Saturday, May 14, 2011

1st Grade Tornado Safety

When I was standing in the hallway during a tornado drill (very important here in Kansas) thinking about how my students are fascinated by tornadoes, I decided to try my tornado safety lesson from last spring again, only reworked.  Last year the lesson was strictly collage, this year I went with a mixed media approach.

Day 1: Review tornado safety, read the tips I compiled after viewing kids' weather websites (two good ones: Weather WizKids and FEMA for Kids), tell the students they are going to be making artwork with tornadoes in it, quiet the cheers, continue with the lesson!  On the first day, after reviewing geometric shapes, I remind the students that shapes can be combined to make pictures of other things.  I ask the students to paint squares or rectangles touching the bottom of their gray construction paper and then cut and glue newspaper triangles to make roofs.  

I can't remember where I saw this idea, but we used magazine papers as palettes.  I was able to give each student their own squirt of paint in each of the primary colors so they could mix their own colors to make the houses.  This worked great and I will definitely use the idea again!  I gave everybody a squirt of one color at a time before I started a rotation with the next color.  When they were done, magazine pages were folded in half and thrown away!

Day 2: I reviewed organic shapes and told the students that tornadoes have organic shapes.  I gave each student a 9x6 inch piece of black construction paper and showed them how to tear a tornado shape.  I pointed out that tornadoes are usually wider at the top and skinnier at the bottom.  I tore my tornado and then messed it up on purpose so I could show the students how to fix it if they made a mistake.  I told them not to be afraid of trying something new.  Nobody got a new piece of paper because it was impossible to mess it up!  Lots of chanting (by me and other students) of "If you make a mistake, make it great!)  After the tornado shapes were glued down, I gave each student a preprinted sentence that said one of the safety tips we covered on the first day.  Students cut the words apart and glued down on their tornadoes.  I stressed the importance of reading the sentence before they cut the words apart so it was easy to keep them in the right order.

I didn't have the students write their own tips honestly because I was afraid of them writing safety tips that would not really be good things to do during a tornado.  Next year I will ask the first grade teachers if/when they cover weather in science to see if they could have the kids write a safety tip in the classroom to incorporate in their art projects.  I gave the longer sentences to the students who I thought could handle more words.  After the words were glued down, the students added storm details with crayon.

Our Tornado Safety Tips

  • Stay alert about dangerous weather.
  • Have a plan for what to do in a tornado.
  • Stay away from windows.
  • Go to a basement or interior room.
  • If you are in a car, get out and seek shelter.
  • If you can't get inside, find a ditch, lie down, and cover your head.


  1. What a great way to teach students about Tornado Safety. This mixed media project looks great

  2. great project, I imagin ther was alot of emotion about the topic.
    Art is a great way to overcame fear.