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Hurricane Katrina

For Teachers
Teaching Tips

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By Scholastic's Senior Child Development Consultant Adele M. Brodkin, Ph.D.

Click here for Grades 3-4
Click here for Grades 5-8

Grades 3-4

• Before introducing the topic, do your own three-pronged research:

1) Learn whether any child in your class has been affected directly or indirectly by this tragic event. Are there relatives or family friends living or visiting the area who may or may not have been harmed? Are there even any family roots in the states involved? Send a simple note to parents inquiring about these matters. Follow up with school-to-home communication about how the topic will be addressed in school.

2) Learn all that you can about hurricanes to impart the facts to your students. Include information about just how rare these events are, and the unlikelihood (or likelihood) of any such occurrence in your part of the country.

3) Learn what measures are taken to help people protect themselves and their property when bad weather threatens. With these facts on hand, you are ready to decide about whether and how to present them.

• If any child is personally affected or frightened, limit or even eliminate whole classroom discussion, but make yourself available for questions or concerns. Sit with those who seem to need to talk about it either individually or in small groups.

• Listen to the children. If you do more listening than talking, you will know how best to handle the topic in your particular classroom. In many instances, presenting the facts briefly as a news event will be all that is needed.

Since this is so early in the school year, you may not yet be familiar with your students or their families. You will need to present this material more briefly and matter-of-factly than if this had occurred later in the year. Certainly this event will help you learn which children have an inclination to worry or grow alarmed about crisis news.

You can find
daily news stories written for your grade level on Scholastic News Online in the Special Report.

• Select a class or school-wide method for helping people in the area. School-aged children are comforted by the idea that they can help others in need, particularly other children. Your school may decide to work with one of the designated helping agencies. Collecting money through bake sales or comparable events is probably most appropriate. The agencies need cash to purchase the supplies in highest demand in each affected area.

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Grades 5-8

• Before introducing the topic, do your own three-pronged research:

1) Learn whether any child in your class has been affected directly or indirectly by this tragic event. Are there relatives or family friends living or visiting the area who may or may not have been harmed? Are there even any family roots in the states involved? Send a simple note to parents inquiring about these matters. Follow up with school-to-home communication about how the topic will be addressed in school.

2) Have your students research hurricanes. Remind them that our human intelligence has allowed us to conquer natural threats like this one. Check out the information in our
Special Report, which explains how hurricanes form and are tracked. Children in these grades get their reassurance from their intellectual command of the topic. They can better understand the tragedy through science and history.

3) Have students research what safety measures are taken before a hurricane, and how rescue efforts are put together afterward. With these facts, you and your students can hold classroom discussions.

• If any child is personally affected or frightened, limit or even eliminate whole classroom discussion, but make yourself available for questions or concerns. Sit with those who seem to need to talk about it either individually or in small groups.

• Listen to the Children. If you do more listening than talking, you will know how best to handle the topic in your particular classroom. In many instances, presenting the facts briefly as a news event will be all that is needed. If there is no reason to hold back, such as a personal connection to the tragedy, the children can do rather complex research on the topic. Have them prepare reports on hurricanes in general, or the history of hurricanes in the U.S. Some can even do reports on what is currently happening and what is being done to provide aide to stricken areas.

Since this is so early in the school year, you may not yet be familiar with your students or their families. You will need to present this material more briefly and matter-of-factly than if this had occurred later in the year. Certainly this event will help you learn which children have an inclination to worry or grow alarmed about crisis news.

• Select a class or school-wide method for helping people in the area. Young people are comforted by the idea that they can help others in need, particularly other children. Your school may decide to work with one of the designated helping agencies. Collecting money through bake sales or comparable events is probably most appropriate. The agencies need cash to purchase the supplies in highest demand in each affected area.

Be sure the organization you are raising money for is legitimate. Check with your school administration to see if it already has a connection with some of these agencies. You can check out Scholastic News Online's list of how to help.

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