Preparing for the Worst: Natural Disasters

Students learn the science behind natural disasters, such as volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and wildfires, with an emphasis on how natural disasters happen. 

Unit Summary

Natural disasters such as volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and wildfires happen all over the world. Understanding how natural disasters happen and why helps children feel less anxious and more prepared. Therefore, this unit focuses on teaching students the science behind each natural disaster while also explaining what to do if they live in an area prone to a particular natural disaster. Over the course of the unit, students hear about many famous natural disasters, but the unit places more of an emphasis on how the disasters happen rather than exploring the devastation or destruction caused by previous natural disasters. The unit provides many opportunities for students to learn more about recent natural disasters, including a culminating research project. 

The texts in this unit were chosen because of their wide variety of text features, content, and accessibility. Over the course of the unit, students will read texts that are very technical and rely heavily on text features, diagrams, and illustrations, as well as texts that are written as informational narratives. Students will be challenged to think about the structures the authors use to help the reader interact with and learn the content. Additionally, students will learn the importance of referring to specific details from the text and using those details to explain and teach back the newly learned material. This unit serves as the foundation for building strong reading habits and routines and setting high expectations for text consumption. Clear models should be included in the unit to help students build a deeper understanding of how to actively read and annotate informational texts for key ideas, text features, and vocabulary. This unit also serves as a launching point for strong discussions. Students will frequently be challenged to debate questions from the text; therefore, strong habits of discussion need to be introduced over the course of the unit.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials

Assessment

These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills. Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • Where and how do earthquakes occur? What hazards do earthquakes create? How can the hazards be reduced? 
  • Where and how do volcanoes occur? What hazards do volcanoes create? How can the hazards be reduced? 
  • Where and how do hurricanes occur? What hazards do hurricanes create? How can the hazards be reduced? 
  • Where and how do wildfires occur? What hazards do wildfires create? How can the hazards be reduced? 

Vocabulary

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Text-based

absorb accumulate ash atmosphere catastrophic carelessness climate coastal destructive debris destruction dependent dormant drought epicenter epidemic extinct excess extensive extreme fault famine flammable forecast havoc hurricane imminent immense inactive inland intense magnitude merged moderate natural disaster pandemic periodic plates precursor precede raging retrofitted release renew scorched slight stalled storm surge torrential tragic tropical tropical depression tropical storm warning system

Root/Affix

-able -less -ness in- re-

To see all the vocabulary for this course, view our 4th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Lesson Map

4

  • Volcanoes pp. 14 – 25

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.5

    RI.4.7

Describe what makes Hawaiian volcanoes unique.

6

  • Volcanoes pp. 24 – 32

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.5

    RI.4.7

Describe the four different types of volcanoes.

15

  • Hurricanes pp. 1 – 13

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.5

Describe where and how hurricanes occur.

16

  • Hurricanes pp. 14 – 23

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.5

Describe the destruction caused by each category of hurricane.

19

  • Wildfires pp. 1 – 9

    RI.4.3

    RI.4.5

Explain why not all wildfires are bad.

21

  • Wildfires — pg. 25- end

    RI.4.3

Analyze why wildfires are neither good nor bad.

25

Assessment

  • “Tsunamis” pp. 7 – 14

Common Core Standards

Core Standards

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L.4.1

L.4.1.f

L.4.2

L.4.4

L.4.6

RI.4.3

RI.4.5

RI.4.7

SL.4.1

SL.4.1.a

SL.4.1.b

SL.4.1.c

SL.4.2

SL.4.3

SL.4.4

W.4.2

W.4.2.a

W.4.2.b

W.4.2.e

W.4.7

W.4.8

Supporting Standards

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L.4.3

L.4.4.b

RF.4.3

RF.4.4

RI.4.1

RI.4.10

RI.4.4

RI.4.9

W.4.10

W.4.4

W.4.5

W.4.6

W.4.9