Tornado Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teach your students about tornadoes with this lesson plan. Students learn how tornadoes are formed and how to classify them, then create their own mini-tornadoes.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define key terms
  • explain how tornadoes are formed
  • classify tornadoes


1 hour


  • Small balls
  • Map of the United States
  • Copies or a visual of the Enhanced Fujita Scale
  • Plastic bottles or jars (students can bring from home, but you may need some on-hand just in case)
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Dish soap
  • Small objects (such as tiny balls of aluminum foil)

Key Vocabulary

  • Tornado
  • Updraft
  • Downdraft
  • Enhanced Fujita Scale

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.2

Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.3

Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.


  • For homework before the lesson, ask students to bring in clear plastic water bottles or jars (with lids) to use in the experiment.
  • Engage students and connect to learning by having them answer the prompt 'Tornadoes make me think of...' in their science notebooks.
  • Share and discuss answers. Tell students they will be learning about tornadoes. Preview and teach vocabulary words.
  • Show our lesson plan What Are Tornadoes? - Definition, Causes & The Enhanced Fujita Scale. Allow students to take notes if desired.
  • Pause at 2:32 and ensure student understanding. Discuss:
    • How do tornadoes form?
    • How are storm cells formed?
    • What causes a tornado to fall?
  • Allow students to use the balls as described in the lesson to recreate the movement of tornadoes.
  • Resume the video. Pause at 3:29 and show students areas of the map mentioned in the 'Where Do Tornadoes Occur' section. Discuss why tornadoes happen in these areas.
  • Continue playing the video. As you play the section 'The Enhanced Fujita Scale,' allow students to view the scale.
  • Pause at 4:38: Ask:
    • Why did scientists make the EF scale?
    • Where did the scale get its name?
    • What classifications are used in the scale?
  • Play the lesson summary and allow students to record pertinent information. Check for student understanding.

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