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How to Use Weather Maps to Make a Forecast

A High School Science Lesson Plan


Meteorologist Photo

A meteorologist or forecaster shown completing a television weather report.

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Purpose of lesson

The purpose of the lesson is to use meteorological data on a weather map, including a variety of weather map symbols, to predict weather events and produce a mock forecast. The intent is to show how data is collected and analyzed. Students first analyze a weather report to discover its parts. They then use these same techniques to analyze weather data. By creating a web at the beginning of the lesson, they can then complete an assessment where they complete another web that, this time, outlines the steps a forecaster takes to produce a forecast.


  1. Given wind speed and direction data in a weather station model from various locations around the United States,correctly label the map with the locations of high and low pressure zones.
  2. Given temperature data on a United States isotherm map, chose the correct frontal boundary from the four types of frontal boundaries and draw it on the map so that a forecast can be produced.


  • AMS Datastreme at http://www.ametsoc.org/amsedu/dstreme/ for up-to-date weather maps
  • NOAA Jetstream website at http://www.srh.noaa.govNOAA
  • Jetstream website at NOAA Jetstream online school for weather http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream// for background information
  • Daily newspaper weather section (minimum 5 days collected at least one week in advance of lesson)
  • The Weather blog at http://weather.about.com

Materials needed for lesson

Teacher needs to collect the daily newspaper forecast for 5 days in advance of the lesson. Teacher must also print daily isotherm, frontal, and pressure maps from the AMS datastreme site.

A computer projector (and a computer) would be helpful in reviewing the online Jetstream school.

Students will need colored pencils and access to research online through computers or the library.

Students will need a KWL chart to fill in at the beginning, middle, and end of the class.


Teacher will show a video of a weather report that includes a weather map. Students will watch the video while thinking about the essential question – "How do scientists gather and report data to create weather reports?" The video segment of the lesson acts as a hook to get students interested in the data. Also included will be a demonstration of various meteorological tools including a barometer, thermometer, wind speed indicator (anemometer), hygrometer, weather instrument shelters, and photos of weather satellites and the resultant images.

The students will then formulate a pair-share group to produce a web of all the parts of a weather report. They will include methods and tools used to gather meteorological data as well as the components of weather maps and forecast reports. Students will share some of their main points in the webs they created with the teacher. The teacher will record the information on the board and ask for discussion in the class for what they think is the best way to create a web.

Once the video segment is shown, students will go through a series of steps to practice analyzing weather maps.Students will also fill out a KWL chart once they see the weather video. Once they are complete, they will be able to check their forecasts based on the newspaper forecasts the teacher already collected.


The assessment will be a weather map of the CURRENT class day, printed in the morning by the teacher, and students will have to predict the weather for the next day. In the same pair-share groups, students will create a 1 minute forecast report as if they were on TV.

Remediation and review

  1. Practice reading temperature data in Celsius and Fahrenheit on a standard alcohol thermometer.
  2. Show students a model of a building or doll. Explain the idea of the use of models in science.
  3. Obtain a weather map from Datastreme site and distribute to students so they can see examples of a real weather map.
  4. Introduce students to the online Jetstream site and the parts of a weather map. Students will record the various parts of a station model.
  5. Locate a station model for a city and record temperature, pressure, wind speed, etc. in a data table. Describe to a partner the different conditions present in that city. Optional-Using laptop computers, instant message a partner across the room about the conditions in your city.
  6. Use a simplified map to locate the isotherm lines on a weather map. Connect similar temperatures in increments of 10 degrees with different shades of colored pencils. Create a key for the colors. Analyze the map to see where different air masses are and try to outline a frontal boundary using the correct symbols learned from the Jetstream online course.
  7. Students will obtain a pressure reading map and determine the pressure at a station. Color the region around several cities that show pressure anomalies. Students will then try to determine high and low pressure zones.
  8. Students will draw conclusions about their maps and check the key with the teacher.


The conclusion will be the presentation of forecasts from students. As students explain why they feel it will rain, get colder, etc., students will have a chance to agree or disagree with the information. The teacher will go over the correct answers the next day. If done right, the next day's weather is the real weather the student forecasted because the map used in the assessment was the CURRENT weather map. The teacher should review the objectives and standards on the bulletin board. Teachers should also review the 'learned' portion of the KWL chart to show students what was accomplished in the lesson.


  • Students will use a weather map (model) to create a weather report.
  • Students will use observation and analysis to determine the methods, data, tools, and information used in forecasts of the weather by creating a graphic organizer (webbing).
  • Students will have periodic self-checks available as they analyze older maps to gain the skill in interpreting and predicting future weather.
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