Taking Action: Preparing for Natural Disasters | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G5:M4:U3

Taking Action: Preparing for Natural Disasters

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In Unit 3, students apply their learning from the previous units to help educate others in being prepared for a natural disaster. They begin by researching in pairs the kinds of food to include in an emergency preparedness kit. For the mid-unit assessment, students then research the other necessary items to include in a kit. In Lessons 3-5, students write an opinion essay based on their research to explain which two items they think are most important to include in an emergency preparedness kit and why. This prepares them for the end of unit assessment, in which students write an on-demand opinion essay about the two personal items they would include in an emergency preparedness kit and why.

In Lessons 8-11, students prepare an educational leaflet to distribute at their performance task presentations explaining what to do in a natural disaster and the kinds of things to pack in an emergency preparedness kit. They create prompt cards for their presentations and practice them. For the performance task in front of a live audience, students present their PSAs, created in Unit 1, and describe the items they would pack in an emergency preparedness kit.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How can we prepare for a natural disaster? 
  • We can prepare for a natural disaster by learning about what to do in the event of a natural disaster and preparing an emergency preparedness kit.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Taking Action: Preparing for Natural Disasters
  • Task: For the mid-unit assessment, students research supplies to include in an emergency preparedness kit. For the end of unit assessment, students write an on-demand opinion essay about two personal items to include in an emergency preparedness kit.
  • Targets: (standards explicitly taught and assessed): RI.5.1, RI.5.7, W.5.1, W.5.4, W.5.5, W.5.6, W.5.7, W.5.8, and L.5.2e
  • Texts: Internet research resources (based on student searches)


Each unit in the 3-5 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize their understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards and to be taught during the literacy block. But the module intentionally incorporates Science and Social Studies content that may align to additional teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

Next Generation Science Standards:

Earth and Space Science Performance Expectation:

  • 4-ESS3-2: Generate and compare multiple solutions to reduce the impacts of natural Earth processes on humans.
    • ESS3.B: A variety of natural hazards result from natural processes. Humans cannot eliminate natural hazards but can take steps to reduce their impacts. (4-ESS3-2)

College, Career, and Civic Life C3 Framework for Social Studies State Standards:

  • D2.Geo.9.3-5.

Habits of Character/Social-Emotional Learning Focus

Central to EL Education's curriculum is a focus on "habits of character" and social-emotional learning. Students work to become effective learners, developing mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration); work to become ethical people by treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion); and work to contribute to a better world, putting their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service).

In this unit, students work to contribute to a better world by applying their learning to help their school and community when planning and presenting about being prepared for natural disasters.

Accountable Independent Reading

The ability to read and comprehend text is the heart of literacy instruction. Comprehension is taught, reinforced, and assessed across both components of this curriculum: module lessons and the Additional Language and Literacy Block. Refer to the 5M4 Module Overview for additional information.

In this unit, students continue to read research texts independently for homework, and engage in frequent research reading shares during the module lesson for accountability.

Supporting English Language Learners

The Meeting Students' Needs column in each lesson contains support for both ELLs and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and some supports can serve a wide range of student needs. However, ELLs have unique needs that cannot always be met with UDL support. According to federal guidelines, ELLs must be given access to the curriculum with appropriate supports, such as those that are specifically identified as "For ELLs" in the Meeting Students' Needs column.

