Monday, April 11, 2011

EXTRA! EXTRA! Student Reporters Dig Into Tsunamis

With all of the news coverage of the recent tsunami and its aftermath in Japan, many teachers are looking for ways to explain the phenomenon to their students. Students are seeing videos and pictures of the devastation in Japan, and many of them don’t completely understand the science behind this type of weather disaster. This lack of understanding can lead to fear in students (and teachers) of all ages. Joann has been collecting resources for The Gateway to help teach students about tsunamis. The resources she is featuring in her column and social media posts this week look at tsunamis from many different angles. She has found a really nice variety of resources, and I really like the way they integrate the study of tsunamis into subjects ranging from art to science.

It was hard for me to pick out my favorite activities to use in the classroom. These are all great stand-alone resources, but there are so many different aspects of tsunamis that might spark students’ interests, I thought it would be neat to allow students to choose which angle of tsunamis they want to study. To allow this choice, I needed to figure out how to combine ideas from lots of Joann’s picks into one activity. I wanted to create an activity that could be adapted for many different age groups and that would appeal to students with a wide range of interests. It would include creative and critical thinking and it would involve students teaching others about what they learned, the best form of learning in my opinion.

Tsunami News Broadcast

In this activity, students will create news broadcasts to explain tsunamis to a selected audience. You might choose a group of younger students, other students in the class, or parents as the audience. Students could present their newscasts live, as a video, as an audio podcast, a glog, or you might want to give them the choice of creating a newspaper to present.

Choose four to six tsunami-related topics. (I did this by looking at the topics covered in this week’s featured resources on The Gateway.) Create a list of these topics to distribute to small groups of students with a few suggested links or research ideas for each topic. Explain to the students that they are a news team responsible for creating a news broadcast covering a few different aspects of tsunamis to help their viewers better understand the crisis in Japan.

I have found that it is very beneficial to let students teach one another, and this is a fun, creative way for students to do that. One strength of this type of activity is that it allows the students to make choices. If you select 6 possible topics, students could choose 4 of those topics to cover in their news broadcast. This way, they are spending their time researching things that interest them the most.

The following is a list of topic ideas for students to include in their broadcasts. There are many more possibilities, so have fun and use your imagination!

The science of a tsunami: If students understand the science behind a tsunami, their fears of a similar event occurring near them might be alleviated. Look at resources like this to find out what causes these giant waves and to get ideas for visual representations to use in a news broadcast. The NSTA also collected some good resources and here are the top 3 sites from Free Technology for Teachers.

Fact v. Fiction: Students will need to use critical thinking to determine whether the things they see in the media are true or false. Look here to help students create a section of the broadcast devoted to how to decide what is real. This is especially important when looking at the reports about the nuclear reactors. This lesson from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission explains a lot about how nuclear power works.

History of Tsunamis: There have been other major tsunamis throughout history. How do those tsunamis compare to the recent event in Japan? Here is an example of the type of resource that might be useful for this topic.

Survivor studies: A study of the stories of survivors might give them empathy for the people affected by the disaster. Look at sites like this to find some stories of survivors of natural disasters to include in a broadcast.

Making a Difference: A service project with the goal of helping tsunami victims could give people a sense of a purpose instead of fear. What can students do to help? Discuss ideas that have been implemented or that students could implement to help tsunami victims. See lessons like this and others from for some ideas.

Will it Happen To Me? Reading Rockets collected resources to help students understand tsunamis and whether or not one might occur near their home. Students might want to dedicate a section of their broadcast to this topic.

This is just a beginning of a plan. You might have some better ideas, and if you do, we would love for you to share! Join us on Facebook and Twitter to learn even more. We will share any presentations, podcasts, glogs, or pictures you share with us to inspire other teachers to discuss this important topic in the classroom.

~Peggy's Corner - 4/8/2010~

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