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Standards-based assessment and Instruction

Science K-2












Time Required: Two 20-minute class sessions, about two weeks apart

Where Does a Drop of Rain Go?

We will be learning how rain is made in nature and where the raindrops go after they fall out of the sky. First, you will draw and write what you know and think about these things. At the end of our unit, I will ask you to do this again to see how much more you have learned about what makes rain and where it goes.

Grade Level:K–2

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • ESS2.C The roles of water in Earth's surface processes: Water is found in many types of places and in different forms on Earth.
  • ESS2.D Weather and climate: Weather is the combination of sunlight, wind, snow or rain, and temperature in a particular region and time. People record weather patterns over time.
  • PS1.A Structure of matter: Matter exists as different substances that have observable different properties.

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Cause and Effect
  • Patterns
  • Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
  • Systems and System Models

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Record information (observations, thoughts, and ideas). Use and share pictures, drawings, and/or writings of observations. Use observations (firsthand or from media) to describe patterns and/or relationships in the natural and designed world(s) in order to answer scientific questions and solve problems.
  • Asking Questions and Defining Problems: Ask questions based on observations to find more information about the natural and/or designed world(s).
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: Use information from observations (firsthand and from media) to construct an evidence-based account for natural phenomena.
  • Developing and Using Models: Develop and/or use a model to represent amounts, relationships, relative scales (bigger, smaller), and/or patterns in the natural and designed world(s).
  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information: Communicate information or design ideas and/or solutions with others in oral and/or written forms using models, drawings, writing, or numbers that provide detail about scientific ideas, practices, and/or design ideas.
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations: Make predictions based on prior experiences.

Suggested Materials

Students can use plain paper or a prepared worksheet for describing the water cycle.


First and second graders in our classes were introduced to a unit on the water cycle, beginning with a preassessment to see what they already knew. From that activity, we confirmed or introduced students to some of the associated science vocabulary.

The purpose of this assessment was to determine how much conceptual growth we could measure from preassessment to postassessment. Were students beginning to make connections conceptually? Had they mastered the science vocabulary with the terms we were using?

Instructional Stages

Engagement: Students access prior knowledge and engage with phenomena.

What the Task Accomplishes

This task calls upon students to describe and/or accurately draw and label their explanations about how rain forms and where it goes. It allows the teacher the opportunity to check for conceptual understanding and connections being made throughout the unit of study. By encouraging students to use science vocabulary to explain events, science literacy is also being developed.

How the Students Will Investigate

Students were instructed to complete a labeled drawing of a drop of rain coming out of a cloud and show what happens to it after that.

Interdisciplinary Links and Extensions

Science: Other water investigations in the unit included dissolving things in water, observing water as an agent of erosion, making it rain indoors, evaporation investigations, and soil investigations in which students observed how easily water passes through or is held by different soil types.

Make water molecules using three sections of an egg carton for each student. Paint two sections with one color and mark them "hydrogen." Paint the remaining section a different color and mark it "oxygen." Connect the three sections together. Mount all of the class molecules inside a giant drop of water (cut large paper in the shape of a drop of water). This helps children conceptualize that there are many molecules of water inside a single drop of water, and when the drop of water evaporates, the molecules move apart from one another to form a gas.

Language Arts: Students can write acrostic poetry and illustrate it with watercolors, using aspects of the water cycle with the key word written vertically down the page.

Movement/Music: As an introduction to this unit of study, all of our grades-one and -two students (200+) gathered in the gymnasium to simulate the water cycle. They listened to environmental music and sounds while pretending to be water falling as gentle rain, collecting in rivers and lakes, evaporating to form clouds and becoming snowfall when the temperature dropped. (For example, they climbed up the cargo nets to simulate evaporation.) Have students simulate different types of clouds forming as conditions are described to them. (For example, when very hot air rises quickly and hits very cold air.)

Teaching Tips and Guiding Questions

Open-ended questions that can guide students' thinking and build their understanding include:

  • What are the water molecules doing when they are in a cloud? How do water drops form in a cloud
  • How are they moving when they come out? Where do they go?
  • How is water vapor different from water? How are they the same? (physical changes
  • In which direction does precipitation move?
  • Where does water go when it hits the ground?
  • In which direction does evaporating water move?
  • What makes a cloud form? What can you tell me about the temperature? What happens when a cloud gets warmer? colder?
  • Where does the earth get the heat energy to make water molecules move? How does that energy get to the earth?
  • Where do you get the energy that moves or heats your body?

Possible Solutions

Students should explain, label and/or draw all of the key aspects of the water cycle:

  • Raindrops falling from a cloud
  • Water flowing to rivers and streams
  • Heat causing water on the earth to evaporate and rise
  • Clouds formed by cooling air
  • Condensation

Key words that students should use are: evaporation, precipitation and condensation (were written on the board to assist spelling).

Student Anchor Papers and Task-Specific Assessment Notes

Task Specific Rubric/Benchmark Descriptors
Click on a level for student example.
Novice This student's solution is incomplete and lacking in detail. The drawing is not labeled and is unclear. There is little evidence of conceptual understanding.
Apprentice This student dictates his/her solution, using one of the vocabulary words appropriately. The drawing is not labeled, but there is some evidence of conceptual understanding of the water cycle. Further questioning would reveal the degree of understanding of the science vocabulary and concepts.
Practitioner This student's solution shows a complete cycle and uses terms accurately. The drawing is clearly labeled and the student incorporates his/her earlier understanding of groundwater appropriately - evidence of conceptual understanding.
Expert This student's solution is complete and accurate. The explanation outlines in detail the three key vocabulary words (precipitation, evaporation, condensation) - evidence of conceptual understanding. The student extends thinking by using other appropriate science vocabulary and includes a diagram showing other aspects of the water cycle (groundwater and how plants use that water).

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