In this series of four lesson plans, the BBC's Sophie Burghart guides students through a series of activities designed to give them some of the skills and knowledge involved in her job - producing the weather.
Lesson 1: Weather and audience
By the end of the lesson, students should be able to answer these key questions:
- What is the core message of a forecast?
- Who is your audience?
BBC weather bingo
Using this bingo card, students answer the following questions by crossing off the correct answer on the card.
Q. All BBC Weather presenters on national television are Broadcast Meteorologists. How many weather presenters are there in the UK?
A. 60 (there are between 60 and 70)
Q. How many broadcasts does BBC Weather produce in a 24-hour period?
A. 130 (the average number of weather broadcasts produced at BBC Television Centre, London)
Q. On how many media platforms (programmes, channels, services) does BBC Weather broadcast?
A. 19, including mobile phones and Ceefax
Graphics are used to show the weather in your area
Q. In which year was the first "in vision" weather forecast on the BBC?
Q. In which year did the BBC broadcast the first radio weather bulletin to the public?
Q. In which year was the British Meteorological Office (now the Met Office) founded?
Q. One factor influencing avalanches is the angle of the mountain. What is the most likely slope angle (in degrees) to cause an avalanche?
Q. On the equator, how many hours of daylight are there?
Q. On the equator, how many hours of darkness are there?
Q. The strongest gust of wind ever reported on Earth was at Mount Washington in New Hampshire, USA, on 12 April 1934. How fast was it (in miles per hour)?
Q. How far can lightning bolts travel (in miles)?
Q. The heaviest hailstones on record weighed in at over two pounds (one kilogram). They fell in Gopalganj, Bangladesh, on 14 April 1986. In the UK, such large hailstones do not occur, but some fairly large hailstones fell in Horsham, West Sussex, on 5 September 1958. How big were they (in grams)?
More detail about the answers to these questions can be found on the
sections of the BBC Weather website.
Tie-breaker question, if needed:
Q. On which media platform will you NOT find a BBC Weather forecast?
Watch a forecast
In small groups, ask students to visit one of these weather websites, watch a video forecast and answer these questions:
- What weather were you expecting to see?
- What unexpected weather did you see? (tornadoes, hurricanes, etc)
- Who needs to know about the weather?
Who is the forecast for?
In small groups, ask students to make a list of people for whom the weather forecast is important and the element(s) of the forecast of most interest to them.
For example, a cyclist may want to know how strong the wind is and if it may rain, whereas someone on their way to work may only want to know if it's going to rain.
Ask students to imagine they are presenting a two-minute weather broadcast for the UK.
In their groups, students write down the key elements they need to convey to millions of people across the UK.
Groups feedback to the class.
Identify the common areas, for example everyone in the UK needs to know if it is going to be hot, cold, wet or dry.
Ask students: How can you cater for everyone?
In media terms, the AUDIENCE refers to listeners of a radio programme, viewers of television programme or website users.
Think about who your audience is, and what it is they need to know or may want to know.
As a class, students decide who they are going to broadcast to, and what are the main elements of the weather forecast they will need to know or want to know.
Lesson 2: The facts behind the broadcast
By the end of the lesson, students should understand the following types of basic data, that could be used on a weather broadcast:
- Model or grid
Students play "hunt-a-brolly". This is a game that involves working in pairs, with each player shading in brollies using the grids on their worksheet. The aim of the game is to use the grid numbers to try to identify where your partner's brollies are. The winner is the one who "hits" all their partner's brollies.
Observed and forecast data
Ask students: What is the difference between observed and forecast data?
Ask students to make an educated guess, then explain:
When we observe something we watch what something does. Therefore, observed data is data which has happened. For example, a satellite picture is a photograph taken from space. This is weather that has happened, and is factually accurate.
To forecast is to predict, so forecast data is what we believe will happen in the future. For example, it is possible to forecast where rain will fall. This may not be exactly right, as nature is unpredictable, but scientifically we can forecast what we think will happen.
Ask students to think of other situations where observed and forecast data are used. For example, you can observe that a particular football team has the best players and forecast that they may win the Premiership. It is also possible to observe a recent spell of match losses, which in turn makes the forecast of winning the title less likely. As you can see, what is observed contributes to what is forecast.
Ask students: Why would we want to show an audience both observed and forecast products?
Model or grid data
Visit the BBC's
and type in your region in the box above the map. Beneath the five-day forecast is a map showing the weather where you are.
Model data is used to report:
These appear as shading on the BBC weather maps
Explain to students: The information on the map is called model or grid data. This is because it is created by dividing the forecast area into a grid of squares, and giving each square the relevant type of weather for that time of day. You can't see the squares on the website, but the current weather in your location uses a grid of squares, with each square measuring 12 kilometres by 12 kilometres.
Ask students to select Africa in the box on the home page.
This will take you to a map that uses a grid of squares measuring 64 kilometres by 64 kilometres.
At the same time as being split into geographical squares, model products are also split into time frames.
The days of telling the weather using symbols are over
Ask students to select their region again on the map.
Click the play icon at the bottom of the map, and watch the weather change over the next few days.
Ask students: What length are the time frames? (for example, every three hours)
Ask students to notice the jumpiness of moving from the timeframes.
Explain to students: When you watch a smooth broadcast on the TV, for example, the movement is created by the BBC graphics system interpolating between data points. So the computer is giving the best guess possible of what the weather is doing between the time steps.
