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Natural Disasters – Learning Activities


Art, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies  


5, 6  

Title – Natural Disasters
By – Helen Whitechurch – Argot Library of Educational Resources
Subject – Science, Social Studies, Art, Language Arts
Grade Level – 5 and 6
Natural Disasters Unit Overview
KLAs: English, Human Society, Science and Information Skills
Timeframe: 10 weeks
Literary Text Types: Personal Response
Factual Text Types: Information Report; Procedural Recount; and Explanation
This unit focuses on the natural and community effects of natural disasters.

Return to Unit Menu
Codes used for teaching focus:
F = Field Knowledge; D = Deconstruction; J = Joint Construction; I = Independent Construction
Learning Activities
F: 1. Explain the tasks required by the end of the unit:

  • writing a narrative on the impact of a natural disaster on a community
  • writing information report on one type of natural disaster
  • jointly designing and producing a poster to support aid to communities suffering from a natural disaster
  • giving an oral information report on one type of natural disaster
  • giving an oral personal response to a news account of a natural disaster
  • jointly writing an explanation of one type of natural disaster
  • writing a procedural explanation about how to make a working model of a volcano
  • Explain that the students learn how to do these things by:
    1. Reading and talking about different types of natural disasters
    2. Examining and deconstructing examples of the different text types
    3. As a whole class, jointly constructing different types of text
    4. In pairs or groups, producing different text types
    5. Writing their own independent texts
F: 2. Negotiating the Field

  • Brainstorm: write “Natural Disasters” on the board.
    List on cards
    Natural disasters usually cause great harm to people and damage the land.
F: 3. Building the field

  • Ask students to suggest other ways to categorize the different disasters
    eg. Air, Water, Land or Weather, Earth.
  • Jointly organize cards on board under those headings.
  • Mix the cards up again and have the students group and record them individually under their headings.


4. Building the Field

  • Definition match worksheet
  • Review the purpose of information reports
  • Introduce headings for information report (See worksheet: What, where, how p. 129?)
  • Review the purpose of information reports
  • Discuss who might read this information – parents, other Year 5 and 6 students, younger students. Write with the audience in mind.
  • Revisit the structure of information reports, using sample reports. Highlight and revise topic sentences
    • Explain that the information will also presented orally to the class
    • Provide criteria for the information report, including the use of diagrams, headings, etc.
D: 5. Locating information about natural disasters

  • D: Shared reading – Natural Disasters Big book
    The teacher demonstrates how to use a table of contents, index and how to read a diagram
  • Notetaking activity
  • Students vote on what natural disaster they would like to research
  • Students work in Guided Reading Groups
  • One student reads to the group a text on the natural disaster that they have chosen.
  • Other students make notes onto Seven Strips (See worksheet)
F: 6. Group Activity – Accessing information

  • Students work in groups of 4 – 6, researching a chosen disaster.
  • Students negotiate form and style of presentation or use GRASP report scaffold. (See proforma)
  • Students begin to draft an information report about their chosen type of disaster
  • Work on the information report continues throughout the unit
Assessment Task:

  • Independently construct a written information report
  • The information report is due in the second last week of the unit

Go to Assessment Rubric
7. Introduce explanations:

  • What are they used for?
  • Who would be able to explain how a volcano or tornado occurs?
  • Why would you need to know?
    • Note down the answers
  • Show the difference between information report, explanation and procedure using sample texts
  • Discuss the purpose and structural differences noticed
  • Review earthquake terminology
  • Read Earthquake chapter in big book
  • As groups the students begin to draft written explanation of one type of natural disaster
F: 8. Recording information about natural disasters

  • Before and after viewing worksheet. (See proforma)
    • Notetaking from volcanoes video
  • Students record what they already know about volcanoes in the Before and After section of the worksheet.
  • Whole class views video
  • Rewind and on the same day view a small section of the video
  • Students record what they recall of the video on the After section of the worksheet
F: 9. Jigsaw activity

  • Students prepare material for jigsaw activity where they share in groups information about the topic
  • Teacher models presentation of information to groups
  • Students prepare information to share with a new group
I: 10. Students form new groups with all topics represented in each group

  • Regroup class after discussion and report on activity
    • information
    • style
    • availability of material
    • use of graphics
    • use of other visual aids
J: 11. Topic groups plan presentation for whole class

