Lightning strike
Lightning strike in Colorado Springs ©

Creative Commons 2007-07-30 002a by Mark Byzewski is licensed under CC by 2.0

 

 

 

Lightning is a powerful burst of electricity that happens very quickly during a thunderstorm. It can occur inside clouds, between clouds and from clouds to the ground. Lightning contains millions of volts of electricity.

Subject:

These lesson plans provide an opportunity for your students to learn about the theory and practice of science in relation to electricity, lightning and modern aircraft safety.

What is lightning?

Rising air currents move particles around the cloud. Usually, positive charges (water droplets) accumulate towards the top of the cloud and negative charges (ice particles) towards the base of the cloud. This separation of charge creates an electric field which is also usually negative at the base and positive at the top.

Clouds are made of particles including ice and water droplets. Due to convection, the particles move up and down throughout the cloud. As they collide, a frictional force strips some particles of their electrons making them positively charged. Some particles gain electrons and become negatively charged. This process is known as ionisation.

The strong electric field causes the air to break down. This means that the air becomes less resistant and allows electrons to flow from the cloud, down to the ground. Several paths of electrons start to move from the cloud. These branches are known as leaders. As they approach earth, objects on the ground respond to the increased electric field and positive streamers move upwards. When a downwards moving leader meets an upward moving streamer, this creates a conductive path for electric current to flow. This creates a very bright spark which we know as a lightning bolt. This entire process lasts for only a fraction of a second.

Age group

15-17

Level

B1.2 – B2 Intermediate

Time

90 mins approximately per lesson

Below you will find:

  • three short videos to include as part of the class activity
  • three teacher lesson plans to accompany each video
  • three student worksheets to accompany each video.

Lesson one: what is lightning and how is it generated in storm clouds?

In this lesson, learners start by making word partners from the worksheet, which elicits the topic of storms and lightning. Learners watch the first video, Electricity and lightning workshop: what is lightning?, which shows the scientist demonstrating and speaking about electricity. Learners exchange information about the formation of lightning using information cards.

AIMS

  • To develop learners’ understanding of lightning and storm clouds.
  • To activate new vocabulary related to electricity, lightning and science.
  • To enhance speaking and listening skills about cause and effect.

MATERIALS AND PREPARATION

  1. Worksheet Electricity and lightning: what is lightning? You need one copy for each learner.
  2. Storm cloud information exchange cards. You need a copy of one card for each group of four learners.
  3. You need an internet connection in order to watch Electricity and lightning workshop: what is lightning? (available at the bottom of this page).

Lesson two: aircraft design and different construction materials.

Lesson two: aircraft design and different construction materials.

In this lesson, learners start by discussing a painting of ‘The Fall of Icarus’ and two proverbs on flying. They are introduced to aircraft material vocabulary and compare a glider to an Airbus using their knowledge of the comparative form. They discuss what would happen if the respective aircraft were struck by lightning. They carry out an interactive activity describing images of aircraft being struck by lightning using prepositional phrases. Learners finish with a ‘true/false’ exercise to check their understanding of the lesson.

AIMS

  • To expand learners’ vocabulary on the topic of aircraft metals and materials.
  • To develop learners’ ability to describe and compare aircraft design orally and in writing in a real world context.
  • To enhance learners' knowledge of prepositional phrases and conditional grammar.

MATERIALS AND PREPARATION

  1. Worksheet Electricity and lightning: aircraft design. You need one copy for each learner.
  2. Aircraft pictures cards. You need one copy for each learner. 
  3. You need an internet connection in order to watch Electricity and lightning workshop: aircraft design (available at the bottom of this page).

Lesson three: making a news report

Learners take the role of journalists, passengers, witnesses and scientific experts to produce and record a radio or television news bulletin about a plane that was struck by lightning in France, using their new language skills.

AIMS

  • To practise oral and aural skills linked to science.
  • To develop learner’s confidence and fluency in speaking.
  • To produce the target science lexis accurately. 

MATERIALS AND PREPARATION

  1. Worksheet Electricity and lightning: news report. You need one copy for each learner.
  2. Role cards. You need one set for each group of five learners.
  3. Student assessment table. You need one copy per learner.

You need an internet connection in order to watch Electricity and lightning workshop: making a news report (available at the bottom of this page).