Earthquake Hazards

42 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT identify major seismic hazards and evaluate the effectiveness of various safety measures

Big Idea

Students use an online interface to find and evaluate the effectiveness of various seismic safety measures

Lesson Introduction

[Note: For embedded comments, checks for understanding (CFUs), and key additional information on transitions and key parts of the lesson not necessarily included in the below narrative (including answers to practice questions), please go to the comments in the following document after downloading: Whole Lesson (with comments). Additionally, if you would like all of the resources together in a PDF document, that can be accessed as a complete resource here: Whole Lesson [PDF]. Finally, students may need their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] for parts of the lesson (a document used widely in the New York State Earth Science Regents course) as well.]

This is a technology-based lesson (they'll need computers with Internet access) which has them doing a few different things. The lesson starts with a brief text excerpt on earthquake hazards and emergency preparedness. They read this in partners and answer some basic analysis questions, and then launch into a computer-based lesson asking them to prepare safety information for before, during, and after an earthquake happens. Finally, there's a brief writing assignment asking them to prioritize some of their selected safety information and give needed rationale for it. 


Materials Needed:

  • Computers (w/Internet access)

Do Now & Objective(s)

10 minutes

Students come in silently and complete the (attached) Do Now. This Do Now deals with igneous rock characteristics, which are an important concept to review to adequately prepare students for the upcoming Interim Assessment.  After time expires (anywhere from 2-4 minutes depending on the type of Do Now and number of questions), we collectively go over the responses (usually involving a series of cold calls and/or volunteers), before I call on a student and ask them to read the objective out loud to start the lesson.

As a general note, the Do Now serves a few purposes:

  1. It serves as a general review of the previous day's material; (although not this one :-)
  2. It is a re-activation of student knowledge to get them back into "student mode" and get them thinking about science after transitioning from another content area or alternate class;
  3. as a strategy for reviewing material students have struggled with (for example, using this as a focused review for material that they have struggled with on unit assessments or recent quizzes); and,
  4. It is an efficient and established routine for entering the classroom that is repeated each day with fidelity (I never let students enter the classroom talking. While it may seem potentially severe to have students enter silently each day, this is both a school wide expectation and a key component of my classroom. In many respects, I find that students readily enjoy the focus that starting with a quiet classrooms brings each day).


Earthquake Hazard Text

15 minutes

The text found in the Earthquake Text resource is pulled from an Earth Science textbook, and is quickly designed to teach students some basic vocabulary in order to better equip them to complete the hazard analysis activity later on in the lesson.

The text looks longer than it is in actuality because I decided to embed some quick checks for understanding/comprehension questions within the text. Unlike how we approach most texts (reading out loud or reading and reviewing as a class), I wanted to continue our classes’ strong start in developing effective partner and group work habits. I have students huddle together for 15-30 seconds to decide how they’re going to work together (one person reads one paragraph, the other the next or both read together silently and answer the comprehension questions together, etc.). After they decide, we'll come back together and I'll solicit a few responses from groups as a class, giving feedback if I think their strategy is inefficient or potentially misguided.

Once they've committed to a partner working strategy and have the chance to have their strategy "checked" by me, I give them about 4-5 minutes to complete the actual text and analysis questions. Many of these embedded CFUs in the Earthquake Text resource are actually derived from former Regents questions (my state assessment), so they’re particularly relevant in terms of actual content. 

Safety Measure ID

20 minutes

The next part of the lesson (Safety Measure ID) requires a computer, or computer access. The website (link here) is a government website  preparing people for a variety of natural disasters. When students go to the section on Earthquakes (Note: The provided link takes them directly to the ‘Earthquakes’ web page), there are different columns indicating what to do and how to prepare at various stages of the natural disaster. I have students dive into the ‘Before’, ‘During’, and ‘After’ portions of the text, reading each carefully, and pick out the five (5) most pertinent safety precautions for each.

[Note: Logistically, we don’t do this in a computer lab, but have a “mobile lab” which has a classroom set of Chromebooks. While students are completing the Do Now, I or another student pass out all the computers, but I ask them to keep them closed until this portion of the activity begins.]

Writing Assignment

10 minutes

Once students are finished with that portion of the lesson, they have some class time to create a paragraph response to the information they gathered on their Written Assignment (Note: See Reflection in this section for further information on my rationale for this assignment, and what I might do next time). I ask them to pick one of their five (5) safety precautions from ‘Before’, ‘During’, and ‘After’ the earthquake. They list it out and are asked to provide rationale for their safety measures (“Why did you choose this as the most critical or important?”). Again, the reflection provides some added context here, but I should note in the general narrative that I'm focusing on depth of response and thought over number of sentences or a long, unthoughtful piece that was merely copied directly from the website. In considering the facets that make earthquakes either more or less powerful (distance to the epicenter, type of surface sediment type, building structure, etc.), I try to get them focusing on the most critical and important pieces of information. The assignment itself is two-fold: 1.) Can students effectively have fidelity to the process of finding safety measures and communicating them articulately; and 2.) Can students prioritize and internally rank what they see as the most critical steps for safety in earthquake preservation. For example, an obvious thing I look for is the idea of "safety over property" - lives are more important than things, so safety measures should first prioritize protecting people's safety, and not necessarily people's "stuff". 


5 minutes

Once there are about 2-3 minutes left in the class period, I prompt students to stop their work. I assign the remainder of the writing assignment for homework, and then we quickly wrap up in the same fashion we always do - I give students time to pack up their belongings, and I end the class at the objective (which is posted on my whiteboard, in addition to being on their 'Do Now' at the start of each lesson) and ask students two questions:

  1. Do you feel that you mastered the objective for the day?
  2. Can you reiterate one thing you learned about ____________ (in this case, identifying earthquake hazards)

When the bell rings, students are asked to stand, push in their chairs, and exit the room.