Lesson Plan: Experiences of Emergencies
Students read some personal stories from individuals who have experienced an emergency.
Working in groups they then interview a family member, friend or local community member and record their personal experience.
Key learning / Subject areas
Studies of Society and Environment
Health and Physical Education
(Detailed curriculum links are included at the end of this document. Tasmanian teachers please note – this lesson plan will assist students to develop skills in Thinking,
Communicating, and Social Responsibility.)
2 – 4 periods
On completion of this activity students will be able to:
? recognise that individual experiences and the types of events that occur can vary in different emergencies
? describe the different ways that people, families and communities respond to emergencies and
? describe the different roles of governments and non-government agencies during emergency response and recovery.
Students will complete a KWL Chart and explore individual stories depicting experiences of emergencies and disasters, followed by their own interview with a family member, friend or local community member who has experienced such a situation. This interview will be presented in hard copy or multimedia formats to the class.
How do people cope in an emergency?
Following on from the Me and My Community lesson plan, students will explore case studies, interview and collect stories from people in their family member, friend or
local community member and report back about their experiences following key focus
Students will need to have experience with:
1. graphic organisers such as KWL Charts
2. effective interview questions (open and closed questioning)
3. working in mixed ability cooperative groups, with an understanding of the types of
roles they might need to fulfil such as Group Leader, Reporter, Scribe(s)/Note Taker(s),
Time-keeper and Ideas Generator. If they are not clear on this, it may be beneficial spending some time preparing your students for cooperative group work before this
lesson begins and discussing what comes with roles such as these (etc).
There is one worksheet - KWL and several individual stories in this lesson plan.
2. Web links
These links will take you to information about Protective Behaviour programs, a useful
framework for creating safe spaces to discuss potentially traumatic events:
3. Teacher Guide
Teachers are also encouraged to read information on ―Creating a safe classroom
environment‖ in the CALD student section of the Teacher Guide.
How do I teach this activity?
Step 1 – Whole Class activity
Prepare the class for this activity. Consider using a number of approaches – the board,
visual representations, documentaries etc – of situations that can be defined as
disasters or emergencies. Make sure there is a mixture of large scale and local
? high winds
? power failures
? chemical spills etc
Ask students to contribute their own examples and cover the board with these.
Step 2 – Small group activity: KWL Chart
Divide your students into mixed ability cooperative groups of 4-5. Explain that in their
groups they will be given a story relating to a disaster or emergency to explore using
their own KWL chart and the prompting questions on Worksheet 1 – KWL.
This graphic organiser explores what I know already, what I need to know and what I
have learned. It will provide a useful framework for the discussion of disasters or
Ask the groups to list what they already know about:
? emergency experiences
? how these experiences can affect individuals
? how family, community, government and non-government agencies can provide help
in times of disaster and emergencies
? the personal characteristics that help people cope with emergencies
They should list what they know in the first column of the KWL Chart.
Then, they need to list what they need to find out about before they read or view the
individual stories in this lesson plan. In the second column, they make their list.
Then, encourage them to note down their answers to these questions as they read or
view the stories in the third column of the KWL Chart – what I have learned.
Step 3 – Whole class activity: Sharing
Come together as a class and ask each group to report back on what they learned in
the individual story, ensuring they address the four aspects (outlined above and listed in the KWL) they considered during their discussion.
Discuss as a class the differences and similarities in the experiences portrayed in each individual story after each group has reported back.
Step 4 – Pair activity: Interviewing a family member or friend
(The KWL process can be continued into this pair work. Once the students have broken into pairs, ask them to undertake the same process with similar focus questions for the interview.)
Ask each pair to identify a family member, friend or local community member who they will interview about their experiences of a disaster or an emergency using the four questions previously used in the KWL. Provide alternatives (for example neighbours or family friends, or people in the community like emergency workers) for students who cannot readily identify a family member to interview.
Remind students that disasters and emergencies take many forms and discuss how they might deal with cultural sensitivities and show an understanding if someone is feeling uncomfortable or reluctant to share their experiences with them. It might be useful to discuss the sorts of strategies your students might use to help people feel comfortable and also how to keep them on track (such as allocating a set time for the interview, telling the interview subject how long they would like each answer to be, providing the questions before the interview etc)!
These new individual stories collected can be in a number of formats – for example,
written stories, spoken word recorded on an iPod or mobile phone or digital still or video camera. The stories could be recorded in other languages and be translated (but time needs to be allocated to this).
Step 5 – Whole class activity: Sharing the new stories
Organise a time for each story to be presented to the class.
If you feel it is appropriate, invite the people who have been interviewed to be part of this celebration.
Encourage your students to provide constructive feedback to their classmates on each story.
Students could complete the Take the Communication Mission or Families Preparing
Together lesson plans.
Teacher Notes – What should I consider?
