Monday, April 12, 2010

1st Grade Tornado Safety

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In Kansas, we are used to crazy weather.  Even though I've never been through a tornado, I'm not super comfortable in storms.  When I was little, I didn't understand the difference between a tornado watch and a warning.  Of course tornado watches happen all the time in the summer.  Whenever I heard a watch announced on TV or the radio, I would haul my books, art supplies, Fluffy (my doll), and all the other "essentials" to my parents' basement.  We had the first tornado drill of the year before spring break and I started thinking that some of the students probably feel the same way about tornado stuff that I did when I was little.  Whether or not the students are afraid, they are all interested in tornados.  I decided it would be beneficial to review tornado safety tips through an Art project.
(Oh no, these little people didn't follow the safety tips and the tornado's about to suck them up!)

First, I did some research to find kid-friendly weather sites.  I found that FEMA for Kids has some good tornado information and I also really liked Weather Wiz Kids.  I read the safety tips on those websites and made a list of tips to read to my students and use in the projects.

Lesson Objectives:
1.     The students will learn about tornadoes and tornado safety tips.
2.     The students will cut geometric shapes from construction paper.
3.     The students will tear organic shapes from construction paper.
4.     The students will create a collage depicting a house, a tornado, and a tornado safety tip.

This project took two 40-minute class periods.  On day one, I hooked up to the projector so we could explore the weather websites and discuss tornado safety.  Next, I explained the assignment to the students and we discussed geometric shapes.  I showed the students how they could use a paper rectangle or square and a triangle to make a basic house just like they do in their drawings.  After the basic house was formed, the students added more details like doors, windows, and chimneys.  We used construction paper and bottled glue.  (My two favorite gluing mantras are "just a dot, not a lot" and "like the glue, don't love it.")  Most of the students did a really nice job but I did have a couple meltdowns from students insisting they couldn't a triangle!  The students glued their houses to 9x12 inch gray construction paper.  (Although greenish might have been more accurate!)

On day two, we reviewed safety tips and geometric shapes.  Next, we discussed tornados as organic shapes.  Each student was given a 6x9 inch piece of black construction paper from which to tear their tornados.  I ended up tearing two tornados during the demonstration.  The first one went really smoothly, I showed the students how to hold their fingers close together and tear a little bit a time to make a funnel shape.  It is best to start the tornado at the top and go clear to the bottom, otherwise you end up with 2 inch tornados.  Then, I tore one with mistakes to show how to fix them.  A lot of the students would just grab both sides of the paper and rip which didn't give them any real control.  Since we were gluing the tornados down, it was no problem to just piece it back together on the paper.  After the tornados were added, I had the students draw a strip of paper with a safety tip printed on it.  The sentences were cut apart, some into short phrases, some one or two word chunks.  The words were glued onto the tornados to finish the projects.  *Remind the students to read the sentences before cutting them apart so they can glue them down in the right order!  Ok, I've gone on long enough, check out the artwork below!

Tornado Safety Tips

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

The project can fit into one class period if the students add details to their houses with sharpie.


  1. I did a lesson based off of this idea! I just posted about it and linked your site to it! Thanks for a great spring project that will help keep kids safe!

  2. It's never to early to start teaching kids safety lessons! Love the creativity.

    -Jack @ Construction site safety

  3. As we all know we are not immune to the nature’s disasters. There are certain at-risk zones in the world where some specific disasters occur. For example, tsunamis on the East coast of Japan and tornadoes in North America (mostly in the United States). See more