A Man-Made Disaster

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SWBAT read and annotate nonfiction science text.

Big Idea

Learning about disasters will generate interest in solving problems. We examine one disaster to determine what could happen if there were better ways to prevent and respond to it.

Bell Ringer - KWL

10 minutes

KWL (Know - Want to Know - Learned)

What do you know about disasters?

What do you want to learn about disasters?

Before viewing the video: I ask students to take 2 minutes to reflect on these KWL questions and write a response on the KWL sheet. To engage students in the conversation, I use popsicle sticks to draw names and ask students to share their answers. This strategy provides opportunity for all students to engage in the conversation.

What have you learned about disasters from this video?

After viewing the video: I ask students to complete the last question. Again, I want students to share in the discussion so I draw popsicle sticks to include all students in the conversation.

Reading Nonfiction Text

25 minutes

Reading non-fiction text is an important skill. Common Core State Standard RI.6.3 states, Analyze how an event or idea is introduced and elaborated on in a text. Students read about a particular disaster (flood) and then the text provides more details. RI.6.2 states Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments. Through annotation, students will determine the central idea of the text. This Newsela text was selected because disasters are global issues, without boundaries. Using Newsela gives unlimited access to hundreds of leveled news articles.

As students go through this learning experience, Master Disaster, I want to build contextual and background knowledge. Reading non-fiction text is a great way to do that. Building background knowledge activates learning and builds vocabulary. 

As You Read The Article:

I group students according to their Lexile (reading level) because creating and using leveled reading groups is best practice. I want students to annotate the text either as they read or after they read. I ask students to annotate in five (5) ways as they read: write a question about something they have read, circle a word the don't know and write a synonym, draw a "smile" next to something that made them laugh, highlight the main idea, and finally, draw a "star" next to an idea where they made a connection.

I provide a non-fiction article, a worksheet, and then direct students on how to annotate the article and answer the questions. During the class period, I work with a group of students (ELL and/or Special Education) and read the text with them and help them to annotate the article and answer the questions. I want students to annotate text because it help them to:

  • clearly identify important ideas in the text
  • express the main idea
  • develop brief notes which provide a handy summary
  • begin to think about connections 


Note: Each lesson in this unit, Master Disaster, works towards mastery of the NGSS MS-ESS 3-2 which states students will analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.

Wrap It Up

5 minutes

What did you learn about this disaster?

What questions do you have about disasters of this type?

I ask two (2) follow up questions to wrap up the lesson and provide two (2) minutes for students to write their response. Students could write a response on the worksheet or the back of the article. Then I take two (2) minutes to share answers with the class. This practice allows students time to think, process, and share information. My expectation for a student take-away from the reading are that they make a connection to some type of disaster to become engaged in this unit. By asking students to "come to a conclusion" or "wrap it up", I am asking them to Stretch It or stretch their thinking.

Teach Like A Champion: Stretch It

Some student responses I am looking for include: 

I learned that floods can be very powerful, destroy many lives, and cause lots of chaos.

I learned that people are trying to survive from this flood.

I learned that disasters are so bad and that there might not be food or shelter. People lose families too!