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Monday, April 19, 2010

Topic of the month: Natural Disasters

Most course books at Intermediate or FCE level have a chapter or unit devoted to the topic of natural diasters or extreme weather, and I think it can be much more sensible to study these topics when an event of this kind has recently occurred. Most adults watch the news or read a newspaper, and even many children also see images of what is happening in the world, and to me it seems far more  natural to discuss these things as they take place, rather than when you get to that chapter in the book, as it makes the topic much more interesting and personal. After the recent eruption in Iceland, (and of course Haiti) most learners (of any age) will have seen some images on TV and will want to discuss them. It is far better to look at a topic about which everyone has something to contribute, than the one that appears in your couse book on the next page just because you are following the book from front to back cover.

So this week (in Europe, at least) could be a good time to talk about volcanoes, possibly leading on to other natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis.This kind of topic is interesting for all age groups from small children to the elderly, and there are plenty of resources on the internet that you can use. Here are some I have found:

Great for CLIL but suitable for any class are these presentations on how volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and tsunamis are caused.

Lots of links here for Primary learners:

Some wonderful ideas on the British Council site:

Nice listening activities by Adrian Tennant on Onestopenglish:

If you have access to the internet in your school (for students) you could create a webquest where learners have to find out the answers to a set of questions. If, like for me, such resources are unavailable, you could print out texts about different disasters which you could then hide around the school or classroom making a kind of treasure hunt out of the activity. Each pair or group should get only one question at a time (it is best to stagger the groups by giving them a different question each) to which they have to find the answer, like a reading race. You could even bring in audio so that it is not just practising reading, having some of the answers in a recorded text. You could use the one provided by Adrian Tennant, or download a podcast from a new website. In fact, you could also include puzzles like anagrams of vocabulary or crosswords that they have to complete as part of the quest. All this may take quite a bit of planning, but it should certainly make for a fun and productive lesson.

The topic can be a good one for practising modal verbs with elementary students, having them design posters or leaflets giving advice and recommendations for what to do in an emergency situation like an earthquake or severe flooding.

Please feel free to send in any good ideas that have worked well with your students on this topic, especially with YLs.
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