Water Cycle: Investigating Condensation

Kathy Tagg, St. Francis Elementary, St. Francis, MN, based on Down Comes The RAIN by Franklyn M. Branley
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Initial Publication Date: August 12, 2008


The teacher will lead students through a discussion of the water cycle when reading Down Comes the RAIN by Franklyn M. Bradley. Students will learn how water vapor turns into water droplets through condensation by participating in the activity on pages 14-15. Students will record their findings by drawing and labeling a picture of condensation. Students will communicate what they have learned and possibly develop questions through a group discussion at the end of the lesson.

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Learning Goals

This activity is designed as an introduction to the water cycle. Students will understand the concept of condensation through the synthesis of ideas, questioning, observation and recording. Students will gain experience in communicating their ideas orally, by drawing, and by writing. Main vocabulary: water vapor, water droplets, and condensation. Secondary vocabulary: water cycle, evaporation

Context for Use

This lesson could fit in with other lessons on weather, especially as a preliminary lesson to clouds. This is an introduction on the water cycle and is expected to continue with extensions beyond this lesson. Allow approximately forty-five minutes to complete all the activities of this lesson. With my first grade students I like to do group readings and discussions on the floor in my reading corner of the classroom. When doing the experiment students should work in groups of four to five depending on your class size and space. You will need 16-oz. glasses, water and ice. I suggest placing a colored piece of paper under the glass that will show saturation of the water droplets that fall from the sides of the glass. If students have a science notebook already in progress they can use that for their drawing and recording. Otherwise you can use just a blank piece of paper. You will also need the following referenced book:
Branley, F. (1997). Down Comes the Rain (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2). New York: HarperTrophy.

Description and Teaching Materials

To begin the lesson, have students sit in a group on the floor. To begin the discussion, show students the cover of the book, Down Comes The RAIN by Franklyn M. Branley. Ask, "Where does rain come from?" Take some ideas and then tell them they are going to learn about where rain comes from. Read and discuss the book as needed. Skip over pages 14 and 15. You will come back to that when you are done reading the book. When the book is done review the vocabulary words: water vapor, water droplets, condensation, evaporation, water cycle, by writing them on the board and have students help you generate a definition. Then go to pages 14 and 15 and tell students that they are going to do an experiment about condensation. "We are going to see if we can make water vapor turn into water droplets. What is that called class?" Hopefully they will say condensation. Read pages 14 and 15. Have students go to their desks (mine are in groups of four and my students have jobs). Have appointed students hand out glasses of water and the colored paper for the glass to sit on. (One of each per group.) As you drop the ice into their glasses remind them to observe what happens. Remind them not to touch the glass for now. After waiting five minutes have students take out their science notebook (or hand out a piece of paper to each student) and have them draw and label what they discovered happened to the water and the glass. If they choose they may also write an explanation of the condensation process. (Some students will be ready for this experience.) Write the words water vapor, water droplet, condensation, on the board. Tell them to use those words to label their drawing. Tell them that one of those words is the process that happened to their glass and should be the title of their drawing. You can have the notebooks left on their desks for your viewing or collect their drawings. Have the items used for the experiment put away. For closure to this lesson review by having students explain what they learned and discovered today. Ask, "After doing the experiment did you come up with any questions that haven't been answered?" Record these on the board and consider these questions for further extension or discuss them now.

Teaching Notes and Tips

If your students have not done drawing and recording that will have to be modeled.
If you haven't developed a plan for doing experiments and how groups set up their area and jobs you will have to do that. While discussing rain you may need to steer reflective comments on student's storm experiences back to the topic of basic rain.


Assessment can be done by informal observation during the lesson and by collecting and rating their drawing/recording sheet. Drawings need to represent condensation with vocabulary words labeled in their appropriate place. The words condensation, water vapor, water droplets, should be written on the board for students to use when identifying their drawing parts.


Standard: The student will investigate weather cycles.
Benchmark: The student will observe, record and describe characteristics in daily weather and seasonal cycles.

References and Resources