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ELA G5:M4:U1

The Science behind Natural Disasters

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The Foundational Reading and Language Standards Resources Package for Grades 3–5

Use this guide to build additional literacy blocks alongside the module lessons.


In this very short unit, students will build their background knowledge about the science behind natural disasters. They will read two informational articles, one about hurricanes and the other about earthquakes. Students will focus on the relationships between scientific concepts in these informational texts, specifically how hurricanes and earthquakes form and what happens when they occur.

For the mid-unit assessment, students will read and answer text-dependent questions about one new informational text about hurricanes. Following the mid-unit assessment, students will be read another new informational text, this one about earthquakes. They will then synthesize the information from both informational texts about hurricanes and earthquakes and organize their ideas in preparation for the end of unit assessment.

For the end of unit on-demand assessment, students write an essay in which they explain how a hurricane is a natural disaster as well as participate in a Science Talk with peers about natural disasters. Students cite and organize evidence from multiple texts on the same topic.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What is a natural disaster?
  • Extreme natural events can have positive and negative effects on the environment and humans.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies and Science content that many teachers may be teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the New York State Common Core K-8 Social Studies Framework:

NYS Social Studies Core Curriculum:

  • 2.1e Extreme natural events (floods, fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other severe storms) may have positive or negative impacts on living things.
  • 5.2g The health, growth, and development of organisms are affected by environmental conditions such as the availability of food, air, water, space, shelter, heat, and sunlight.


Texts to buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please refer to Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
Eight Days: A Story of Haiti
by Edwidge Danticat
One per student
ISBN: 978-0545278492, 054527849X

Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
by Karen Carr,
”How Does a Hurricane Form?”
by NASA,
"Earthquake." The New Book of Knowledge
by Grolier Online
Grolier Online, 2013


Optional Activities

Invite meteorologists, environmentalists, geologists, or other scientists to the class in order to further build background knowledge and clarify questions about natural disasters researched.

Arrange for students to visit a weather station, disaster preparedness committee meeting, or geology (meteorology) department of a local higher education institution.

Create natural disaster preparedness brochures or public service announcements to distribute in the community.


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