2—What causes floods?
Reading factual information about the causes of floods
Display the following key words/phrases which are taken from the text ‘What causes floods?’:
floods, flooding, heavy rainfall, natural watercourses, capacity, excess water, causes, phenomena, coastal areas, inundation, storm surge, tropical cyclone, tsunami, high tide, dam failure, downstream area.
Words may be displayed on strips of paper hung around the room or on the interactive whiteboard in a ‘word cloud’ (as in the image above, using Wordle). Words should be on display when students enter the classroom.
Explain that the words are from a text the students will soon read, and then read the words aloud. Students work in pairs to discuss what kind of a text they might be about to read (information text, persuasive), what it might be about, which words they already understand, and which words might go together in a sentence in the text to be read. Pairs can also choose two or more words / phrases from the display and write a sentence which they think might be found in the text and share these with the class.
Preparation for reading
Provide students with an orientation to the text: “This is a short but quite technical text about the main weather events and other factors which cause floods. The text lists a number of causes of flooding and it does this in a very condensed way, so the text is short but full of information. We will read it slowly and carefully, and talk about what each sentence and the key words mean.”
Modelled reading of ‘What causes floods?’
Display the text ‘What causes floods?’ Ensure all students can see the print of the first paragraph and read the title aloud to the class, followed by a clear reading of the first paragraph.
Detailed reading of ‘What causes floods?’
Distribute copies of the text of the first paragraph of ‘What causes floods’ and ask students to take out highlighters/coloured pens or pencils for marking the text. Lead the class through the text sentence by sentence following these steps:
- paraphrasing the meaning of the upcoming sentence or part of a sentence for example ‘This sentence is going to tell us about...’
- re-reading the sentence aloud
- guiding students to identify key words using their highlighters, including providing location cues to help students know where to look such as ‘in the middle of the sentence, look for ...’
- elaborating technical terms such as by having students rephrase these in more everyday language or by the teacher explaining them.
Consider this example of a script for a detailed reading of the first sentence of the text. Continue in a similar fashion (paraphrase meaning, read, students identify and highlight key words, elaborate meaning) and complete a detailed reading of the whole paragraph (four sentences).
The teacher should ensure that language expressing cause and effect in particular is highlighted for students (‘caused’, ‘result from’, ‘triggered by’, ‘will result in’). Teachers should also point out: the role of embedded clauses within noun groups to add meaning, such as ‘the capacity (to convey excess water)’; the extensive use of nominalisation in the passage including some specialised terms (for example ‘rainfall’, ‘inundation’, ‘dam failure’) to turn processes (for example ‘rain was falling’) into entities which can then be described (‘heavy rainfall’); and the use of abstract nouns (‘phenomena’) to build generalisation.
The World Vision clip ‘Floods – a common and deadly type of emergency’ provides useful consolidation of knowledge addressed in this learning sequence.
Writing about the causes of floods
Joint factual writing
Teachers engage students in joint writing of a text on the causes of floods. This should be done by putting away the original text ‘What causes floods?’ and displaying just the highlighted key wordings, which might look something like this: flooding
- heavy rainfall
- natural watercourses
- not have capacity
- excess water
- coastal areas
- storm surge
- tropical cyclone
- high tide
- higher than normal
- river levels
- dam failure
- downstream area
- dry weather conditions
The jointly written text will be very like the one the class has previously read. It should be written with a specific audience in mind, such as readers of the school newsletter or a younger class in the school. Encourage students to use the language identified in the original text, but to elaborate some of the dense meanings so that a less informed audience would be able to understand the text. For example, they might say what a tsunami is.
Independent ‘transformed’ writing; speaking
Students engage in independent writing about the causes of floods. Students should be encouraged to transform their factual knowledge to write a related but different kind of text. For example, they can write a short script for an interview between a children’s TV reporter and an expert geographer / hydrologist, in which the expert explains the causes of floods in ways accessible to an audience of 10 year olds and up. Students may choose to draw or source diagrams to include in this ‘interview’.
Text structure for an explanation: understanding cause and effect
Extend students’ understanding by inviting them to create a diagram which shows the cause and effect processes explained in the text ‘What causes floods?’, or by providing them with the text structure diagram (.pdf 1.3 MB) and asking them to complete it. Students could summarise the causes of floods by writing key wordings in relevant boxes and/or drawing illustrations.