Precipitation teaches students all about this specific step in the water cycle and the different forms it comes in. Students will discover facts about rain, snow, hail, freezing rain, and sleet. They will also figure out how to differentiate among the various types.

It is likely that students know the term precipitation, but they may not know or understand the conditions that are necessary for each type to occur. You could explore the “Options for Lesson” section for ideas and activities that you can incorporate into the lesson if you have time or want to extend it.

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What our Precipitation lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Precipitation teaches students about this important step in the water cycle. Students will learn about and compare rain, snow, hail, freezing rain, and sleet. They will also discover how to differentiate among the different types of precipitation. This lesson is for students in 1st grade, 2nd grade, and 3rd grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For the activity, you will need poster boards or construction paper, scratch paper, and colored pencils or markers.

Options for Lesson

There are a number of suggestions in the “Options for Lesson” section that you could incorporate into your lesson if you have time or want to extend it. Regarding the activity, you could have students work in pairs or small groups rather than alone. Another option is to invite a meteorologist to speak to the class. Depending on the season when you present this lesson, you could take the students outdoors when it’s raining or snowing lightly. Have students observe the water drops or snowflakes as they fall. One more idea is to have students write a story from the perspective of a raindrop, snowflake, or other type of precipitation.

Teacher Notes

The paragraph on this page gives you a little more information on the lesson overall and describes what you may want to focus your teaching on. It suggests teaching this lesson in conjunction with others about the weather, water cycle, and so on. You could also take advantage of video resources to supplement learning. The blank lines are available for you to write out any thoughts or ideas you have as you prepare.


What Is Precipitation?

The Precipitation lesson plan has three pages of content. Precipitation is, quite simply, water falling to the ground from the sky in some form or another. The scientific definition is a bit different. It defines precipitation as any condensation of atmospheric water vapor left on the ground. Condensation takes place when water vapor (a gas) changes to a liquid.

We often find moisture on the outside of a glass that contains a cold drink. The water vapor from the air condenses onto the glass. The wetness we feel comes from the water vapor in the air as it turns to a liquid. When we take a drink, sometimes the moisture from the outside of the glass drips on us. We can think of this as an example of precipitation (rain). The outside surface of the glass can no longer hold the moisture, so it falls onto our lap or the ground.

In many ways, we can compare this example of condensed water on a glass to the formation of precipitation in the sky. Condensation on the glass usually occurs more often in the summer than other seasons of the year because the humidity is higher, and the temperatures are higher. Humidity is simply the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere (air). In many places during the winter and other seasons, there is usually less moisture and the temperatures are lower. That means moisture will not likely accumulate on the outside of the glass.

There are five main types of precipitation: rain, freezing rain, sleet, hail, and snow. Sometimes we might read about four types because some sources combine rain and freezing rain into one type. Other forms of precipitation may also include dew, frost, and drizzle.

Nevertheless, all types of precipitation have one thing in common—they are a form of water. The type of precipitation that falls from the sky depends on the temperature and on other conditions in the atmosphere, in the clouds, and on the ground.


Rain is precipitation that falls to the surface as water droplets and is common almost everywhere in the world. Some places get lots of rain while other places get very little or no rain. Raindrops come in different sizes. The typical raindrop is about 2 millimeters or larger, up to about half the size of the width of a small pinky finger. When the drops are smaller, the rain is called drizzle.

Rain falls when water vapor builds up in the earth’s atmosphere. Though we may not see the water vapor, we can feel it as humidity, or we see the clouds form in the sky. Water vapor in the air may become visible as fog, too, which is basically a ground-level cloud. The water vapor collects with other substances such as dust in the clouds as well.

And just like the moisture condensing on the outside of a cold glass, the water vapor in the air condenses around those substances. The clouds get too full of the water vapor, and it rains (or snows) as a result, depending on the temperature in the clouds or the atmosphere.

A rainstorm involves sudden heavy rain, which can cause flooding. Rivers can overflow and landslides may occur, destroying property and causing harm to people.

Snow and Hail

There is one main difference between rain and snow. Snow is precipitation that falls in the form of ice crystals. The crystals form individually in the clouds. But when they begin falling, they stick together in collections of snowflakes. It will snow when the  temperature is below freezing in the clouds and throughout the atmosphere below.

Snowflakes have different patterns based on the temperature and humidity of the air. The ground temperature must also be near or below freezing for the snow to stick. Otherwise, it will melt on contact. Just like rainstorms, there are also snowstorms. Snowstorms usually include heavy snow and winds and can sometimes result in a blizzard with lightning and thunder.

Students will learn that hail is basically ice or a collection of frozen water droplets called hailstones. They form in cold storm clouds. We can think of them as frozen raindrops as they fall to the ground. The stones can be the size of small rocks, but they can get as large as six inches across and weigh up to one pound. Hailstones can cause damage to cars and homes.

Freezing Rain and Sleet

Freezing rain is the rain that falls from clouds that freezes as it hits the surface of the earth. It sometimes causes the icicles that hang off homes or trees. It also forms a glaze of ice on different surfaces, which can become dangerous to walk or drive on.

Sleet is rain falling from the clouds that freezes before it hits the ground. It can sound like tiny stones hitting the top of a car or against a window. Sleet may be described as a mixture of snow and rain.

All the different types of precipitation can fall at the same time during winter storms, especially sleet and rain. There is also a type of precipitation that forms but evaporates before it reaches the earth’s surface. It is called virga.

Two other types of precipitation are dew and frost. Dew is a thin film of water that condenses on the surfaces of objects near the ground in the early morning or evening. At sunrise, we may notice that it did not rain, but the surfaces of cars, grass, and other objects are wet. This is dew. On the other hand, when dew freezes, we call it frost. We can see frost pretty easily. It is a white, powdery substance that forms on surfaces that are very cold. Sometimes people have to scrape frost off car windows during cold winter mornings.


The Precipitation lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will help students solidify their grasp of the material they learned throughout the lesson. You can refer to the classroom procedure guidelines to know when to hand out each worksheet.


Students will imagine that a snowstorm and a rainstorm are happening at the same time either in their town, an area with lots of trees, or an open field. They will draw a picture that demonstrates the five main types of precipitation, which they will label correctly. In addition, they should add other details, such as buildings, trees, houses, flooding, and so on.

They can use the empty box at the bottom of the page as scratch paper to sketch a rough draft. When they are happy with their drawing, they will complete the final picture on the poster board or construction paper you provide. Students will pair up to present and explain their drawings to another student.


The practice worksheet divides into two sections. For the first section, students will label facts according to the type of precipitation they represent. The five types are rain (R), snow (S), hail (H), freezing rain (F), or sleet (T). On the second part, students will answer seven questions based on what they learned throughout the lesson. (You can choose whether or not you allow them to use the content pages for reference.)


Like the practice worksheet, the homework assignment has multiple sections. First, students will look at seven pictures and decide which type of precipitation they represent. The second section requires them to fill in the blanks for five sentences. There is a word bank with five terms from which to choose the correct option. Finally, students will provide one advantage and one disadvantage each for rain, snow, dew, and frost in the table.

Worksheet Answer Keys

The Precipitation lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice and homework worksheets at the end of the document. All the correct answers are in red to make it easy to compare them to students’ work. However, there will be some variation on students’ responses on the final section of the homework assignment. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information




1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade

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