Home WI Weather Stories banner Contact/Feedback
About the Project Severe Weather Stories Sayings/Beliefs Occupation/Meteorology


Focus Questions

Learning Objectives

Preparing to Teach this Lesson

Suggested Activities

Further Resources


Standards and Benchmarks

Subject Areas

Lesson Plans

Student Work




1940 Armistice Day Storm: Interdisciplinary



Students will collect and analyze weather stories. The scientific analysis will include activities such as: reading weather maps, analyzing local weather variables such as temperature, moisture, cloudiness, and precipitation, analyzing concurrent larger weather systems, graphing weather reports, and making weather observations. The folkloric analysis will include: identifying the traditional elements in the story related to place, ethnicity, beliefs, occupation, gender and other factors. The artistic analysis will include: identifying the artistic elements in the telling of the narrative such as use of pitch, intonation, timing; and evaluating effectiveness of the narrative for communicating ideas.

Focus Questions

Why does the same storm affect people differently? (Why were duck hunters affected more than other people in Wisconsin during the Armistice Day Storm?)

What are some differences between a weather forecast (or summary) and a first hand account of the weather on any given day?

How does our choice of words help tell a story? Is there a difference between the words that a meteorologist might use to describe the weather and words we use to describe a personal weather experience?

Learning Objectives


  • To understand how weather affects people in different ways.
  • Explore how the cultural and historical context dictated the ways in which people were affected by a particular event.

Language Arts:

  • To build an appreciation and understanding of narrative art as well as an increased proficiency in narrative and oral communication skills.


  • Learn about various weather variables and processes and how weather is presented on various types of weather maps and graphs.

After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Communicate a personal experience to peers
  • Incorporate weather vocabulary into a story
  • Describe weather conditions on a given day
  • Describe changes in the weather
  • Describe how weather affects them personally

Preparing to Teach this Lesson

Materials needed

  • Graph paper
  • Weather maps
  • Writing and drawing materials for the students

For background on activities, use web pages to review aspects of Harold Hettrick's story about the blizzard of November 11, 1940. Refer to the Folklore/Language Arts Lessons for background on the folklore of the Armistice Day storm and significant aspects of oral narrative. Refer to the Weather and Climate Lessons for background on the scientific factors that caused the Armistice Day storm. For information on terms refer to the glossary. For background on interviewing, see A Guide to Collecting Weather Stories.

Suggested Activities

A memorable weather event

This activity focuses on making students aware of how weather affects their lives and the lives around them.

  • Have students list a memorable weather event.
  • Discuss what makes this event memorable.
  • Brainstorm a list of weather terms that represent these memorable events.
  • Have students write a story about a weather event, including weather terms.

What makes a good story?

This activity focuses on teaching students the components of a good story, with a focus on weather.

  • Have students share parts of their story with the class.
  • Break students into groups that have a common weather theme (e.g. thunderstorms, snowstorms, heat waves).
  • Have students share their stories within the group.
  • Have students discuss what makes a good story.

How do we interview people?

This activity exposes students to the interview process.

  • Discuss with the class good interview skills.
  • Have students interview people outside the classroom about a memorable weather event.

Using personal experiences to develop science questions.

Students use their personal stories to develop weather science related questions.

  • Discuss with students how weather data is presented.
  • Have students present weather information from their stories in graphical format.
  • Using the students’ weather stories, have students list science questions related to the weather event.
  • Have students list specific questions.
  • (How often might a specific weather event occur? Was a given weather event anomalous? What is a normal temperature? How do we measure variability?)

What’s the answer?

Students answer the questions they developed above.

  • Brainstorm with the students how they could answer their questions. (What information would they need? What type of observations? Where would they get the needed data? What patterns or features would they look for in the observations?)
  • Review how weather is presented on graphs and weather maps.
  • Have students research where to collect weather information.

Publish stories

Working with Wisconsin Weather Stories team members, students publish their stories and reports on our web page.

Extension Activity

There are two ways to go about the following activity. The first is to identify one or more severe weather events that have impacted your community, research the weather on and leading up to that day, and then seek out members of the community who might have stories about that event. The other is to identify members of the community whom you believe are good storytellers (and have lived in the community for a while) and have your class interview them about severe weather events they recall. The latter is perhaps more exciting, as the kids will hear a firsthand account, and then seek out the science behind the story.

Now, utilizing the Internet and resources such as local meteorologists and weather stations, have your students research the weather leading up to and surrounding the severe weather event. What made it happen? Was it an anomaly?

Questions for students to answer during activity:

What can we learn about the teller from the narrative? What about larger cultural contexts, like that of region, or occupation?

Find historical accounts of the event in textbooks or newspapers. How are they different from the narrative? What do they include that the narrative didn’t? And what did the narrative include that the historical accounts didn’t?

Was the narrative a good story? If so, why? If not, why?


Sponsored by:
Wisconsin Arts Board CIMSS UW Folklore Program