Collaborative Learning: Adaptation Level

K-4 Lesson

The Water Cycle

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Grade Level


Classroom Configuration

  • Whole group activity, with small groups using desktops or laptops, mobile devices.

Arizona State Content Standards

  • Science Grade 4
  • Strand 6: Earth and Space Science
    • Strand 3: Changes in the Earth and Sky
      • PO 1: Identify the sources of water within an environment
      • PO 2: Describe the distribution of water on the Earth
      • PO 3: Differentiate between weather and climate as it relates to the Southwestern United States.
      • PO 4: Measure changes in weather
      • PO 5: Interpret symbols on a weather map
      • PO 6: Compare different weather conditions in various locations

Common Core State Standards: ELA
Comprehension and Collaboration
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
a. Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.
b. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles.
c. Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others.
d. Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.
Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.
Add audio recordings and visual displays to presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.
Key Ideas and Details
Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
Craft and Structure
Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4-5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
Production and Distribution of Writing
With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.
Research to Build and Present Knowledge
Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
b. Apply grade 4 Reading standards to informational texts (e.g., “Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text”).

Arizona Educational Technology Standards (2009)

  • Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving and Decision Making
    • Concept 1: Investigation
      • PO 1: Identify an authentic issue and collaborate as a class to define an essential question using digital tools and resources
    • Concept 2: Exploring Solutions
      • PO 1: Manage a learning project using digital tools
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
    • Concept 1: Understanding
      • PO 3: Choose technology application for a given project or activity


  • Students will understand the continuous cycle that water undergoes as it changes form by creating a graphic illustration of the cycle.

Planning Ahead
This lesson is appropriate for older students in the 3-5 grade level. As a prerequisite, students should have had experiences with water in liquid and solid forms, as well as with water "disappearing" from a cup. These concepts are reviewed in the Motivation section of this lesson.
Procedure for previous lessons (see Science NetLinks lesson for details):
In order for students to understand how the water cycle works, it is important for them to review what they have already learned about water itself, and the different states it can assume (solid, liquid, or gas) in our ever-changing environment.

  • Guide the class in establishing that water is a liquid that both falls from the sky in the form of rain and can be found in abundance in oceans, lakes, streams, and underground.
  • Next, pick up the dish with the ice cube and show it to the class. Ask questions
  • Help the class to see that ice is water that has been frozen into a solid because it has been exposed to very low temperatures. Make sure they understand that when ice is allowed to warm up, it returns to liquid water.
  • Next, present the dish with the wet paper towel, ask questions.
    • At this point, students should understand that when water is exposed to warm temperatures, it disappears or evaporates, becoming a gas, while under colder conditions it can freeze into ice, becoming a solid.
  • It is important to emphasize that the three water samples they've seen represent the three states, or forms, that water takes on as temperature and other conditions change.
  • To help students better understand the constant circulation and transformation of water in the outside world—the water cycle—have them think about and discuss questions such as these:
    • Where does water go when it disappears or evaporates?
    • What role does the sun play in the evaporation process?
    • Where does water come from when it rains?
    • How are clouds formed?
    • When rain (snow/sleet) falls to the ground, what usually happens to it?

(Accept all reasonable answers. Encourage students to elaborate on their responses.)

  • Using the Science NetLinks Water Cycle lesson site, students should visit Round & Round It Goes! The Water Cycle to learn more about how the water cycle works. Students will be directed to click on and read each process of the water cycle as shown on the graphic-starting with precipitation and ending with water vapor-and answer questions and take notes using their Round and Round It Goes! student sheets (copy to digital document or paper).
  • When finished, discuss with them what they have learned and be sure to emphasize key benchmark concepts involving both the transformative (liquid/solid/gas) and the continuous, cyclical aspects of the global water cycle process.
  • Procedures for this lesson
  • Next, divide the class into groups, depending on the availability of your resources. To better apply and reinforce what they have learned, have each group complete the hands-on activity on the Model Water Cycle questions (copy to digital document or paper).
  • Each group will be asked to create a model of a water cycle in class.
  • Using an online Mind Map tool (, Exploratree) record (if student laptops or mobile devices are available, have students or student groups also record) responses to discussion questions such as these:
    • What caused the water to evaporate in the mug or "ocean"?
    • Where did the water go?
    • How can you explain the dripping that is taking place?
    • Explain the processes involved in the water cycle that took place inside your models.
  • Also, ask the students for their questions.
  • Divide the class into seven groups with each one representing one of the key processes in the water cycle-precipitation, infiltration, ground water, water table, evaporation, transpiration, and water vapor.
  • Allow student/group choice to use poster paper or a digital tool to:
    • have each group draw/create a picture showing how their process works within the water cycle.
    • Instruct them to use their notes and previous websites as resources.
  • When they have finished, have the teams arrange their posters on the wall or use computers/mobile learning devices to display the digital tool used with the correct water cycle order, starting with precipitation.
  • Ask each team to explain how their process works. After their presentations, encourage a class discussion, supported by their water cycle models or real-world examples. (Note: Discussion can also take place using a web tool, such as a class blog or wiki.)

Students can further apply what they have learned by doing theMy Life As A Drip activity, where they imagine that they are a drop of water, and write a short story about where they think they came from (in the context of the water cycle).


  • Science Net Links, Water Cycle lesson
  • Round and Round It Goes! student sheet (copied to digital document or paper)
  • Model Water Cycle questions (copied to digital document or paper)
  • Round & Round It Goes! The Water Cycle
  • Water
  • Two dishes
  • An ice cube
  • A clear glass
  • Poster paper
  • Crayons/markers
  • Large glass, metal, or plastic bowls
  • Dry ceramic mugs (like coffee mugs)
  • Long pieces of string or large rubber bands
  • A pitcher or bucket
  • A sheet of clear plastic wrap
  • Rubric Maker: Rubistar
  • Digital collaborative document, i.e. Google Docs , Primary Pad
  • Digital discussion tool, i.e. Edublogs, Kidblog, Edmodo
  • Digital Drawing collaborative tools i.e. Google Drawing,, FlockDraw (collaborative, would need screen shot of final product to save)
  • Digital Drawing collaborative app for mobile device, i.e. Whiteboard
  • Mind Map tool, i.e., Exploratree
  • Mind Map app for mobile devices i.e. Popplet Lite or Mindmeister

Use Rubric to assess group posters (digital or paper) for water cycle accuracy and presentation qualities.

Optional Activity
TheWater Cycle Boogie14 is a sing-a-long about the water cycle which features key terms and processes that students have already learned in the lesson. It may be sung for fun and further reinforcement.

Students of all grade levels can learn much more about the ways the water cycle affects the environment at the EPA'sWater Sourcebook Series website. This resource features activities, fact sheets, reference materials, and more.

Note: This lesson can be adapted to the Infusion Level of Technology Integration by using Scratch for student demonstrations of understanding the water cycle.

*Source: Science Net Links-The Water Cycle

Technology Integration Matrix





Goal Directed