Night of the Twisters

Activity Overview: 

The students use Inspiration software to create a prediction web based on a story about tornados. The students listen to the story on tape and discuss what they would do in a similar situation. They use the web to collaboratively create a two-paragraph paper comparing the story and their webs.

*The students will use pre-reading skills to see what a story is about.
*The students will use a webbing software called Inspiration to make predictions about the story and access prior knowledge.
*The students will listen to a story called the Night of the Twister's on cassette tape.
*The students will make comparisons from the story to their web throughout the story.
*The students will cooperatively type a paragraph about their predictions and how they compared to the story at the end.

The students will be using Inspiration software to create a prediction web based on a story about tornados. Students will listen to the story on tape and will discuss what they would do in a similar situation. Students will then use the web that they have created to collaboratively create a two-paragraph paper comparing the story and their webs.

(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the following activities/standards will appear in the video clips used.) 

Procedures: Curriculum Standards

National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) Performance Indicators

The students will begin this activity by opening their textbooks to the proper page, going over the title and the author, and skimming the pictures to make some predictions about what the story is about. English Language Arts: 1, 2, 3, 12  
The students will then go to the computer and the teacher will open Inspiration. English Language Arts: 8  
After opening Inspiration, the students will begin creating their webs about what they would do if they were in a tornado. They instructor will type the students' responses as they give them. This will be projected onto a screen using a Dukane projector. English Language Arts: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12

Science 5-8: 6.6

Grades 3-5: 1, 3, 4, 5, 8
Students will then discuss the webs briefly and will change them to the outline format. They will compare the two formats orally. (This is part of the Inspiration software.) English Language Arts: 4, 6, 8, 11, 12 Grades 3-5: 1, 3, 4, 5, 8
Students will get into their reading circle and will open their books, which are part of the Treasury of Literature Series from Harcourt Brace, to the story. They will then begin to listen to the story on the cassette tape.  English Language Arts: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 11, 12 Grades 3-5: 4, 5 
As they are reading, the tape will be stopped periodically so that the students can compare their predictions to what they are actually reading. English Language Arts: 3, 4, 6, 11, 12 Grades 3-5: 4, 5
After the story is over, the students will discuss the comprehension questions that are at the end of the story in the text. English Language Arts: 3, 4, 6, 11, 12  
After discussing these questions, they will refer back to the webs that they created. They will then use Microsoft word to type a paragraph as a small group comparing the story to their webs. They will do this collectively by having each student type one sentence. (The teacher will assist as needed.) This will be projected onto a screen using a Dukane projector. English Language Arts: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12 Grades 3-5: 1, 3, 4, 5, 8
Students will create a tornado in a bottle as a small group to motivate them before they begin their research.  English Language Arts: 4, 12 

Science 5-8: 6.9 

Students will then spend the next day researching tornados on the Internet and using Compton's Encyclopedia on the computer.  English Language Arts: 1, 7, 8  Grades 3-5: 1, 3, 4, 5, 7 
As a closing activity, students will be asked to orally share something new that they have learned from the activity today.  English Language Arts: 3, 4, 11, 12  

Farr, R. C., Strickland, D. S., et. al. (1996). Treasury of Literature: Out of this World. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt Brace & Company

Froyen, L. A., & Iverson, A. M. (1999). Schoolwide and classroom management. The reflective educator-leader (3rded.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc. 

International Society for Technology in Education, (2000).National education technology standards for students: Connecting curriculum and technology. 

Turnbull, A., Turnbull, R., Shank, M. & Leal, D. (1999).Exceptional lives: Special education in today's schools (2nded.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.

Dukane Projector. Dukane. Available:
Projection Screen

Internet Sites:
The Weather Channel. Available:
Yahoo Search Engine. Available:
CNN. Available:

Inspiration Software. Inspiration. Available:
Word Processing Software
Compton's Encyclopedia Software. Compton's. Available:

I will assess students both formally and informally. Students will be assessed informally through observation and questioning throughout the entire lesson. They will also be informally assessed on their abilities to work in groups through observation as this may be an IEP goal for some of the students. They will be assessed formally through the creation of their webs and their paragraphs as a group as well.

Theresa Farrell, Red Oak Elementary School, Alberta, Virginia
Mail to:

This activity is just one of many activities that we do using the Treasury of Literature Series. The activity would take up 60 minutes each day if used as a weekly activity. This would typically begin on a Monday where we would actually create the webs and discuss the pre-reading they have done through skimming and scanning. On Tuesday they would actually listen to the story and discuss it as they listen, comparing it to their webs from the day before. Wednesday the students would continue with the story by going to the computer and typing their paragraph comparing their webs to the story. On Thursday, as an extension activity, we would research tornadoes further on the Internet and using Compton's encyclopedia. As a wrap up Friday, students would present what they have learned this week in a brief oral summary. Students would also take a comprehension test on the story for mastery level.

