How to Teach Temperature in the Third Grade

Allow children to handle and look at a real thermometer.
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Most children have a general understanding of weather and the seasons by the time they are in third grade. Teachers of third-graders can now engage students in observation and recording activities. They will have an opportunity to experience real scientific processes by tracking and logging information daily and then analyzing the results.

1 Studying the Thermometer

Discuss the meaning of temperature with students. Accept definitions like "how warm or cold something is." Talk about how or why temperature changes. Ask students if they are familiar with the tool used to measure temperature. Display a large diagram of a thermometer and lead a discussion of its features. Ask students what they notice about the parts of the thermometer. If possible, offer children a chance to handle an actual thermometer. Plastic thermometers are good for classroom activities. Children can study the thermometer in small groups.

2 Preparing for Research

Find a place to keep a classroom thermometer outside. Directly outside a classroom window is an ideal location. Children will check the temperature each day at the same time and record the number. Create a daily worksheet or provide journals in which the children can draw and write their information. Explain the process to children and tell them you will be asking them different questions about the temperature. For instance, you might ask them if the temperature today is higher or lower than the temperature yesterday and by how many degrees.

3 Recording Observations

Designate a time each day when students are all in the classroom and can work on their temperature worksheets or journals. Encourage them to either draw a picture of the thermometer and mark the temperature or just record the temperature in numerals. If you created a worksheet with a picture of a thermometer, children can record the temperature there. They can also write down some notes about the weather that day.

4 Analyzing the Information

After about three or more weeks, review the class findings. Discuss any patterns the students notice. Create a graph to display the temperature results over time. A graph will help show the information visually and allow children to more easily notice patterns and temperature dips and rises. Ask questions about the graph. You can even use the graph during math time for a variety of activities. Encourage your third-graders to check the temperature at home if they have a home thermometer. Or they can record what they hear on the local news. Invite them to make predictions about future temperatures.

5 Temperature Experiments

After students have become more familiar with thermometers and temperature, design some experiments students can perform with cups of water. This activity can also be done as a demonstration with student volunteers. Use a variety of cups of water and varying temperatures and allow students to dip the thermometer in to find out how warm or cold each cup of water is. Discuss why or when this information would be useful.

Rachel Pancare taught elementary school for seven years before moving into the K-12 publishing industry. Pancare holds a Master of Science in childhood education from Bank Street College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Skidmore College.