Disasters activities

Page 5 – Communicating ideas

Use the topics in the Disasters category of NZHistory.net.nz  for the following activity ideas.

There are many formats that could be used to communicate and present information relating to a selected disaster to demonstrate understanding. These approaches are an ideal way of incorporating themes and skills associated with the social sciences in a language unit.

A number of options follow that can be selected and modified to suit your class and level. The requirements will vary from level to level, as will the degree of teacher support. Younger students may require one to one modelling and step by step instruction while older students may be able to operate on a more independent level.

This is an ideal opportunity to introduce a research element to this study. Using the material in NZHistory.net.nz as a starting place, students can use the library and other locations/sources to locate a range of information that is useful. This is a good opportunity to introduce or further develop skills such as the use of key words, contents and an index in information gathering. Older students can be challenged through the expectation to locate information from a greater range of sources while younger students might locate useful information with teacher help.

Picture captions

As a piece of writing the style required for this activity is brief with an emphasis on concise facts. Explain to the class that they are going to write captions for a selection of images or objects associated with your selected disaster. Some students or levels will need to have the word caption explained to them. To assist with this task it might be useful to have some examples on hand or to even workshop an example with your class. Discuss what is important in a good caption and stress the need to be brief. For the purpose of this exercise set a word limit of no more than 50 words.

  • Go to the media gallery associated with one of the disaster features in NZHistory.net.
  • Print out some of the images or information from the gallery. You can determine the number or range suitable for your class.
    • Make sure you remove any captions or clues from the image
  • Present them to your class – or to groups – and get them to write a suitable caption for the media item.
  • Younger classes can do this as a class exercise and write captions for 2-3 images that the teacher has selected for the class.

Alternatively a more artistic approach to this might be to complete a picture/caption telling the story of what happened. Break the story up into its main points and draw a picture reflecting each point. Underneath each picture write a brief summary of that main point.

Read all about it! Newspaper front pages

This can be a very effective and popular way of communicating information and ideas on any number of history-based topics. Don’t make assumptions about what your students might know about the features of a good front page story. Spend some time looking at examples and unpacking the features with them. Depending on what technology and time you have available you can also use this as an opportunity for the students to work on some of their publishing skills.

Use the format why, what, when, where, who, how to help students approach the story. The style is factual. Begin with the most important facts first.

Younger classes might work on appropriate banner headlines instead of producing a full-blown page. Think here about what are some of the key things to convey in a headline. What is its purpose?

A. For some levels the following approach may be sufficient or could be used to break the task up into smaller parts:

  • imagine you are a reporter for a newspaper at the time of the disaster you have selected. You can make up the name of your own newspaper or use one that was in existence at the time.
  • The editor of your newspaper wants three possible headings for a front-page story on this disaster for the morning after it occurred.
  • write an introductory paragraph for this front-page story about what has happened.

B. From here you could go further by coming up with topics for the following paragraphs that provide readers with more detail about what happened and what caused this disaster as well as the sequence of events.
Consider presentation. Write your story up in columns with a headline and picture(s). Remember newspaper stories deal with who, why, what, when, where and how.

C. Now write a follow up article that might have been in the paper a few days later dealing with the aftermath of the event and shedding light on any new information that has come to hand as to why this happened.

Alternatively the story could be written at the time that any results from any official inquiries have come to hand.

Making a New Zealand disasters history book for younger children
A good way of demonstrating understanding of a topic is to get students to effectively teach others about that topic. One method is to prepare a textbook that will make sense to younger students about that topic. You can brainstorm with your class what this means and what the features of such a text book might be but consider the following:

    • Use of language suitable to age group
    • Explaining certain key words
    • Use of headings and sub-headings
    • Use of images and illustrations
  • If you have examples of suitable texts show them to your class and discuss the features of the selected textbook. Ask your class what makes this book effective (or not).
  • There is potential for this activity to be used as a more extensive research topic. Students could work collaboratively on this and you might want to explore your publishing options.
  • Alternatively students could produce pages to contribute to a class book and again they could work on these individually or in pairs.
  • Should you want to look beyond Tangiwai, Wahine or Erebus, The New Zealand Disasters timeline from NZHistory.net provides an extensive list from which to choose..

Making a New Zealand disasters web page
Based on the IT and skills available to you this might be a worthwhile alternative to the textbook activity. It might be a really useful extension activity. Look at some websites and pages and discuss what works and what doesn’t from the perspective of finding out about the event. What do your students believe are the essential ingredients for a good web page? If the technical skills/capabilities aren’t there to actually build a page then students could produce a paper version. If the skills are there, then imagine how good this would look on your school’s own website or if you built your own class pages as a class project. The possibilities are enormous…

Radio or TV broadcast
These sort of presentations can be as complicated or as simple as you want to make them. They can be effective as they work in a medium most students have some experience of. The opportunity exists to make this a lead story in a news bulletin that can bring in reporters in the field or as part of a more extensive documentary type feature. Obviously with the TV presentation there is the ability to bring in visual props. Again there is the need to discuss or observe the features of good TV and/or radio to reinforce the fact that there is the need to communicate information effectively and efficiently. With tape recorders and cameras involved there can be a lot to organise but there is also the potential for a lot of fun and creativity. Consider setting up a newsroom and dishing out separate tasks from news gathering to presentation.

Powerpoint presentations
This is a skill many students seem to master at an early age and can make good use of the many images available on these disasters.

Developing a museum or online exhibition

A good way for students to approach the topic is to consider what objects or artefacts would be essential for a display on this disaster as well as the appropriate interpretations. This could be real or virtual. Alternatively a museum guide or pamphlet on the exhibition could be developed.

Static images

There are many opportunities in a study like this for static images from posters for a museum exhibition, book covers, film advertising etc

How to cite this page

'Communicating ideas', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/classroom/social-studies/disasters/communicating-ideas, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 12-Jul-2017