Clouds: Stratus, Cumulus, and Cirrus

Contributor: Victoria Surface. Lesson ID: 10313

Do you watch clouds go by and see faces and animals in them? There are three main types of clouds, and you will learn about them using video, diagrams, charts, a poem you write, and even hairspray!


Earth Science

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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"I've looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, it's cloud illusions I recall. I really don't know clouds at all." -- Joni Mithchell.

The shapes of clouds can help you predict the weather!

Certain conditions must exist for clouds to form. The conditions include water vapor in the air, temperature change, and particles or dust in the air, allowing condensation to happen.

Depending on the amount of water vapor available and the speed and direction of moving air, clouds take different shapes.

In this lesson, you will explore the characteristics of the three main types of clouds and what can be predicted about the weather. Think about the following questions as you work through the lesson:

  • How do clouds form?

  • What does each type of cloud look like?

  • Where are the clouds located? How far are they from the ground?

  • What weather can be predicted from each type of cloud?

1. Watch The Three Main Clouds - Cirrus, Stratus, Cumulus video from Untamed Science below. As you watch, pause the video to take notes using the Graphic Organizer – 3 Column Chart in the Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar. Label each column at the top with name of the type of cloud. Write facts, descriptions, and what type of weather the cloud creates:

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2. Read about Stratus Clouds, Cumulus Clouds (The Weather Channel), and Cirrus (WeatherOnline). Continue taking notes on the Graphic Organizer – 3 Column Chart. You can also illustrate each type of cloud in the chart. A Clouds – Suggested Answer Key is in Downloadable Resources.

3. Cloud Calendar Activity For this activity, you will use the Graphic Organizer - Calendar from Downloadable Resources to track the types of clouds (stratus, cumulus, and cirrus) you see each day for 30 days.

  1. You will draw, label, and estimate the percentage of cloud coverage (See the percentages and descriptions below*).
  2. Choose a time of day that works best for you to view the clouds each day.
  3. Continue to track the clouds even when you are finished with this lesson.
  4. A 30-day observation will give you a better idea of how the weather changes overall than just by day or week.
  5. You can also make predictions about what the weather will be like based on the cloud coverage you observe.
  6. If you cannot make it outside on a given day, you can check local weather conditions using Weather Underground.
  • *100% - Clouds completely cover the sky.

  • *75% - Clouds cover most of the sky.

  • *50% - Clouds cover half of the sky.

  • *25% - Clouds cover some of the sky.

  • *0% - No clouds cover the sky. The sky is clear.

Drift on over to the Got It? section for some more activities!

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