The water cycle is one of those science topics that keeps coming back in school. Kids first learn about the water cycle steps in first grade. They learn about it again in fourth grade and again in middle school.
Background Knowledge and the Water Cycle
I love that students have so much background knowledge about the water cycle steps by the time they get to middle school because it makes it easier for them to learn the new facts and vocabulary. We learn best when we are connecting new information to existing neural networks. Students have an easier time learning about transpiration if they already understand evaporation.
In middle school, the water cycle steps are more complicated than evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. Water can stay in one part of the water cycle for hundreds of years. Groundwater can be trapped for millions of years. These exceptions and nuances make learning about the water cycle in middle school different from learning about it in first grade.
Because our students have so much background knowledge about the water cycle, this is a perfect lesson for showing them how they can leverage their existing background knowledge to learn something new. Tell them you are going to start a unit on the water cycle and have them write down everything they know about it. Then, ask them to write three questions about the water cycle. It is important to give them a specific target, or many students will say they don’t have any questions. The process of thinking of questions will further prime their brains to capture information about the water cycle.
Mind Mapping to Learn Science
You can also create mind maps as students learn about the water cycle. Have students create a mind map of what they already know about the water cycle before starting the lesson. Make sure they leave space to add new information. At the end of the lesson, students can add what they learned to their mind maps. I like this because it is a way to take notes, and it is a visual representation of what is happening in their brains.
Teaching the Water Cycle Steps
I like to teach science topics using both written tools, such as reading passages and videos. I like to use both because it supports my students who don’t have the reading skills to comprehend what they read efficiently, and it gives all students choices about how they learn. All of my reading passages come with comprehension questions. If you give students the reading passage and a video list, they can choose how they find the comprehension questions’ answers.
Remember the Steps of the Water Cycle
Of course, learning the water cycle steps is just the first step in getting them into students’ long-term memories so they can apply them later. To remember the steps in the water cycle, students have to practice remembering them. Students are forced to remember the water cycle steps when they are using the information in an activity. They are also forced to remember when they are studying with flashcards. Unfortunately, most students (and adults) study by looking over their notes or rereading a text. These study methods don’t force us to remember, so they are not effective for moving information into long-term memory.
Luckily, I have your back here too. I have water cycle flashcards that are easy to prep – print, cut, and fold. You can give these to your students as a study tool they can use in class, at home, on the bus, before a game… to help them learn the water cycle steps.
Not only will they learn the steps of the water cycle better than they could have imagined, but they will learn the skills of studying with flashcards that they can apply to many different classes.
Beyond the Water Cycle
Once your students have learned the water cycle steps, they will be able to apply this knowledge to new topics and grow their neural networks even father. They can understand how transpiration is related to photosynthesis and plant homeostasis. They can see how the water cycle and the rock cycle intersect in the long-term carbon cycle. The more background knowledge our students have, the better they can see that everything in the world, and science, is connected.
If you would like to purchase either my water cycle reading passage or water cycle flashcards, you can click on the pictures below to get them at Teachers Pay Teachers.
Are You Teaching Another Science Topic?
I am working on creating more science units so that every science teacher can get exactly what he or she needs for her students. You can also read about how I use brain science to teach other science topics on my blog. Click the pictures below to learn more.