather world 2010 project):

    Developed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Department of Atmospheric Sciences, WW2010 (the weather world 2010 project) is a Web framework for integrating current and archived weather data with multimedia instructional resources using new and innovative technologies. Students can study meteorology using guides developed by UIUC. Teacher guides and student projects are included. Examples include a complete lesson on the Superstorm of '93, and Hurricane Andrew.

  • Tornadoes: violently rotating columns of air

    From the WW2010 project, this page shows three different types of tornados and statistics for each.

  • Severe Storms: online meteorology guide

    From the WW2010 project, this page gives information on types of thunderstorms.

  • Severe Storms: online meteorology guide

    From the WW2010 project, this page gives information on the anatomy of thunderstorms.

  • Tornadogenesis (UNFPA)

    Written by Ted Funk. This site explains Tornadogenesis in Supercells and three main ingredients.

  • Animation #3

    An animation of the veering wind model by Joel S. Rivard. I recommend that the animation be downloaded prior to classroom use.

  • IMAX Film - Stormchasers sample images

    From the WW2010 project, this page has a wonderful animation showing a supercell and developing tornado from the 1995 IMAX film Stormchasers. The animation uses streaming video and requires a plug-in like RealPlayer 7 Basic The page includes frames of the video that can be used in lieu of the animation.

  • Tornado Prediction

    A NISE project funded by the National Science Foundation. There are two Web pages that discuss the good news and bad news of tornado prediction.

  • The Torro Tornado Intensity Scale

    Developed by the Tornado and Storm Research Organization serving Great Britain and Europe. Some people feel the scale is more precise than the Fujita Scale.

  • Beaufort Wind Scale

    Developed by Sir Francis Beaufort in 1805 in Great Britain. Gives land and sea wind characteristics. This scale influenced the development of the Fujita and Torro Scales.

  • Lubbock F-Scale Exercise on Spencer, SD Tornado Damage

    Students practice the Fujita Scale by examining photos of tornado damage and assigning F-scale values. Photos are taken of damage caused by the F-4 tornado that struck Spencer, SD. Students discover the subjectivity of assigning F-scale values.

  • Interactive Weather Information Network

    From the U.S. National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this site refreshes every 5 minutes to give up to date meteorological maps and warnings. Other pages refresh every 60 seconds. The National Warnings section provides up to date bulletins about tornados and other severe weather. Contains an interactive map showing warnings in individual states.

  • Storm Prediction Center Yesterday's Storm Reports

    A list of the previous day's reports of tornados, hail, and wind phenomena.

  • Tornado Simulation Chamber

Build a tornado simulation chamber


Students should have some familiarity with the Internet and how to utilize a Web browser.


  • Lesson 1: What is a tornado? (two class periods)

    Distribute the journals. Explain to the students that they will keep a record of their work exploring tornados. Introduce the word tornado. Elicit from the students what they know about tornados. List their comments on the board. Break up the class into groups of three. Have students write their names and the names of their group on their journal. Tell the class to read the eyewitness account of the Newport Family in the Tornado Stories section of the Tornado Project Online. Students should write down those characteristics and effects that they consider important for a tornado. Have each group read their reports and list the items on the board. Ask students to compare the items with the list before the eyewitness description.

    Next, have students access the FEMA tornado page. Ask students to note how they would prepare for a tornado, how they would take cover during a tornado, and what precautions they should take after a tornado. Bring the groups together and have them read their findings. Discuss the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. Also discuss the dangers of tornados during and after the storm. What impact do they have on a community. Note that some never recover.

  • Lesson 2: How are tornados created? (two class periods)

    Distribute the journals. Remind students to record information as they learn it. Ask the class if all tornados are the same. Elicit comments. Have students access the WW2010 WebPage/Tornado Category. The WW2010 WebPages have multiple links that enhance comprehension. Encourage students to use these links in their research. Have students note their observations on tornado categorization. Bring the groups together and have them report. Discuss mesocyclone.

    Ask students what type of weather usually precedes tornados? Groups will access the WW2010 WebPage/Thunderstorm Anatomy to research the anatomy of thunderstorms. Also assign each group a different type of thunderstorm to research from the WW2010 WebPage/Thunderstorm Types. Bring groups together to discuss the role of updraft and downdraft in determining thunderstorm strength. Discuss unstable air. Have groups report on the characteristics of their particular type of thunderstorm. What type produces the most violent tornados?