  • Points to consider:
    • presentation style
    • accuracy information presented
    • use of graphical aids
    • manner of presentation
12. Presentations over one or maybe two weeks Assessment Task:
Presentations assesses individual
Oral Presentation rubric
Go to Assessment Rubric
F: 13. Whole class matrix

  • After student presentations, whole class adds information to the matrix
D: 14. Earthquake Deconstruction

  • Show large version of How Do Earthquakes Happen?
  • Use tables to show how the plates collide
  • Model the stages of the explanation using two desks
  • Label the stages
    • title
    • phenomenon
    • sequence
  • Mix the paragraphs up and have students sort
  • Point out the structure that makes the explanation flow and the use of when and as conjunctions
  • Students cut and paste individual worksheets
  • Students highlight the structure on their sheets – circle the conjunctions
  • Other deconstruction activities:
    • Close passage with topic words and conjunctions removed
    • Read another explanation and highlight the structure. (See stapler explanation)
F: 15. Building the field: Cyclones

  • Shared reading
    • big books
    • other print and screen-based material on cyclones
  • Class notes down main information on how cyclones occur
  • Define new terms
  • View the cyclone segment from Weather video by Mike Bailey
  • Conduct simple experiments to demonstrate warm air rising and cool air sinking
  • Label cyclone worksheet
J: 16. Jointly construct an explanation of how a cyclone occurs

  • Focus on the use of sequence and appropriate conjunctions
  • Discuss how a diagram helps make an explanation clearer and more explicit
Assessment Task:
Jointly construct written explanation of one type of natural disaster
The explanation is due in the third last week of the unit
Go to Assessment Rubric
17. Volcano Model

  • Students jointly read the procedure about how to construct a model volcano
  • In groups of three or four the students construct the model
  • Groups of students demonstrate their models to the whole class
  • Students independently write a procedural explanation about how to make a working model of a volcano which could be used by younger students to actually make the model
  • Students demonstrate their own working models to a class of younger students
  • Students then read their procedural explanations to the younger children
Assessment Task:

F: 18. Discuss why it might be important to have instruments to measure the wind

  • List the reasons
  • What sort of organizations do we have to cope with serious wind storms?
    • List them and what each one does
      • State Emergency Services
      • Fire
      • Police
      • Ambulance
      • Air rescue
      • Coast Guard
    • What would happen without these services?
19. How do natural disaster affect people?

  • Read a variety of recounts of disasters
    • Pompei
    • Mt St Helens
    • San Fransico Earthquake
    • Sydney bushfires
    • PNG Tsunami
  • Discuss the structural differences between factual recounts, information reports and narratives
  • Students independently write a narrative about the impact of a natural disaster on a community
Assessment Task:
Narrative on the impact of a natural disaster on a community
Go to Assessment Rubric
F: 20. Communicative Crossword

  • In pairs the students design a communicative crossword using topic words and field knowledge of natural disasters
21. How do natural disasters affect people

  • Students complete the activity sheet
  • Students independently draft an oral personal response to a news account of a natural disaster
  • Presentation of oral personal responses
Assessment Task:
Oral personal response to a news account of a natural disaster
Go to Assessment Rubric
22. Oral discussion

  • Should we send aid to disaster victims in other countries?
    • What is our country’s responsibility?
    • What is the individual’s responsibility?
    • How is money raised?
  • Examine posters used to persuade people to give money
  • Jointly deconstruct an example poster examining
    • layout
    • text
    • graphics
  • Use the visual proforma as a guide
I: 23. Design brief: an appeal poster

  • Discuss the techniques used by designers of posters to persuade
  • In pairs students design and produce a poster to support aid to communities suffering from a natural disaster
  • Students may use real or fictitious disasters
Assessment Task:
Assess poster on its information, layout and persuasive qualities
Go to Assessment Rubric
F: 24. Consolidation – Question and answer game

  • Students write down a question and the answer on separate pieces of paper about the topic
  • Papers distributed to other students
  • Students read their question / answer and then move about the room to find the person with the matching paper
F: 25. Information Reports

  • Students read one another’s information reports
  • Students discuss and critique these reports
Assessment Task:

  • Independently constructed written information report on one type of natural disaster.
  • These information reports have been worked on during the whole unit
  • Information reports are assessed using task sheet criteria and information report structure
    • paragraphs
    • grouping of information
    • topic sentences
    • punctuation and spelling

Go to Assessment Rubric


D: 26. Text type recognition activity

Assessment Task:
Recognition of text types
Go to Assessment Rubric

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