One challenged I faced this morning (poor me!) was talking about the tsunami that hit Japan on Friday.
I had finished my lesson planning for this week on Thursday, and over the weekend I was taking care of things in my non-teacher life (laundry, for example) while keeping half an eye on the unfolding information about Japan. I was literally out of the house from 9AM-11:15PM Sunday and was not up to date on the major fears of a potential nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
And so (yes, poor me) when the class came in talking about Japan’s tsunami, I was not really prepared to teach about nuclear meltdown, radiation, or that aspect of the disaster. I had no pictures queued up or strategies ready to go. Nuclear reactions get so technical so quickly that few students had the vocabulary to even know what I was talking about when I brought it up.
Pictures would have helped to some degree, but as I said, it was impossible for me to be prepared to teach today about something that really developed yesterday. Sometimes when I quick need a picture I’ll do an image search right in front of the class. I do this for words like “tree” or “glacier.” I did not do this for something like “nuclear meltdown” or “uranium” that could result in disturbing hits. (Note: not image searching for “uranium” in front of the class was a good call. I don’t recommend it even alone.)
So what did we do? Earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and general destruction are not too difficult to explain and/or demonstrate, and we did talk about those aspects of what Japan is facing. I related it to the class by pulling up a Google Map of Japan and putting markers in the Miyagi Prefecture in Japan and in Seoul, South Korea. This way we could see that the place where half our students are from and the troubled part of Japan are at least 800 miles apart, and one of our Korean students told us that the prevailing winds at this time of year tend to run from Korea toward Japan instead of vice versa. I think everybody learned something, and many students contributed questions or information.
Tomorrow, I might show this BBC video about how an earthquake can cause a tsunami, but narrate it myself in my American accent. I haven’t really found anything clear and basic on nuclear meltdowns in my limited search time, and the weak video I did find on nytimes.com is supported by a video ad that I don’t want to show my class. If you see anything that does a great job at this, please let me know!