Lesson Plan: The Water Cycle

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The Water Cycle

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Unit Goal

The student will observe/investigate the movement of water through the different stages of the water cycle and determine what drives the water cycle. 

Unit Objective

Lesson Objective(s):

  • Describe the water cycle in written form using appropriate vocabulary: evaporation, transpiration, condensation, precipitation, infiltration, surface runoff, groundwater, and absorption with 80% accuracy.

  • Given a graphic organizer the learner will label the water cycle diagram with 85% accuracy.

  • Identify and explain the three states of water and how water transitions between the states of water.

  • Describe the movement of water within the water cycle in written form with 85% accuracy.

  • Demonstrate evaporation, transpiration, condensation, precipitation, infiltration, and surface runoff by participating in lab activities with 85%.

  • Develop a multi-panel comic strip or storybook. Using a rubric That will follow one water drop’s journey through the complete water cycle with 80% accuracy.

  • Peer edit a classmates Water Cycle Project using a rubric with 80% accuracy.

Background and Rationale

Students will observe/investigate the movement of water through the different stages of the water cycle and determine what drives the water cycle.  This lesson plan was taken from NASA  Preciptation in Education Lesson plan found at http://pmm.nasa.gov/education/videos/earths-water-cycle. The concept is examined in some detail and each part of the processes, including evaporation, transpiration, condensation, precipitation, infiltration, surface runoff, groundwater, and absorption, is discussed. Students will discover how changes in heat energy occur throughout the cycle. This lesson will take at least four to five 45-minute class periods to complete. The culminating activity requires students to create a technology-based presentation (comic strip or story) using Story Jumper or TooDoo explaining their understanding of the Water Cycle. This lesson incorporates several different methods of differentiation in order to meet different learning needs of the students, for example: Use of experimentation and demonstrations (simulation, hands on); Group work and Peer Editing (collaboration, teamwork); Power point presentation (visible notes and pictures); Worksheet (homework and practice); Questions, cues (elicit information, draw in student attention) ; Note taking skills and instruction; and Technology to create a comic strip or story to reinforce understanding of the water cycle.

Lesson Objectives


Bloom’s Verb

Describe that the water cycle include appropriate vocabulary: evaporation, transpiration, condensation, precipitation, infiltration, surface runoff, groundwater, and absorption.


Label the water cycle diagram


Describe the movement of water within the water cycle.


Identify and explain the three states of water and how water transitions between them.


Demonstrate evaporation, transpiration, condensation, precipitation, infiltration, and surface runoff by lab participating in lab activities.


Develop a multi-panel comic strip or story book. That will follow one water drop’s journey through the ENTIRE water cycle.

 Peer edit Water Cycle Project.  Creating

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Creating (Bloom’s highest level)

Curriculum Standards

New York State Math, Science, and Technology – Standard 4: Science

Standard 4—Science: Students will understand and apply scientific concepts, principles, and theories pertaining to the physical setting and living environment and recognize the historical development of ideas in science.
2. Key Idea: Many of the phenomena that we observe on Earth involve interactions among components of air, water, and land.

Performance Indicators--Students: observe the relationships among air, water, and land on Earth.

Buffalo Standards

MST Standard & Key Idea: Standard 1– Analysis, Inquiry and Design Standard 2- Information Systems
Standard 6- Interconnectedness
Common Themes Standard 7- Interdisciplinary Problem Solving

ELA Common Core

  • W.8.2d
Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
  • W.8.10
Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
  • LA: L.8.4
Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words or phrases based on grade 8 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
  • SL.8.5
Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.

Technology Integration (ISTE Standards):

2. Communication and Collaboration: Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

a. Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.

Learning and Innovation Skills (P21.org)

Creativity and Innovation
Think Creatively:

  • Use a wide range of idea creation techniques (such as brainstorming).

Communication and Collaboration

  • Collaborate with Others: Demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams.

Life and Career Skills (P21.org)

Flexibility and Adaptability 

  • Be Flexible: Incorporate feedback effectively

Initiative and Self-Direction

Be Self-directed Learners:
  • Reflect critically on past experiences in order to inform future progress.

Social and cross-Cultural Skills

  • Interact Effectively with Other:
  • Know when it is appropriate to listen and when to speak.
  • Conduct themselves in a respectable, professional manner.

Productivity and Accountability

  • Manage Projects: Prioritize, plan and manage work to achieve the intended result.

Information, Media, and Technology Skills (P21.org)

Media Literacy 
Create Media Products:

  • Understand and utilize the most appropriate media creation tools, characteristics and conventions.

