Getting the Right Angle on the Story

Kristen Erickson, Katie McKissick ( content developer)
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Numerical/Computer Model , Student Guide , Informative Text , Model , Article , Illustration , Animation/Movie
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This informational text shows students how tsunamis form and behave. It also describes how scientists are collecting data to create models that can be used to predict tsunamis . Animations/computer models are also included to enhance student knowledge of how tsunami warnings work. Models integrate new, unfamiliar vocabulary. Students could use the resource as a starting point for an earth systems unit; teachers could assign the site as a form of research where students gather data, take notes, and draw inferences from text. As students begin their study, they could generate a list of the earth's natural disasters and define their impact on human life and the environment. Their possible solutions for lessening that impact could also be incorporated as an informal formative assessment to determine student prior knowledge.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Grade 5
  • Grade 4
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

4-ESS3-2 Generate and compare multiple solutions to reduce the impacts of natural Earth processes on humans.

Clarification Statement: Examples of solutions could include designing an earthquake resistant building and improving monitoring of volcanic activity.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students can learn how data is being gathered using tools such as satellites in order to understand how tsunamis form and behave. Teacher might determine students' prior knowledge of satellites and ways they are used to provide information using class discussion time. They can also learn how this data would help scientists design computer programs to predict tsunamis. Warning systems for other types of natural disasters ( Example: volcanos, avalanches) could be compared with tsunami warning systems. Students could learn how scientists work to gather information to predict and warn humans of potential natural disasters. It should be noted that the resource does not explain the benefits of the cameras in reducing risks. Cause and effect is only implied. .

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
To best meet the practice, students should predict which objects they determine might best reduce tsunami impact and design/diagram/illustrate a model demonstrating how. The resource offers a good example of the sequence of events leading up to a tsunami students can draw information from to inform the design of their solutions and therefore models. Diverse student populations would benefit from teacher modeling of connections made between that sequence and animations included in site. Summative assessment could include a "scrambled" version of each sequence description, with students placing events in correct order. Teacher developed investigation with scaffolded worksheet to support student model development could be implemented.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Text that is presented to students is dense in nature. Teacher might print text in a larger font, or read aloud with students with teacher guided discussion. A formative assessment could be included in the discussion. Questions might include- "How do you think scientists can gather data to help predict natural disasters?" Students could create a K-W-L chart to generate student questions about tsunamis and their behavior. Vocabulary is highlighted in text. Teacher could introduce vocabulary on class chart. Students could discuss definitions prior to reading text, then add contextual definitions to chart as they read the text. Teacher could guide vocabulary introduction in context as students read the text. Glossary of tsunami terms could be added to science journals.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Probing questions posed in text could be discussed with students, with focus on tsunami formation, prediction, and model development. This discussion would review topics stressed in the Performance Expectation. Students could view tsunami videos that depict the impact of a tsunami on populations and environments. Students could discuss impacts as well as respond to questions posed in text. (Example- If scientists knew that a severe earthquake had occurred in the Indian Ocean, why didn't they warn people?). Discussion of these questions could precede the introduction of the computer/satellite models. Cause and effect of tsunami development and occurring damage could be contrasted with changes in cause/effect impacts when warning systems are put in place. Students could conclude lesson with reflection about their own learning, how their study of earth's processes might help them to be better prepared to reduce the impact of natural disasters.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Emphasis on computer methods used to determine how ocean depth affects wave patterns should be included in class discussion as an explanation of cause and effect. Maps of earthquake locations that appear on earth could be compared/contrasted with locations where tsunamis have affected human populations. Map activity/discussion would focus student understanding of the cause/effect relationship between earthquake location and tsunami creation.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Resource does describe methods in which the impact of natural earth processes can be reduced for humans. Students do not generate their own solutions, they are exposed to latest computer technology warning systems.

  • Instructional Supports: This resource could supplement student research on tsunamis and their place in earth systems. It could provide students with an initial introduction to the definition and causes of a tsunami, then revisited when solutions to natural hazards are discussed. However, it provides only visuals as student support.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Teacher would have to design vocabulary charts, student worksheet assessments, and group/individual research requirements. The text is grade-level appropriate for most students, so individual research with teacher input could be useful.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: While animations and computer models are provided as a means of integrating informational text, students are not interacting with resource.