  • Prioritizing lessons for classrooms with many ELLs: To prepare for the Unit 3 assessments and performance task presentations, consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lesson 1, which focuses on conducting research about items to include in an emergency kit; Lessons 3-5, which focus on planning and writing an opinion essay; Lessons 8-9, which focus on analyzing, planning, and creating leaflets; and Lessons 10-11, which focus on planning and practicing presentations. If necessary, consider placing less focus on the peer critiques in Lessons 3, 4, and 11.
  • Language Dives: Lessons 4-5 include optional Mini Language Dives for ELLs. These Language Dives support ELLs and all students in deconstructing, reconstructing, and practicing the meaning and structures of sentences from Model Essay: Branch Rickey (from Module 3, Unit 2, Lesson 9). Refer to the Tools page for additional information on Language Dives.
  • Conversation Cues: Encourage productive and equitable conversation with Goals 1-4 Conversation Cues (adapted from Michaels, Sarah and O'Connor, Cathy. Talk Science Primer. Cambridge, MA: TERC, 2012. Based on Chapin, S., O'Connor, C., and Anderson, N. [2009]. Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn, Grades K-6. Second Edition. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions Publications). Refer to the Tools page for additional information on Conversation Cues.
  • Diversity and inclusion: Investigate the routines, practices, rituals, beliefs, norms, and experiences that are important to ELLs and their families. Integrate this background into the classroom as students explore the topic of natural disasters and the physical and human impact they can have on communities. Be sensitive to students' experiences and perspectives on these topics and foster inclusive action by creating space for students to express their feelings about issues embedded in the text, while being aware that these discussions may unearth trauma or social stigma. Consult with a guidance counselor, school social worker, or ESL teacher for further investigation of diversity and inclusion.
  • Conducting Internet research: Students receive explicit instruction in how to conduct internet research, including how to choose and use reliable internet sources. Students work in groups to research, so they may share information that they gather. Consider modeling and thinking aloud conducting research and choosing reliable sources before inviting students to do so. Additionally, remind students of the importance of citing sources, ensuring that they are telling the reader where they found the information they are gathering.
  • Writing opinion essays: Students revisit the Painted Essay(r) format used in Modules 1-3 to craft an opinion essay on the most important items to include in an emergency preparedness kit. However, rather than analyzing a model essay focused on the writing prompt for this unit as they have done in previous modules, students revisit the Model Essay: Branch Rickey from Module 3. This provides students with structural support for their opinion essay, while allowing for gradual release to prepare students for writing on-demand essays. For students who may need additional support, see specific suggestions in the Supporting English Language Learners box and the Meeting Students' Needs column in Lessons 3-5.
  • Presentation structure and prompt cards: In Lessons 10-11, students build on their understanding of presentation structure from Module 3 to prepare prompt cards for their presentations in Lesson 12. In classrooms with many ELLs, work closely with groups to create their prompt cards and use color-coding to support this skill. Also, this presentation structure may be different from the structure students are familiar with in their home language. Compare and contrast home language presentation structure whenever possible.
  • Celebration: Celebrate the courage, enthusiasm, diversity, and bilingual assets that ELLs bring to the classroom.

Preparation and Materials

  • Invite guests, including community and family members, to the performance task presentations in Lesson 12.
  • Prepare technology necessary for students to:
    • Research online in Lessons 1-2.
    • Word-process opinion essays in Lessons 3-7.
    • Create emergency preparedness leaflets in Lessons 8-9.
    • Play PSAs while practicing their presentations in Lesson 11.
    • Play PSAs for performance task in Lesson 12.
  • Prepare emergency preparedness kit(s). Refer to the following site for more information on preparing an emergency preparedness kit: How the supplies are obtained for kits is dependent on school resources. For example, schools may provide the supplies and keep the kits in classrooms in case of an emergency. In following years, students could then review the contents based on current research and check the expiration dates on supplies in these kits. Students or community members could also donate supplies for one class kit, or students could provide supplies to create their own kits. How many kits you choose to create will depend on school/student resources and how you organize the presentations for the performance task. Options include:
    • Each student creates an emergency preparedness kit for his or her family.
    • A number of kits are created and then distributed to classrooms after the performance task.
    • One kit is created for the whole group.

Technology and Multimedia

  • Ready.gov - Additional reading and research: Students read additional texts and look at resources about preparing for a natural disaster.
  • Red Cross: Prepare for Emergencies - Additional reading and research: Students read additional texts and look at resources about preparing for a natural disaster.
  • "The Importance of Being Prepared for a Natural Disaster" - Additional reading and research: Students read an additional text about preparing for a natural disaste

Additional Language and Literacy Block

The Additional Language and Literacy (ALL) Block is 1 hour of instruction per day. It is designed to work in concert with and in addition to the 1-hour Grades 3-5 ELA "module lessons." Taken together, these 2 hours of instruction comprehensively address all the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

The ALL Block has five components: Additional Work with Complex Text; Reading and Speaking Fluency/GUM (Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics); Writing Practice; Word Study and Vocabulary; and Independent Reading.

The ALL Block has three 2-week units which parallel to the three units of the module.

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • Invite members of the community, family members, or teachers to come into the classroom to share their personal stories about natural disasters.


  • Invite scientists with expertise on natural disasters, particularly those relevant to the local area, to come into the classroom to talk to the students about them.


  • Visit a natural disasters exhibition at a local museum. 
  • Visit an area affected by a natural disaster.


  • Share PSAs with other classes in the school.
  • Share PSAs with local radio/TV stations.
  • Create emergency preparedness kits for classrooms in school.
  • Create emergency preparedness kits for local community organizations or families in need.
  • Organize fundraising projects to raise money for an area affected by a natural disaster.
  • Collect necessary supplies to send to an area affected by a natural disaster.


  • Students research local history about natural disasters.
  • Students create posters for the local community about how to prepare for a natural disaster.

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