Water Cycle


Water Cycle introduces students to the continuous process water follows from evaporation to precipitation. Students will learn many terms related to the water cycle and be able to explain the process to others correctly. They will be able to recognize the different steps and put them in order.

In the “Options for Lesson” section of the worksheet, you will see some suggestions for additional or alternative things to do for the lesson. One suggestion is to have students work in pairs throughout the lesson as they learn about the water cycle. You could also have students present their 2D water cycle models to the class.

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What our Water Cycle lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Water Cycle teaches students how water flows through a continuous process from evaporation to precipitation. Students will learn and be able to define the terms that relate to the steps of this process. By the end of the lesson, they will be able to explain the process to others correctly. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th 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 this lesson, you will need to supply plastic cups, water, ice cubes, paper towels, construction paper, markers, glue, and other supplies that students may need to make a 2D model of the water cycle. Before giving the lesson, you will also need to gather the plastic cups and fill them with water about 3/4 of the way.

Options for Lesson

There are several suggestions in the “Options for Lesson” section that you could incorporate into the lesson if you have time or want to extend or adjust parts of the lesson. Several of these options relate specifically to the task of creating a 2D model. You may want students to work in pairs throughout the lesson, or just for the 2D model portion. Another idea is to let students present their models to the class. As an alternative idea, students could use PowerPoint or another slide deck software to present models of the water cycle.

Teacher Notes

The paragraph on the teacher notes page provides a little extra information for the lesson as you prepare. It suggests including hands-on activities whenever possible, such as showing a how a plant transpires over a period of time. You can use the blank lines on this page to write down ideas or thoughts you have as you read through the lesson document.


The Water Cycle

The Water Cycle lesson plan contains two pages of content. The first page describes how the water people drink today could be millions of years old. The reason for this phenomenon is that the water on the Earth that everyone and everything uses has existed since the beginning of time. For instance, the rain falling from the sky may one day be the water we drink a few weeks later. This is possible because of the water cycle, which basically recycles water in a continuous cycle.

The lesson provides a diagram that roughly shows the different steps of the cycle. It shows clouds with falling rain and snow over some mountains. Rivers flow down from the mountain tops and into a lake or ocean. It also displays how water on the ground seeps through the Earth’s surface and eventually deposits into surface water sources, such as the ocean.

To illustrate evaporation, the diagram shows white circles in the air with arrows and a label signifying the upward direction. It does not outline the cycle exactly. Instead, it provides arrows to represent that snow and rain fall down, groundwater flows into a water source, and water vapor rises into the atmosphere.

Steps of the Cycle

Below the diagram, the lesson explains the four steps of the water cycle in detail. The first step is evaporation. Evaporation occurs when the sun heats up the waters of oceans, lakes, and other bodies of water. The heat turns the water into a gas, also called water vapor. The vapor then rises into the air (evaporates). This process doesn’t just happen for large bodies of water. Students will learn that even an open container of water inside a house will eventually evaporate.

Transpiration is the next step. It is the process by which plants lose water in the form of water vapor. It is similar to evaporation because it also moves water vapor into the air, except that the source is plants instead of water bodies. Transpiration occurs continuously as plants grow and use up the water that passes through the roots, later releasing it into the air again.

Students will then learn about condensation, the third step of the cycle. Condensation occurs when water vapor in the air gets cold and changes back into a liquid. Clouds actually form during condensation, and when they fill up too much with the moisture in the atmosphere, it rains. One example of how condensation works is what happens to a bathroom mirror after a hot shower. The steam (water vapor) from the shower is hot, but when it touches the cool mirror, it becomes liquid again. As a result, the mirror looks hazy from the moisture.

The last step is precipitation, which involves rain, snow, sleet, or hail falling to the ground from the clouds. It occurs when the air can no longer hold the water that has evaporated. The clouds are too heavy with moisture, so the evaporated water falls back to the Earth as precipitation.

After Precipitation

After it rains or water returns to Earth in another form during precipitation, it becomes ground water. Ground water is what plants and animals use for drinking. It can also be stored in aquifers, which are underground layers of rock that get saturated with water. That water can return to the surface through natural springs. In addition, people can pump the water to the surface.

When there is a large amount of precipitation, it runs over the soil and collects in oceans, lakes, or rivers. This excess water from storms, meltwater, or other sources is called runoff. In other words, runoff is the water that remains on the Earth’s surface rather than absorbing into the soil. The water from runoff evaporates, starting the whole cycle over again.

A fun fact that students will also learn is that sweating is an example of condensation in action. When the moisture drips off the skin, it is essentially like precipitation. The sweat begins to dry due to evaporation. However, since people aren’t plants, the body does not transpire. Instead, they perspire, which occurs when moisture escapes into the air. That means that the water a person sweats could some day become the water they drink!

The lesson provides another diagram that shows how plants transpire. The roots of the plant absorb water from the soil and into the root hairs. The water then travels through the plant’s stem and leaves. After it begins to transpire, the water starts to evaporate from the surface of the leaves and into the atmosphere once more.

Key Terms

Here is a list of the vocabulary words students will learn in this lesson plan:

  • Evaporation: the process by which water returns to the atmosphere
  • Transpiration: the process by which plants lose water in the form of water vapor
  • Condensation: the process by which water vapor in the air becomes cold and changes back to a liquid
  • Precipitation: the process by which water falls to the ground in the form of rain, snow, sleet, or hail
  • Ground water: the water that soaks into the surface of the Earth after it rains, snows, or hails
  • Aquifer: an underground layer of rock that saturates with water that can reach the surface again through natural springs or by pumping
  • Runoff: the flow of excess water from storms, meltwater, or other sources that remains on the Earth’s surface


The Water Cycle lesson plan includes three worksheets: a journal page, a rubric, and a homework assignment. The guidelines on the classroom procedure page describe when to hand out each assignment to the class.


You will use the journal pages before you distribute any of the content pages. The classroom procedure lists the steps to follow for an object lesson. The journal page is for students to answer questions that relate to the things they observe as you go through the object lesson. The classroom procedure page also provides you with the list of questions to ask. Students will write the questions you ask them in the boxes on the worksheet and write in their answers. There are a total of 10 questions.


As part of the classroom procedure, students will create a 2D model of the water cycle. They will need to include labels, arrows, and other information so that it is clear for viewers to understand. The rubric page shows students what you will assess them on. For instance, does their model show all the steps of the cycle? Did students label the model correctly? Does the model clearly show multiple types of perspiration? There is space near the bottom of the rubric for you to provide comments.


For the homework assignment, students will complete a crossword puzzle. There are a total of 20 terms and clues for them to figure out.

Worksheet Answer Keys

The last page of this document is an answer key for 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 this page. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep this as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade



State Educational Standards

LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.1, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.1.c, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.5, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.1, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.1.c, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.5, LB.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.7, LB.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.10

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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Yohana T.

Perfect lesson plan!

It's a great lesson plan I can use for my students anytime! :) Better than expected. Thanks for making it.

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Amazing, my students enjoy the lesson.

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Water cycle review....Excellent

Beautiful and easy, my student enjoyed the class and it was easier for me to explain

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Preliminary Review

I really like the videos on water, but I need to test them out with my elementary school teachers in our Trout in the Classroom Program.

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Water Cycle

This review of the water cycle served as an excellent source to differentiate my reading levels for my students and still provided quality content. Thanks so much for all you do, Clarendon Learning!