Prepare the class by emphasising the learning objectives of these activities. You will have explained that this exercise is to help everyone learn about all the many situations that constitute emergencies and also of the different ways that people, families and communities respond to emergencies.
A key objective is to validate the many experiences of emergencies amongst the students in the classroom. A successful outcome would be for students to have a better understanding of the many ways that people prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies.
Use the individual stories as a basis for language work to examine the grammatical structure and tone.
Provide examples of interviews, oral histories and explore audio and video stories such as ―From the Ashes‖ (Department of Human services, Victoria) and the Red Alert
student interviews (Emergency Management Queensland).
Discuss the types of questions that will need to be asked to elicit the required information. Work with your students to develop their understanding of closed and open questions and emphasise the benefits of being better prepared before the interview to enable an interview to run smoothly.
Be sensitive to the traumatic experiences some families might have experienced. The process of students interviewing family members will create a controlled environment where people share only what they feel safe in sharing. However, some students might not wish to interview family members about their experiences. Some family members may not wish to take part. Make time to discuss options with them; they may wish to interview one of the people you have previously recruited as alternative interviewees.
Students need to feel safe if they are to discuss particular family characteristics or
experiences, especially those outside the ‗norm‘. If they feel they will be ridiculed they
will not speak out and their work will not reflect their particular family situation.
You may need to spend time doing some trust building work in the lead up to this
activity. Be sensitive to the traumatic experiences some families might have
Prepare the class by emphasising the learning objectives of this activity. A key
objective is to validate the many experiences and approaches to emergency
management amongst the students in the classroom. A successful outcome would be
for students to have a better understanding of the many ways that people have
experienced and prepare for emergencies.
Remember the different world views about what constitutes a family; gender roles;
power differences; the role of experts…(etc).
Worksheet 1 - K.W.L.
What we Know, what we Want to know, and what we have Learned.
The K.W.L. organiser focuses students‘ thinking and understandings and is a framework for: ? Exploring what they already know (prior knowledge);
? Recording what they want to know;
? Reflecting on and listing what they have learned.
How to Complete a K.W.L.
1. As a whole class, four questions are asked in relation to a topic. These are outlined in the first column of the KWL worksheet.
2. Before you begin reading the individual story, list what you already Know or what you think you know in the first column
about emergencies or disasters. Use the four questions to prompt you.
3. What you Want to know through reading the story is listed in the second column.
4. After the reading the story, list you have Learned in the third column.
K W L
What we know What we want to know What we learned
Date: Names in group: K.W.L.
The individual story we read: Location:
K W L
Focus questions What I know already: What I want to know through What I have learned through
this story: this story:
1. What emergency did this person
2. How did this particular
emergency affect the
3. Was any help available? (From
family, friends, the community,
agencies? How did it help
4. What personal characteristics do
you think helped this person to
cope with the emergency
5. Other questions:
My name is Omar and I am 17 years old. My family arrived in Australia 6 months ago, and we live in a house in a town near Shepparton. My family includes my mother, myself, and my youngest brother Amir who is 8 and my sister Nina who is 10. My father was killed in Iraq, which is part of why we came to Australia as refugees. As the oldest son, I try to make sure I look after my family.
When the fires started we did not know what to do. Our phone was not working, and our neighbours were not home. We could hear the sirens, but we did not know what happened in Australia in emergencies. We went to the bus stop but the buses did not come, and we could see up ahead there was fire over the road. But we live a long way from town and I did not want to leave my family alone, so we stayed. After one day, emergency service workers came through the streets in large trucks and offered to take us to an evacuation centre. My mother was very unsure about this, and my sister was very upset, but I talked to them and convinced them it would be ok because I knew they were like police and wanted to help us.
At the evacuation centre, a man called Tom showed us around and took us to sit with some other people from Iraq. He did not speak any Arabic, but he spoke easy English so I could understand and explain to my mother. Tom explained we would stay at the evacuation centre until it was safe to go home, and this may be a few days. They said there would be beds and food, as well as people to help us if we need anything. Tom suggested we visit the first aid workers. My sister was not feeling well and she was very upset, so I asked if there was a female first aid worker. Tom said he would find one for us, and soon a young woman came to talk to the Iraqi women. I asked Tom if there was a quiet place we could pray, but there were no rooms so they set up a corner near our beds which was ok.
We sat with the other Iraqi families for the rest of the day, having cups of tea, biscuits and fruit when the workers brought them around. Everyone was very quiet. I think no one really knew how we should behave. Also some people were getting very sad, I think because most of
us had spent time in refugee camps and although we feel safe now in Australia it is still upsetting for us. Some people are very worried about their homes too, and about when we will be able to go home. I was worried also, but I did not want to upset my little brother and sister so I tried to be brave. My mother was quite upset, and she mostly slept, so I played made up games with my brother and sister to keep our