All About Clouds

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12441

What do clouds mean to you? Are they just fluffy bunnies or big white elephants or big dark curtains? Those familiar clouds tell us lots about the sky and the weather. What are they made of? Find out!


Earth Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • What shapes can you see in the clouds today?
  • What else can you see if you look beyond the imaginary people and animals?

Find out what else clouds tell us!

  • Clouds may look like familiar shapes as they move through the sky, but did you know that there are different types of clouds that are located throughout the atmosphere?


All clouds are made up of water. Water can move as a solid, liquid, or a gas in the atmosphere. As warm air moves up in the atmosphere, the gaseous water cools into a liquid. Eventually, the small drops of water move together to create a cloud!

These tiny water droplets need particles to cling to in the atmosphere. Materials such as microscopic dust particles attract droplets of water and allow for the formation of clouds in the atmosphere. Clouds can even hold frozen water as a solid!

As you watch the short video clip below, think about these questions:

  1. What forms clouds?
  2. What is the job of a cloud?
  3. What would happen on Earth's surface if there were no clouds?

Learn how clouds form and the types of clouds using the video, How are clouds form, types of clouds:

Clouds can form anywhere in the atmosphere, and are classified based on the location.

High clouds form 20,000 feet above Earth's surface, where it is so cold that these clouds contain ice crystals. These clouds, known as cirrus clouds, usually look wispy or thin.

cirrus clouds

Clouds below 20,000 feet and above 6,500 feet are considered middle level clouds. These clouds contain both water droplets and ice crystals because it is slightly warmer in this level.

Low level clouds are found below 6,500 feet. Since these clouds are closest to the surface of Earth, they are the warmest type of cloud. Low level clouds contain mostly water in liquid and gas form.

  • Have you ever seen a cloud that appeared to span multiple levels?

These are vertical clouds because they move up and down from Earth's surface.

vertical clouds

There are clouds in the sky on most days. These formations occur when water rises up in the atmosphere and cools down into clouds.

Based on the elevation where clouds form, they look different.

  • Clouds formed high up in the atmosphere contain more ice crystals, which gives them a unique appearance.
  • Clouds formed closer to Earth's surface contain more water droplets.

Create a graphic or diagram that organizes the information about cloud elevation. Share your image with a parent or teacher.

In the Got It? section, you will learn more about specific types of clouds as you create a foldable.

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