The result of using model or grid data is a set of graphics which show where the weather currently is, and how it is going to develop, rather than using "old-fashioned" symbols to represent the weather. This helps the audience see a visualisation of the weather on the map.
Spot data is used to report:
Explain to students: Spot data is a piece of data which is valid for one site (city, town, village) at a specific time. The BBC uses two types of spot data: three-hourly and five-day data.
Three-hourly data is valid for three hour periods throughout the next 24 hours. Five-day data comes from one reading for a 24 hour block of time, but it goes five days into the future.
Ask students: If you are going to play tennis outside at 1700 today in your local town, which forecast would you use?
Model or spot? Observed or forecast?
On the right-hand side of the
BBC Weather website
type in your location.
Model and grid data will appear on the map at the bottom of the page. Other data can also be found on the page.
Ask students to identify one piece of data which is:
- Observed model
- Forecast model
- Observed spot
- Forecast spot
Lesson 3: Presenting the weather
By the end of the lesson, students should be able to convey the main weather message, clearly and accurately, to a TV audience using graphics and remembering BBC News values (see below).
Just a minute
The BBC Weather team do not read a script from an autocue, which means the presenters have to be able to talk for up to four minutes without assistance.
Explain to the students that in order to practice this, they are going to play a game called 'Just a Minute', as heard on BBC Radio 4. Here are the roles and rules:
- Presenter - speaks about their chosen topic
- Rule keeper - calls 'stop' when one of the rules has been broken
- Time keeper - starts their watch when the presenter starts speaking and stops it when the rule keeper calls 'stop'
- Judge - decides if the 'stop' call is correct. If not, the presenter may carry on and the timekeeper re-starts the clock.
Rules for the presenter
The presenter must:
- Talk for one minute on a chosen topic (it doesn't have to be the weather)
You must not:
- Hesitate (say 'er', for example)
- Repeat what you have said
- Stray from the topic
In groups of four, students play the game.
Mark the presenter's time on the board.
The student who has talked for the longest, without breaking the rules, is the winner. If you need to, have a tie-break round.
Watch the experts
Watch the BBC presenters present a forecast.
BBC NEWS VALUES
Truth and accuracy
Impartiality and diversity of opinion
Editorial integrity and independence
Serving the public interest
Balancing the right to report with respect for privacy
Balancing the right to report with protection of the vulnerable
Being accountable to the audience
- What makes it engaging?
- At what speed do they convey the message?
- How do they emphasise their point? Verbally and physically?
- How do they demonstrate BBC News values?
- What do you not like about the individuals?
- What do you like about the individuals?
- What can you try in your presentation?
Have a go yourself
TV: Project a BBC weather map onto the (interactive) whiteboard or wall in your classroom. (You can use the UK one from the BBC Weather website).
One student presents the weather while another student clicks the > icon, pausing between each time frame to give the presenting student enough time to deliver their weather report.
When presenting the weather, think about these questions:
- Are you getting the main message across?
- How can you keep your audience's attention?
- How do you come across; verbally and physically?
- How fast are you speaking?
- What tone of voice are you using?
- How are you interacting with your graphics?
- Are you keeping to time?
Radio: Radio, like TV, is based on accurate timings. Therefore choose a set duration you would like your broadcast to be, and try to keep to it. You can use the clock to keep time as you're on radio so it doesn't matter where you are looking!
Standard out cue
SOC is called a 'Standard out cue'. This means it is how the broadcast, report, forecast or programme should always end.
Some presenters have their own. For example BBC Weather's Dan Corbett always ends with "That's the weather for now".
Some radio stations also have their own. This is to help brand the feature, so it doesn't matter who is presenting and the audience know what to expect. For example, some local radio stations end with "I'm (insert your own name) for the BBC Weather Centre".
Make up your own SOC and use this to end your broadcast
Record your broadcasts and review them yourself, and with your class mates.
- Can you incorporate what you have talked about?
- What are you good at?
- What areas do you need to improve on?
Lesson 4: Writing a news report about the weather
By the end of the lesson students should be able to:
- Find weather stories
- Check facts and sources
- Write informally
- Write clearly and concisely
- Structure sentences, check grammar and spelling
- Be aware of copyright and legal implications
As a class, discuss when students were last affected by the weather. Perhaps there was flooding or snow which prevented them from going to school.
Read what the experts have written
Search on the
BBC News website
for a weather story.
Answer these questions:
- What? Describe the weather.
- Where? Write down the location of the weather.
- Who? Write down who is affected
- When? Write down when it started and when it finished/will finish.
Cross check the W facts with another non-BBC story to ensure it is accurate.
Write your own news report about the weather
Write a story of 200 to 300 words.
Remember to use the three Cs:
- Clear - write how you would say it and get straight to the point at the beginning
- Concise - keep your sentences short
- Correct - get your facts and grammar right and stay within the law
One law to consider is the law of copyright. Each of the images and photographs you see on the internet belongs to someone, and if you want to use them in your own report, you have to ask permission - otherwise it's stealing!
The BBC has already done some asking, on your behalf, and four owners (photograph agencies) have agreed that students taking part in School Report can re-use their photos if they have already been published on the BBC News website.
This means you can right-click and copy or save any images on the BBC News website which have one the following credits in the right hand, bottom corner:
Hot or not?
A few groups present their report to the rest of the class - their audience.
The class stand, to indicate they are listening to the bulletin. They sit down as soon as they lose interest, indicating the point at which they would switch or click off.
The group which maintains the interest and attention of the majority of the audience for the longest time is the winner!
Ask students: What is it about this story which kept you interested?