Our Poetic Planet Writing Poems about the Earth

Students make observations and write poetry about nature, including clouds and weather. Materials:

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Windows to the Universe Activity, by Becca Hatheway
Grade level:
Adaptable for grades 2-8
One to three class periods depending on class format and desired learning outcomes
Student Learning Outcomes:
  • Students make observations of clouds and weather
  • Students describe the appearance of different cloud types and weather events through poetry
  • Students explore different types of poetry and write poems about nature, including clouds and weather
Lesson format:
Class presentation and discussion, poetry activity, cloud identification

Standards Addressed:

National Science Education Standards

Standards for the English Language Arts


Part A: Observations of Clouds and Weather
  1. Show the Cloud Type Photo Presentation and go through the weather section on the Windows to the Universe Image Gallery. Discuss the different weather phenomena you see in the photos, and talk about the cloud types you see in the photos.
  2. Ask students to describe what they see in the images. Record their responses on the chart paper.
  3. Optional: Take students outside to make observations of clouds and the weather (and use the NCAR Cloud Viewer to help with this). Have students draw and take notes about the weather and/or clouds that they observe. Back in the classroom, ask students to describe what they observed outside and add these observations to the list you have been making on the chart paper.
  4. Remind students to use descriptive words that capture observations using their different senses (sight, sound, smell, and touch). Ask the students to imagine that they are trying to describe the phenomena they are seeing to someone on the phone; because the person on the phone can't see the phenomena being described, they will need to use very descriptive words.

Part B: Writing Poetry about Clouds and Weather

  1. Share some poetry with your students about clouds and weather. See examples on the Our Poetic Planet page. Ask the students to comment on the poems you read. Have students identify descriptive words in the poem.
  2. Discuss different types of poetry. Ask students what types of poetry they have written before. For this assignment, you can make it open-ended so the students can write any type pf poetry, or ask them to use a specific format like haiku or rhyming stanzas.
  3. Have students write a poem about something they observed in the photo presentations and/or outside. Ask each student to focus on one thing s/he saw outside, or one photo s/he looked at. Suggest that the students use the list of observations and descriptive words and phrases generated by the class to help write their poems. Learning readers and English language learners in particular may benefit from using this list.
  4. Once students have written a draft of their poems, collect them and make comments so students can edit them. Older students can work in groups to help each other edit their poems
  5. Have the students write a final copy of their poems to display on a poetry bulletin board in the classroom.


  • Have students submit poems to the Poetry in Pictures - Weather page on the Windows to the Universe web site.
  • Schedule a performance time for the students to read their poems to the class.
  • Have students draw the clouds or weather phenomena they wrote about in their poems. These drawings can accompany the poems in a classroom gallery.
  • Explore Clouds in Art and write poems about the paintings provided here.


Clouds and Weather

Clouds are made of tiny water droplets or ice crystals that are suspended in the atmosphere. Clouds form when pressure decreases and water vapor in the atmosphere condenses on little particles of dust called condensation nuclei. Windows to the Universe contains photographs and information about different cloud types. For more information about clouds, please visit the cloud section.

Weather is the daily conditions of the atmosphere at a particular place at any one time. It changes from day to day and from place to place and is a combination of temperature, precipitation (rain, sleet, snow, or hail), humidity (the amount of water vapor in the air), wind, and sunshine. Winds are important as they help to circulate the air in the atmosphere around the Earth...


Poetry is the most compressed form of literature and is composed of carefully chosen words expressing great depth of meaning. Often, poetry uses devices such as sound or rhythm to express meaning and emotion. There are many different kinds of poems. Traditional poetry follows standard rules of grammar and syntax with a regular rhythm and rhyme scheme. Modern poetry avoids rhyme and standard grammatical organization and seeks new ways of expression. The following are some different elements or styles that can be used in poetry:

  • Couplets have two lines that rhyme
  • Tercets have three lines
  • A group of four lines is a stanza; the ballad stanza has a rhyme at the end of the second and fourth lines.
  • A limerick is a funny poem that has five lines. The last words of the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with each other (A), and the last words of the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other (B), so the pattern is AABBA.
  • Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that is traditionally about nature and conveys emotion. Traditional haiku has a total of seventeen syllables divided into three lines: five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables.


Last modified March 3, 2009 by Becca Hatheway.

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA