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Formation of Rain
Administration Procedures

Grade 5-8 Performance Task
Contributed by: New York State Education Department (NYSED)
NYS Alternative Assessment in Science Project (1996)


Students will sequence the steps leading to the formation of rain, and design a model to represent these steps.

This task assesses students' abilities to classify, generalize, infer, interpret and communicate data, and construct a pictorial model.

This task is designed to take students approximately 10 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Earth Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Structure of the earth system

Performance Expectations:

  • organizing, and representing data
  • applying scientific principles to develop explanations

National Science Education Standards:

8 D ESS 1: Structure of the earth system: Grades 5-8
1.6 Water, which covers the majority of the earth’s surface, circulates through the crust, oceans, and atmosphere in what is known as the "water cycle." Water evaporates from the earth’s surface, rises and cools as it moves to higher elevations, condenses as rain or snow, and falls to the surface where it collects in lakes, oceans, soil, and in rocks underground.

1.10 Global patterns of atmospheric movement influence local weather. Oceans have a major effect on climate, because water in the oceans holds a large amount of heat.

8 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades 5-8
1.4 Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. Students should base their explanation on what they observed, and as they develop cognitive skills, they should be able to differentiate explanation from description — providing causes for effects and establishing relationships based on evidence and logical argument. This standards requires a subject knowledge base so the students can effectively conduct investigations, because developing explanations establishes connections between the content of science and the contexts within which students develop new knowledge.

(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

PS2: Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts:
Grades 6-8

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take approximately 10 minutes to complete.

Students will be working individually during this exercise.

Students should be ready to work as soon as the period begins. The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible. A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible. All supplies should be clearly labeled.

Materials for "Formation of Rain":

The teacher will need:

  • index cards
  • markers

At each station students should have:

  • set of rain formation cards
  • pencils, markers, or crayons

Advance Preparation:

  • The teacher must design sets of eight index cards with a letter and a statement describing a step in rain formation on each card. Write or type each of the following statements and its corresponding letter on separate index cards.
    A - Tiny cloud droplets collect together to form raindrops large enough to fall.
    B - The Sun's rays warm the Earth.
    C - Cool air is warmed and becomes less dense.
    D - Air is cooled to its dew point temperature and the water vapor in the air begins to condense.
    E - The Earth radiates heat which warms the air.
    F - Air rising in the atmosphere expands causing lower air pressure.
    G - Air that expands decreases in temperature
    H - Air, which is less dense, rises.
  • One set of cards per student.
  • Cards can be laminated or covered to be reused.


  • Be careful.
  • Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.


Students could watch weather reports and identify stages mentioned on cards. Students could examine processes which are severe versions of these steps, such as monsoons, thunderstorms, and blizzards.



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