I have previously taught this lesson to a regular education fifth grade class and the lesson went very well. The students respond well to the use of technology and to the subject of tornadoes. When I taught this activity the first time I had 25 students in my class and we went to the computer lab and they each created a web with their partner and we took them back to the room and shared them. I have found though, with my special needs students, that they need more assistance, especially when it comes to typing. They are progressing, but it is taking them some time to become familiar with a keyboard since it is not in alphabetical order, which is why I will begin by typing the information into the web. If I let them type at the beginning of the lesson, they lose interest because it takes so long and can be unruly by the end of the lesson. However, by letting them each type a sentence or two at the end of a lesson they are motivated to help each other and they work together very nicely.

Technology Resources:
I chose most of the resources that I did because of how my students respond to them. We have worked with the in room projector several times this year and they love it. We have limited space in the room and also only one computer that works well, the other one is very slow and they get easily frustrated. The projector also allows them to see the screen much better than if we were all just sitting around the computer. We do have a lab at our school but since there were only 5 students participating in this lesson it is much easier to do it in a one-computer classroom. They have a tendency to get lost in the lab.

Teaching Strategy:
The children are very excited over anything that has to do with nature and weather. They have been very motivated in reading these types of books this year and since it was a big interest for them I chose this particular story to build the lesson around. They also respond very well to the technology and are shy when it comes to reading in front of strangers, which is why I chose the tape-recorded version of the story. It also gives them a change from the round robin method of reading.

Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model Components Highlighted in This Activity
(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the elements from the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model that are described below will appear in the video clips used.)

I feel as if most of the components of the INTIME Model were incorporated throughout the lesson. Starting with the Principles of Learning component, we created an Enjoyable Setting. Most of the students are very comfortable with my room and it is a very familiar place. They were also asked to make Patterns and Connections between the webs that they created and the story that they listened to. They were actively involved throughout the lesson through questioning and giving their input in the creation of their webs and of their final products as well. If they had any Direct Experience with tornadoes they were also asked to share with the class. They were given plenty of opportunities to reflect on their work and given Frequent Feedback throughout the lesson. The Information Processing component also played an important role throughout the lesson. Students were asked to Presearch in their pre-reading and webbing activities. They were then asked to keep those things in mind while they were listening to the story and to compare what they have done to the story. After this Search, they were very eager to interpret their webs and how they compared to the story. The students were able to communicate actively and effectively. They also evaluated their own work through comparison and were asked to share what they had learned at the end of the activity. The Content Standards that the lesson was based on were Science and Language Arts. These played a very big roll in planning and implementing the lesson. The Tenets of Democracy were also present in many ways. The students were empowered through the sharing of their webs and their sharing at the end of what they had learned so far. They were also involved in Thinking Together and Making Meaning through their group work on the webs and comparing them to the story as a group, as well as writing their paragraph as a group at the end. They were asked to think critically about what they would do in a severe weather situation and how what they had read could help them to act safely. They had to have Tolerance of each other since they don't all get along all of the time and I think they did a great job of this. They also had to demonstrate Individual Responsibility for behaving appropriately and staying on task throughout the lesson. Overall, the INTIMEModel helped to hold the lesson together.

Student Characteristics:
To meet the needs of diverse learners I use a variety of teaching strategies. Technology is just one of the many things that I use to enhance learning. I use hands-on activities when appropriate as well as direct instruction. Group work also works well for my students. All my students need is for someone to encourage them to learn and to give them positive reinforcement for their hard work. Too many times they are left out of their regular classrooms and emotionally they suffer from this. They don't always feel like they are a part of their class and we try to give them the confidence in our room so that they can carry that with them to the classes that they are included in. My children are doing an excellent job in this setting and I have seen them make great strides to succeed since the beginning of the school year.

Evolution of the Activity:
This lesson started out as using a web to predict what a story may be about. We did the old paper and pencil web and then read the story and compared the web to the story. It worked well the first time as it was in a regular education setting but since we have added the technology the students have only shown more interest and progress in the lesson. I have written this lesson for one particular story but I have done this type of lesson with many other reading stories this year. It works well in any situation. It motivates students to see their thoughts and ideas projected on a screen and gives the students ownership of the lesson.

(Learning activity format adapted from National Educational Technology Standards for Students Connecting Curriculum & Technology