Submitted by: Angela Watson

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this natural disasters lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-8, students use BrainPOP resources to identify and explore various types of natural disasters. Students will explain whether natural disasters are weather-related or geology-related. Next, they’ll research a self-selected or teacher-selected natural disaster using BrainPOP resources, and complete a graphic organizer explaining the cause/effect relationships behind the selected disaster.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Identify various types of natural disasters.
  2. Explain whether natural disasters are weather-related or geology-related.
  3. Research a self-selected or teacher-selected natural disaster using BrainPOP resources.



hurricane; tornado; flood; drought; tsunami; earthquake; volcano; wildfire; ready kit


Make photocopies of the forms needed. Preview the movies listed under Natural Disasters and determine which ones you would like students to use in their research.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Ask students what questions they'd like answered about natural disasters. Have they ever wondered what caused them? Have they noticed that certain natural disasters cause or trigger other natural disasters? Build background knowledge by talking about disasters that have been mentioned recently in the news.
  2. Give students a copy of the Worksheet page. Have them guess the name of each natural disaster pictured and write their answers. Provide several minutes for them to complete the 'Think About It' section and then facilitate a class discussion on student responses, tying recent natural disasters to the dialogue.
  3. Play the Natural Disasters movie for the class. Pause as needed for discussion and for students to fill in the worksheet.
  4. Afterward, invite students to revisit the worksheet and identify each natural disaster as either weather-related or geology related. They can color the pictures in as the directions specify or simply label them with 'G' or 'W'.
  5. Have students flip their papers over to show the Graphic Organizer. Explain that students will use this to organize their thinking as they research the natural disaster or their choice (or the one that is assigned to them based upon recent world events.)
  6. Provide time in class or at home for students to watch the BrainPOP movie related to the selected natural disaster. You may also assign related movies, such as Greenhouse Effect and Erosion to help students understand the cause and effect relationships involved. Students who are working below grade level or lacking prior knowledge may view the BrainPOP Jr. movie on Fast Land Changes.
  7. After watching the video(s) related to their topic, students should explore the various features and take the related quiz to test their understanding.
  8. Have students complete the cause and effect graphic organizer, starting with one initial cause of their natural disaster and it's immediate effect. When they are finished, the graphic organizer should explain how the natural disaster begins and multiple effects that can result.

Extension Activities:

Allow students to explore the root causes of natural disasters in more detail using movies and resources from the Our Fragile Environment and Earth Systems units. These lessons can lead into a unit on earth awareness and caring for the planet.