Natural Disasters

"We cannot stop natural disasters, but we can arm ourselves with knowledge: so many lives wouldn't have to be lost if there was enough disaster preparedness."

Petra Nemcova, Czech co-founder of All Hands and Hearts disaster relief organisation
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This free ESL lesson plan on natural disasters has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Natural disasters appear to be more frequent these days than in the past. Perhaps that’s because our modern communication technology and instant access to information means we are more aware of them than we would have been. On the other hand, scientists have concluded that one of the consequences of climate change is that natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and droughts have become stronger and more frequent. Either way, natural disasters will continue to affect humans and the world must come together to protect all those affected. In this ESL lesson plan on natural disasters, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the different types of natural disaster and how to protect against them.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, which takes place in October. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

Reader’s Digest Canada | Natural Disaster Survival Tips From a Canadian Red Cross Volunteer

The article gives a number of recommendations to people caught up in natural disasters including having an emergency pack prepared, sending texts instead of calling, and keeping a supply of fresh drinking water. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any ways they might add to the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. The questions for the video are styled in a way similar to an exam like the IELTS.

The video for this class is a called “Weather disasters over past five decades ‘have increased five-fold’” by BBC News which looks at reports that say while natural disasters have become more frequent and that the economic impact has increased, early warning systems have led to a reduction in casualties.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including where it is common for natural disaster to occur, why people live in these areas, and how people affected by natural disasters can be helped.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with natural disasters such as wildfire, mudslide and act of God. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about political ideologies. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as how to protect people against floods, what to do in the event of an earthquake, and what the students would do if an asteroid hit the Earth.


After the class, students will write about their opinion of natural disasters. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.


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