ICT Literacy 
Apply Technology Effectively:

  • Use technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information.


  • Student Notes
  • Demonstrations/Labs (See Demonstration for list of materials)
  • Student Notes
  • Diagrams Visuals
Student Capture Sheet
  • Videos see powerpoint
  • Comic Strip or Storyboard Template Graphic Organizer
  • Peer Edit Rubric
StoryJumper and ToonDoo Project
  • Project Rubric

Thinking Routine

Think-Share-Pair: Is designed to have students think about the water cycle, then pair with another student and share their thoughts.
Use to Think, But Now I Know: This routine helps students reflect on their thinking about the water cycle and explore how and why that thinking has changed.

Lesson Activities and Procedures

Lesson Procedures and Activities: (2 Days)

1. Students will think-pair-share an answer to the following question: “What is precipitation?” (Slide 3) The teacher can record their answers on the board.

2. Show the video, “The Freshwater Connection” (1:25)

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Click on the image to access the youtube video


(Slide 4) (This is an introduction to why it is important to study the water cycle.)

3. After the video, have students Think-Pair-Share the question, “Based upon what we just viewed, why is it important to study and understand the water cycle?” (Slide 5) Solicit responses. (5 min)

1. Hand out the Water Cycle Capture Sheet. Students will use this throughout the rest of the lesson following the power point and demonstrations.

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click on the image to access the Google Slide

2. Show the water cycle video (Slide 6). Students should be labeling their blank diagrams as they watch. This version of the water cycle is more complex than the one on their capture sheets. Students only need to copy the ones from the word bank.

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Click on the image to access the video


3. Ask, “Which of the stages in the water cycle require energy from the Sun?”
(Evaporation and Transpiration.) Click on the diagram (Slide 7) and the correct labels will be circles.

*The demonstrations give the students a visual, concrete model of a relatively abstract concept. The understanding of the water cycle is important through their learning and these demonstrations help to reinforce their understanding. Students will complete the demonstration questions at the end of each demonstration. Answers will be written down on the Student Capture handout.

Evaporation Demonstration: (8 min) (Slide 8)

I will emphasis to the students that the sun is the heat source that drives the water cycle.

 Beaker of water 200 ML
Bunsen Burner
Beaker Tongs


  • Ask students “What will happen when heat is added to the beaker of water?”

  • Turn on heat lamp to represent the incoming solar radiation, and light the Bunsen 

  • The beaker of water represents large bodies of water like oceans. The Bunsen burner 
represents the heating of the water as it absorbs the suns radiations.

  • “What happens to the water as it recovers heat energy from the Sun?” Emphasizes that 
the water temperature will increase the longer the water is exposed to the sun’s energy.

  • “What phase change is occurring in the water?” (Liquid -> Gas)

Explain that the molecules of water are getting more excited and moving faster. This 
added energy allows them to move apart and become a gas-just like the earth’s surface does every day.

Transpiration Demonstration: (8 min) (Slide 9)

 Potted Plant
,Clear Plastic Bag, 
Rubber Band


  • Place a bag over part, or all of a well watered, potted plant.
  • Tie off the bottom of the bag so it’s tightly closed.
  • Show students that there is water in the baggy.
  • Ask the students how the water got in there.

Explain that the plant takes in water 
through their roots. The water is moved throughout the plant and then evaporates through its pore and stomata. Also, this process happens continually, wherever there are plants.

4. Ask, “Which of the stages requires water to give off heat? (Condensation) (Slide 10). Click on the diagram and the correct labels will be circles. Go to next slide.

Condensation Demonstration (8 min)

Materials:  Cloud
2 liter pop bottle with cap, 40 ml of water
, 1 match
, 1 match striker
, Warm tap water- fill bottle with about 2 inches


  • Shake the bottle with lid for 5 seconds so there is water vapor in the bottle

  • Squeeze the bottle and release the pressure. Explain that when a compressed gas ( air 
inside the squeezed bottle) expands rapidly (releasing the squeeze quickly), it cools. A everyday example of this is the way a metal hairspray or deodorant can feel cooler after it is used.

  • Ask what they see form inside the bottle. (No clouds should form, but here may be a little condensation on the sides of the bottle.) Ask why this happened. (Some of the water vapor cooled and condensed back into a liquid on the sides of the bottle but Not the air.)

  • Tell students to take off the bottle cap and, as a team they will address the smoke in the bottle.

