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5 ideas for teaching about the weather using apps and mobile devices


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Here are some ideas for teaching weather words – or about the topic of the weather – using apps and mobile devices. The ideas are aimed at the EFL/ESL young learner classroom but can be adapted to other contexts.

1. Listen to a song – Itsy Bitsy Spider
Itsy Bitsy Spider (also known as Incy Wincy Spider) is a traditional children’s song about a spider in the rain. This app is aimed at toddlers who speak English as a first language, but it would be suitable for some younger learners (for example aged 5 or 6) who are learning English as a second or foreign language too.

Use the app with your whole class, and get children to sing along (you can record them singing), and encourage them to touch and explore (for example, making rain come down from a cloud, splashing in puddles). Children can also learn about weather and nature by poking the fly that appears in every scene; and there are other learning activities (eg counting from 1 – 10 as a squirrel builds a house).

There are useful worksheets that you can download for Incy Wincy Spider on the British Council’s LearnEnglish Kids website.

App: Itsy Bitsy Spider
Platform: iOS (versions for iPhone and iPad)
Cost: £1.49/$1.99

App: Itsy Bitsy Spider
Platform: Android
Cost: £1.27

2. Learn about the seasons and weather
iLearn with Poko is an app aimed at children aged between 3- 7. The app has three levels all based around basic concepts of the weather and the seasons: In Level 1, children have to click on pictures that match certain descriptions (for example, click on the picture where there are no clouds); in Level 2, children have to click on things that don’t match the weather (for example, a child wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day); and in Level 3, children have to match activities with the right weather. This level also introduces a calendar with months and days of the week.

Again, this app is aimed at native speakers of English, but would be useful for children learning English as a second or foreign language. All instructions are verbal, so learners will come across natural English used in meaningful contexts. They may need some help at first with understanding the instructions, but the app would give learners great practice in developing their listening skills (note that this app uses American English so uses ‘fall’ and not ‘autumn’ for example). The app would also be useful in cross-curricular contexts, introducing children to basic concepts of science and geography. It might also inspire your class to keep their own weather diary for a period of time – perhaps a class blog recording the weather each day?

App: iLearn with Poko: Seasons and Weather!
Platform: iOS (versions for iPhone and iPad)
Cost: £1.99/$2.99

3. Spell weather words
Word Carrot is an app that will help learners of all ages spell ten weather words. Learners see the word, hear the word, and choose the right letters to spell it. You could use it as a game to play on the IWB, or students can use it to practise weather words outside the classroom. Here is an activity you can print for learners to practise the words further.
Weather Worksheet

App: Word Carrot
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free

4. Weather around the world
Here are two activities you can do with upper primary or secondary students. First divide students into small groups, and make sure that each group has access to a mobile device with a free weather app installed (such as Accuweather, or any preferred weather app). Now ask groups to carry out one of the following tasks:

1. Ask each group to research current weather conditions, and to write a quiz for students in another group using the data (for example: Is it raining in Seoul? What’s the temperature in Madrid? Do you need to wear a raincoat in Tokyo? Is it best to be indoors or outdoors in Helsinki today?) When students are ready, get them to swap quizzes and give them a time limit to answer the questions using their weather app. If students use different weather apps, you might get some interesting results, which could lead to a discussion about the accuracy of weather apps.

2. Give students some questions comparing the weather in different places around the world (for example: What’s the hottest place in Germany? What’s the coldest place in Japan? Is Moscow hotter than Beijing? ) Tell students to use the weather app to find the answers as quickly as they can. This is a great way to practise comparatives and superlatives.

App: Accuweather
Platform: iOS (versions for iPhone and iPad)/Android
Cost: Free

One interesting weather app is Weather Doodle, which features animated weather art that represents the time of day and weather conditions of the chosen location. This visual representation of the weather could be a useful asset to the classroom, and might inspire an art project too. This app is not free but it is low-cost.

App: Weather Doodle
Platform: iOS
Cost: £0.69/$0.99

5. Make a weather report
This is another idea for older primary and secondary students. Put students into pairs or small groups, and make sure that each group has a mobile device which allows video recording. First of all, discuss typical weather reports: What information is given? Who is the audience? What do these people need to know? What kinds of phrases are used? You could perhaps watch a weather report or two together as a class at this stage. Next, students should prepare a short weather report in groups, about their own or another country. Once videos are ready, they can be shared with others using a simple blogging app such as Posterous.

Here are some examples of students giving weather reports in French and Spanish. You will be able to find more on youtube (but do watch out for comments). These videos could give you and your students some ideas:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97Uha0xAZ1k
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUJpzeZKchA&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEhdX05u1Ps&feature=related

App: Posterous
Platform: iOS/Android
Cost: Free

 

Kim Ashmore, Director & Co-Founder, LearnAhead Ltd

That’s five ideas. Share any others that you have here. We’d love to hear about them.

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