Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Websites For Learning About Natural Disasters



We teach a thematic unit on Natural Disasters in our ninth-grade English curriculum. These classes include both native-English speakers and advanced English Language Learners. Since it’s the first unit we teach in the fall semester, I thought it would be good to use that topic for another “The Best…” list.

In order to make it on this list, the sites have to be accessible to English Language Learners and also provide engaging content.

You might also be interested in A Compilation Of “The Best…” Lists About Natural Disasters.

Here are my picks for The Best Websites For Learning About Natural Disasters (not in any order of preference):

Curriculum Bits has a series of excellent animations that provide audio support for the text. They have ones on Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes.

National Geographic’s Forces Of Nature has excellent interactives and images related to the film of the same name.

National Geographic has a second good section on Natural Disasters including videos, slideshows, and interactives.

There are two online games that students can play and help prevent disasters. One is Disaster Watch, and a more complicated one is Stop Disasters.

Disaster Detector is an online interactive game from the Smithsonian that looks like it would be an excellent game for students to play who are learning about natural disasters, and it seems surprisingly accessible to English Language Learners.

Players had to plan what they think would be the most effective defenses for a community facing various natural disasters and then see how effective they are when the hurricane, earthquake, etc. hits.

Brainpop has several excellent closed-captions movies about various natural disasters. You have to pay for a subscription (and it’s well worth the price), but you can also get a free trial.

Of course, here in California we’re particularly concerned about earthquakes. The San Francisco Chronicle has a fantastic resource on the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

The CBBC Newsround has a very accessible guide to Hurricane Katrina. National Geographic also has some excellent resources on what happened in New Orleans.

This next site might not be on most people’s list, but it’s high up for anyone who lives and/or works here in Sacramento. Now that New Orleans has been flooded, and supposedly had its levees reinforced and strengthened, Sacramento has become the American city that is most likely to be hit by a major flood. If you’d like to see what that might look like, go the video animations our local PBS affiliate has developed. There might be a delay in new posts here if this event ever occurs.

Shake, Rattle and Slide is an exceptional interactive from the University of Illinois Extension focused on volcanoes, earthquakes and glaciers. It provides audio support for the text, and is very accessible to English Language Learners. There are number of neat online activities on the site,

“Disaster Hot Zones Of The World” is a very interesting and accessible world map showing which disasters are most likely to occur where on the earth.

What Would You Put in Your Emergency ‘Go-Bag’? is from The New York Times Learning Network.

We open up each school year in our ninth-grade English classes by doing a unit on natural disasters. The History Channel has a new site called “Perfect Storms” that not only lets you “see” famous disasters in history, but also lets you create one at an address of your choosing. Nothing like typing in the address of your school and seeing what happens through a computer projector to get students’ attention!

How Science Has Battled Natural Disasters is a slideshow from Popular Science.

Man-made natural disasters
is from Al Jazeera.

The Cost of Catastrophe
Image source:

How To Survive An Avalanche is from Mental Floss.

Are You Ready for a Natural Disaster?

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

The popular website Weather Underground has a collection of very useful infographics. I’m embedding a couple of examples below:

Earthquakes, floods and volcanoes: The most disaster-prone places in America is an interactive from The Washington Post.

The Associated Press has a series of twenty-six short videos describing the forces behind multiple natural disasters.

I’ve embedded two of them below.

This NY Times video is barely over one minute, but it’s a very useful one if you, like we do at our school, teach a unit on Natural Disasters.

Here’s how The Times describes it:

Every year, the United States foots a multi-billion dollar bill for the economic and insured losses incurred from natural disasters. In 2014, the costs reached $25-billion with certain regions of the country more prone to calamity than others. So what disasters are the most common and how much do they cost? This video breaks down the natural disasters by region.

The Washington Post has published an impressive interactive infographic mapping the most expensive – in dollars and lives – natural disasters that have occurred in the United States.

NBC Learn has new a ten video collection titled When Nature Strikes: Science of Natural Hazards.

As usual, feedback is welcome.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Thanks Larry for these links. Ironically we have just completed a unit on natural disasters. I had found most of these sites but there are a couple that are new to me – I have bookmarked those for next time!

  2. I’m planning a multi-genre unit on natural disasters featuring mostly non-fiction, but I’d like to reinforce fiction elements as well. Are there any short fictional pieces or poems you’d recommend? I teach 8th grade English. Thank you!

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