    Show the tornado animation to the class. Depending on the type of Internet access your school has, you can have them access Animation #3 if the connection is fast, otherwise download the animation to disks or the fileserver prior to class. Have them note that a tornado is a rotating horizontal column of air caused by crossing winds that is tilted up and down by an updraft. Have groups access the IMAX videostream. The animation shows the development of a supercell and resulting tornado.

    Can tornados be predicted? Have groups access the NISE WebPage. Groups should note the difficulties of tornado prediction. The page links to the good news about what is being done to improve tornado forecasts. Have groups report on their findings.

  • Lesson 3: How are tornados measured? (one class period)

    Distribute journals. Ask groups to brainstorm how they would measure a tornado. Have groups report their ideas. Groups should access the WebPage Tornado Project Online and link to the discussion on the Fujita Scale. Have students note the advantages and disadvantages. Next have them access the Torro Scale. Have students compare the Fujita and Torro Scales. Which seems better? Have groups discuss the two scales.

    Ask them to apply the two scales by being an eyewitness to the Clarksville, Tennessee tornado of January 22nd, 1999. They can access the Weather Channel site. The site requires the IPIX plug-in. Students can rotate 360 degrees and make observations comparing actual F-3 tornado damage to descriptions on the Fujita and Torro Scales. There are five views to explore. Depending on time, assign groups individual views or have them view all of them. Which scale does a better job of description based on actual observations?

    Both scales are based on the Beaufort Scale developed in 1805. Have students access the Beaufort Wind Scale site and compare. Groups should report their observations.

    Ask groups to access the Lubbock F-Scale Exercise on Spencer, SD Tornado Damage site. The WebPage consists of actual photos of the Spencer, South Dakota tornado of May 30th, 1998. Assign a number of photos to all groups and have them predict the F-scale number for each. Have the groups discuss their predictions. Do all groups agree? Discuss the problems in assigning Fujita Scale numbers to tornados.

    Ongoing Activity (one class then ongoing)

    Have students access the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration site. Maintained by the NOAA and the U.S. National Weather Service, the site gives up to date information on national storm warnings. The warnings can be accessed by state in an interactive map, or by storm type. Both are updated every 60 seconds. Access the interactive map by clicking on the picture; access the storm type by scrolling down the page. Whichever type you choose, have individual groups access the site every day to monitor current tornado warnings. Students should note warnings in their journals.

    Groups can access the previous day's tornado and weather phenomena by going to the Storm Prediction Center site. Groups should write their findings in their journals. Groups should report to the class any current tornado warnings or previous day tornados.


    Have a representative from your local city hall speak to your class about the city's plans for a tornado.

    Have a representative from the building industry or an architect speak to your class on how buildings can be built to withstand tornados.

    Build your own tornado simulation chamber.

    Create a Web site listing tornado data and other weather related phenomena.


    One Computer in the Classroom
    If you have access to one computer in your classroom, you can organize your class in several ways. Divide your class into two groups. Instruct one of the groups to do paper research while the second group is working on the computer. Bring in books, encyclopedias, etc., from the library for the group doing paper research. Lead the group working at the computer through an Internet search or allow the students in the class to take turns. (Always have a set of bookmarks ready for the students before they start working on the computer, in order to show them examples of what to look for.) When the groups have finished working have them switch places.

    If you have a big monitor or projection facilities, you can do Internet research together as a class. Make sure that every student in your class can see the screen, go to the relevant Web site(s), and review the information presented there. You can also select a search engine page and allow your students to suggest the search criteria. Again, bookmark and/or print the pages that you think are helpful for reference later.

    Several Computers in the Classroom
    Divide your class into small groups. Groups can do Internet research using pages you have bookmarked. Group members should take turns navigating the bookmarked sites.

    You can also set the class up so that each computer is dedicated to certain sites. Students will then move around the classroom, getting different information from each station.

    Using a Computer Lab
    A computer center or lab space, with a computer-to-student ratio of one to three, is ideal for doing Web-based projects. Generally, when doing Web-based research, it is helpful to put students in groups of three. This way, students can help each other if problems or questions arise. It is often beneficial to bookmark sites for students ahead of time.

    Submit a Comment: We invite your comments and suggestions based on how you used the lesson in your classroom.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students