Natural Disasters Lesson Plan: Understanding Geologic and Weather Events

Submitted by: Clara Newman

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-8, students use BrainPOP resources to gain a basic understanding of geologic and weather related natural disasters. Students will research one type of natural disaster in depth and present their knowledge orally to peers in a clear, cohesive, and creative fashion.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Gain an overview of a basic understanding of geologic and weather related natural disasters
  2. Research one type of natural disaster in depth
  3. Present their knowledge orally to peers in a clear, cohesive, and creative fashion

Materials:

  • Computer(s) for student research
  • Access to BrainPOP
  • Interactive Whiteboard (optional)
  • KWL chart from BrainPOP Educator’s Graphic Organizers page or project it onto the Interactive Whiteboard.
  • Vocabulary Activity Page (enough for the class)

Vocabulary:

hurricane; thunderstorm; tornado; storm; flood; drought; tsunami; earthquake; volcano; wildfire; avalanche; lightning; natural disaster; ready kit; family plan; storm surges; harbor waves; subduction zones; tectonic plates; geologic; humanitarian agency

Preparation:

Log on to BrainPOP and preview the related movies (see above) and browse through features. Print up suggested materials and set up computer and interactive whiteboard if you plan to use one.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Ask students what they know about Natural Disasters. Record students’ ideas under the "K" column on the KWL chart from BrainPOP Educator’s Graphic Organizers page. You can either project it onto an interactive whiteboard or print copies for students to work on individually or in partnerships. Then, challenge students to the POP Quiz to see what they already know. (You can revisit the quiz later in the day or week to reassess after viewing the movie and doing the related features).
  2. Screen the Natural Disasters movie for your class. Remember that you can turn on the closed captions to support students who learn best when reading (click the button marked cc at the bottom right of the movie window). Also, remember to pause at various points for discussion. These are good opportunities to prompt students to turn and talk about new concepts as they arise.
  3. Hand out the Vocabulary Activity Page. Ask students to complete the page using what they remember from the movie. If they cannot remember all the information, allow them to review the movie in pairs or as a whole group. The closed captioning is great for literacy reinforcement while note-taking.
  4. Return to the KWL chart and ask students to come up with questions about natural disasters. What do they wonder about them? Gather ideas under the "W" column on the chart.
  5. Tell students that they will find out answers to these questions and more in the coming days and weeks. They will be working with a partner to learn about and present information on one type of natural disaster, using BrainPOP as their main source of information.
  6. You may want to pair students by interest or by your own method (ability, social needs, etc). Once in pairs, each pair can research one of the following topics on BrainPOP: Avalanches, Earthquakes, Fire, Floods, Hurricanes, Thunderstorms, Tornadoes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes
  7. Remind each pair that they must explore all of the features on their BrainPOP topic page, including the FYI, Q&A, Timeline, and Experiment, and they must complete all Activities and Quizzes. It is a good idea for students to have access to computers for a good deal of time so they can review the movies more than once, print up any resources necessary, and do further research online if they desire. You may want to send them to the computer lab or have students work in shifts at the computer if you have a limited number of computers in the room.
  8. Tell students that once they have researched their topic, they will be asked to plan and teach a lesson about their natural disaster. Students can get creative with this project; they can present the BrainPOP movie without sound and re-write the script in their own words, they can film or act out a weather report including information about their natural disaster, use one of the activity pages as their teaching material, or present a slideshow incorporating images from books or the Internet. Remind students that their goal is to present the information in a clear, direct manner, so that their peers can understand and retain the information, and everything must be in their own words. Encourage them to use one of BrainPOP’s assessments or to design their own quiz, activity sheet, or graphic organizer!
  9. Once all students have presented their topics, have the class complete the KWL charts with at least 10 facts they have learned about natural disasters.
  10. As a final assignment, have the class discuss which natural disasters are possible in your geological area. Then discuss and design a natural disaster Class Plan together and determine what they might put into a Ready Kit for the class. As a homework assignment, have students design a Family Plan and create and bring in their own Ready Kits to share with the class.

Extension Activity:

You can build on this study in many ways. You may want to select specific material from the various movies’ features to assign for homework. You can also have students complete the Natural Disasters Graphic Organizer Activity Page or the Quiz at the end to check their comprehension.