    • One partner holds the bottle on the table

    • Another partner holds the cap

    • The third partner lights the match and counts to 3 and drops it in the bottle

    • The first person replaces the cap tightly.

The quickly cooling air should now form a cloud in the bottle. ( It may take two to three squeezes for the cloud to form. Explain that this happens because the water vapor has condensation nuclei (the smoke particle’s) on which to condense. The tiny smoke particles are like the pop can and mirror in the previous demonstration.

5. Ask, “Which of the stages are driven by the force of gravity?” (Slide 12). (Precipitation, Runoff, Infiltration, Groundwater Flow) Click on the diagram and the correct labels will be circles. 

Complete the teacher demonstration Freshwater from Saltwater Demo: (10 min) (Slide 9). 
Freshwater from Saltwater Demo: (10 min) (Slide 15 & 16)

1. Look at the “Ocean” container in which the teacher evaporated the water. What do

you observe?

2. Using what you just observed explain why cloud and precipitation contains fresh water

even though much of the water vapor comes from oceans and seas. Label the Diagram

Word Bank:




Run off Infiltration


Solar Radiation


1. Which parts of the water cycle require energy form the sun?

2. Which parts of the water cycle require the water molecules to give away heat energy (cool down)?

3. Which parts of the water cycle are caused by the force of gravity?

Evaluate: (1 to 2 days) Students will have class time and are expected to work on this for homework. (Slide 18 – 20)

For this project, you will describe the movement of a water drop through the water cycle. The drop may begin anywhere in the cycle and must go through at least two phase changes, (i.e. liquid to gas and back to liquid or solid). You must also include how gravity and the sun’s radiation drive the cycle.

Imagine you are a water molecule telling the story of your journey. Use what you learned from the previous lessons to demonstrate your understanding of how the water cycles. Include the places you go, and the changes you make as you travel through the cycle. Use the vocabulary words written below correctly in your story. Show what you know and be as creative as possible. You will be provided with a graphic organizer to brainstorm ideas for your story or comic strip. Once approved by the teacher you can begin to create your ToonDoo or Story Jumper.

You have 2 options for this project: ToonDoo Comic Strip or create a story using Story Jumper.

You may make a comic strip or story with a molecule of water as the main character.

  1. The comic or story must include text that explains what is happening in each 

  2. The text can be dialogue ‘spoke’ by the drop, or written as captions at the bottom of 
the frames.

  3. The following terms must be included: Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation, 
Transpiration, Run Off, Solar Radiation, and Ground Water.

  4. You will be graded based on the rubric and peer-editing handout.

Peer Edit

  • Once you complete your comic strip or story you will peer edit to make corrections or suggestions. (See Handout)

  • Make your final changes and submit your project to the teacher.

Lesson Closure

  • After students have completed their comic strip or story they will complete the “I use to think routine”
When we began this study of The Water Cycle, you all had some initial ideas about it and what it was all about. In just a few sentences, I want to write what it is that you used to think about
 The Water Cycle. Take a minute to think back and then write down your response to “ I used to
Now, I want you to think about how your ideas of The Water Cycle have changed as a result of what we’ve been studying/doing/discussing. Again, in just a few sentences

write down what you now think about Water Cycle. Start your sentences with, “Now I think…”(See Handout)


imagesFormative assessments will be carried out throughout the lesson in the form of discussions, demonstrations, on task behavior, written/ oral responses, and worksheet completion.

The Summative assessment will be the student created electronic comic strip using Toondoo or story bird. It will be graded based on the teacher created rubrics. (See Rubric)

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Click on the image to enlarge

Student Work Example

Book titled 'The Water Cycle'Read this free book made on StoryJumper// < ![CDATA[ // < ![CDATA[ // < ![CDATA[ // < ![CDATA[ // < ![CDATA[ // < ![CDATA[ // < ![CDATA[ // < ![CDATA[ // var pr=(("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https:" : "http:");if (typeof SJScriptLoaded === "undefined") {window.SJScriptLoaded = true;var s = document.createElement("script");s.src = pr+"//www.storyjumper.com/script/storyjumper-embed.js";document.getElementsByTagName("head")[0].appendChild(s);function r(f){/in/.test(document.readyState)? setTimeout("r("+f+")",9) : f()}r(function() { SJMakeBookOpenLightBox(); });}


Author Profile: 

Heidi Gruber


Click on the image for the author's profile







NASA Earth’s Water Cycle Lesson plan:  http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a010000/a011000/a011054/