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Is it going to
rain today?

Years 5-6

Students understand the importance of data in effective decision-making, and are able to find, sort and interpret Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) rainfall data, and to collect their own data and analyse the resulting datasets.

Learning hook

  1. Introduce the big questions: Is it going to rain today? Tomorrow? Next week? How have we made these predictions? Can we use data to help us make better predictions?

  2. Introduce how we measure rain (in millimetres). If you have a plastic rain gauge, show that to the students. Also show the video Learn How to Measure Rainfall (Professor Pete's Classroom).

  3. Divide the class into pairs, each pair with a device. Have each group watch your selection of a recent episode of the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) Climate and Water Outlook series. As students view this, have them focus on information about rainfall only.

  4. Hand out some sticky notes to each group.
  5. Give students some guiding questions before viewing the Climate and Water Outlook video. 
    • What has rainfall been like in our area for the past three months? 
    • Was there anything unusual about it? 
    • Were any reasons given for recent rainfall patterns in our locality?
    • Were there any meteorological terms that you didn't understand?

    How does this information compare with their local area?
  6. Ask students what they know about rainfall data. How is it collected? How is it measured? How is it recorded? How can it be accessed?
    Provide students with access to BOM Climate Glossary to help them understand any unfamiliar terms related to climate.

Learning map and outcomes

  1. Read the graphic organiser for this activity. This is for teacher use only.

  2. Introduce the focus of this series of lessons.
    Governments, communities and individuals spend large amounts of money so that there is enough water available for everyone. Collecting and understanding rainfall data is important so that the right decisions are made.

  3. In a group discussion ask students what information may be useful in answering the first few of the big questions: Is it going to rain today? Tomorrow? Next week?

  4. Introduce the final few big questions.
    How have we made these predictions? Can we use data to help us make better predictions? Explain to students that they will need to read, collect and analyse data to answer these big questions.

  5. Introduce the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) dataset Climate Data Online.
    Explain how to access, search and filter rainfall data by projecting this content on a screen that either the whole class or sections of the class can view. 

  6. Teach a method of getting data from Climate Data Online.
    • Select Using Text > 1. Select Monthly Rainfall 2. Enter Location. Click Find > Select Matching Town > Select Nearest Bureau station > 3. Get Data. Monthly Rainfall chart will appear.
    • Select and discuss a small amount of this data, either by focusing on two years, eg the most recent, and 10 years ago. What's the same and what's different? 
    Alternatively, Click on the graph under the word Annual and a bar graph will appear.

  7. Organise the students into pairs to use the method you have just modelled.

  8. Organise a sharing session with all students on reading this dataset. Are students making sense of the dataset? Is collaboration in pairs assisting? Does there need to be more teacher-led work with the whole class or groups, using the classroom's digital whiteboard?

  9. Introduce the Assessment Rubric . Explain what is being assessed, the terminology involved, the need for goal-setting, and how it will help students to work out whether they are on track or not. 
    • Remind students of the rubric during the series of lessons, so that the students will be aware of their learning progress, understand what they need to do next and what further assistance/explicit teaching they may require. 
    • This rubric can be used for student self-assessment, peer assessment as well as formative assessment (by you).

Learning input

  1. Reiterate the big questions. Is it going to rain today? Tomorrow? Next week? How have we made these predictions? Can we use data to help us make better predictions?

  2. Introduce some of the Digital Technologies terminology (see above) when talking to students. Encourage students to use it as well!

  3. Introduce the three major parts of the lesson sequence, in this order: 

    1. Finding, sorting and interpreting existing rainfall datasets from the Bureau of Meteorology for a local area over different time periods. 
      (Skill set, including explicit teaching by you, required by students: searching rainfall data for a local area from the BOM website; filtering data from the BOM website; interpreting data from the BOM website – text/graphs/maps; selecting data from the BOM website to re-use in a new – with attributed –data visualisation at a later stage.)

    2. Collecting local rainfall data using a digital device.
      • Introduce a digital rain gauge to students. (How does it work? How will it be set up? What sort of data does it produce? How will this be recorded?) 

    3. Recording, sorting (including using a spreadsheet) and analysing data. Reporting findings to school and community through visualisation.
      • Tell students that they will be comparing the data that the digital rain gauge produces with that available from the Bureau of Meteorology. They will be recording, sorting (using a spreadsheet) and analysing. 
      • Scaffold making statements about dataset sources. 
      • Scaffold reporting findings via a data visualisation. 

(Skill set, including explicit teaching by you, required by students: analysis of data and making some statements; identification of key data from the BOM website and locally sourced data; production of visualisation – chart, infographic, etc – of major findings.)

Learning construction

  1. Monitor students for their insights and the support and skills that they may need.

  2. Support/scaffold and teach as required (see lists above for the skills required by students and the explicit teaching that may need to be delivered).

  3. Re-introduce the digital rain gauge for collection of local rainfall data

  4. Introduce students to data visualisation. Look at data visualisation examples, particularly infographics, on the Internet. 

  5. Have students make their own form of data visualisation by using desktop publishing/graphics software. 
    • You may wish to introduce how to make a chart from data in a spreadsheet. Or you could direct students to information and resources on the Internet, which will guide them on how to make infographics.

Tools to make infographics (Teacher background only)


Students may create their own recording spreadsheet, (refer to assessment section for guidance on rubric).

A common way to design a user-friendly spreadsheet is to separate the data entry and recording from the presentation for example as a dashboard.

Ask students what information they would want to display to a user. An example spreadsheet has been set up to auto populate for data between Jan and Jun.

The spreadsheet:

  • Separates data entry from the dashboard
  • Uses historical data from the BoM.
  • Uses ‘Count if’ formula to count number of days of rain per month
  • Auto sums the monthly data entered
  • Use conditional formatting to compare monthly recorded rainfall total and historical monthly mean. An icon (arrow) is used to indicate higher or lower than historical monthly mean.
  • A graph that can be filtered by month.

Students can decide on what data they want to display and what the interface (dashboard) will feature. Students may be able to continue the formula for the remaining cells July to December.

Learning demo

  1. Provide adequate time and support for students to share ideas, demonstrate and showcase their work and ask for feedback.

  2. Give feedback and encourage other students to give feedback to each other.

  3. Set up individual (written) or group/whole-class discussion how each group dealt with the big questions:
    Is it going to rain today? Tomorrow? Next week? How have we made these predictions? Can we use data to help us make better predictions? 

Learning reflection

You, as the teacher, should reflect on the following below. One way of doing this is with video software and a webcam on a computer or tablet. Record your thoughts at the start, during the lessons and at the conclusion. Another way to reflect is by blogging.

  • Did the students have the required knowledge to start this unit? How was this assessed?
  • Did you understand the Digital Technologies terminology? Were you able to use this in your lessons? Did your students start using it during the lessons?
  • How successfully were you able to get your students understanding data to make evidence-based decisions?
  • How successfully were you able to get your students using data analysis, planning and project management to solve this real-world problem related to rainfall)? 
  • Model learning reflection for your students.