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Lesson Plans

How media literacy helps you talk about Hurricane Harvey with your students

August 30, 2017

Full Lesson


For the sake of time, we recommend you stop the first video at 4m:50s. The second video is 1m:38s.

For guidance on how to talk with students about Hurricane Harvey, you may want to read SAMHSA’s “Tips for Talking With and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event: A guide for Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers.”  

  • Rescue operations are in full gear as the devastation from Hurricane Harvey continues. The storm has affected some 6.8 million people — about a quarter of the population of Texas, according to the Associated Press. At least 60 people have been killed by Harvey since its initial landfall on Friday, August 25th — this is an update to the broadcast piece.
  • “We are striving for a new normal here,” said Brock Long, a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator heading up the response to the category 4 storm. He said it will take years for Texas to fully recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.
  • FEMA has dispatched 8,500 federal staff members to assist in the state’s recovery operations. About 1,100 of those employees are conducting search and rescue efforts, including in Louisiana, where Tropical Storm Harvey made its second landfall early Wednesday.
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott authorized all 12,000 members of the Texas National Guard to help with rescue operations over the weekend. Several states are preparing to send in their National Guard units if called upon to do so, and as many as 30,000 National Guard troops may be needed for relief operations, according to Air Force Maj. Gen. James C. Witham, the National Guard Bureau’s director of domestic operations.
  • President Donald Trump visited Texas where he arrived in Corpus Christi and traveled to Austin pledging swift federal aid to relief operations.
  • More than 51 inches of rainfall hit the Houston during the storm, breaking a national record, according to the National Weather Service.

Key terms:

hurricane: “a tropical cyclone with winds of 74 miles (119 kilometers) per hour or greater that occurs especially in the western Atlantic, that is usually accompanied by rain, thunder, and lightning, and that sometimes moves into temperate latitudes” (

tropical storm: “a tropical cyclone with strong winds of over 39 miles (63 kilometers) per hour but less than hurricane intensity” (

media literacy: “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create and act using all forms of communication” (definition from NAMLE)

Discussion questions:
  1. Essential question: What are the effects of extreme weather events like Hurricane Harvey on the affected area and the rest of the country?
  2. What are government officials doing to help people in Texas and Louisiana? Why do you think multiple government agencies like FEMA and the National Guard are called in to help?
  3. What has your reaction been to the news coverage of Hurricane Harvey? From where have you gotten most of your information?
  4. What is media literacy? Why is media literacy an important tool to have when viewing media coverage of events like Hurricane Harvey? What questions should you ask about the reporting, including images? Is there information you’d like media outlets to share more? Any media you’d like to see less?
  5. What role was the media playing in the interview between NewsHour’s Miles O’Brien and Officer Haley Morrow of the Beaumont Police? Do you agree with that role? Why or why not?
  6. What should you do if you come across a post that is ‘fake news,’ in this case, purposely false information about the storm?
  7. Who are people you can talk with if you are feeling anxious or upset about Hurricane Harvey?

Extension activities
  1. Many people want to know what they can do to help in a time of crisis like Hurricane Harvey. It can be particularly frustrating for young people who may hear that the main way to help is through monetary donations. This point may be worthy of a conversation. Read this PBS NewsHour story, “The latest on Hurricane Harvey and how you can help,” with your students to learn about the organizations and ways people can help in times of disaster.
    • What do leaders in these crisis situations often say that donations are the best way to help?
    • What are necessary items people need during and after a disaster?
    • You may want to let your students know how these government and nonprofit organizations came into existence, the work they do (there wasn’t always a Red Cross or FEMA), and the difference between government and non-governmental organizations. How do these organizations get their money?
  2. To understand what happens to industries that pose a particular threat when hit by extreme weather, check out the PBS NewsHour story, Hurricane Harvey damages petrochemical refineries, releasing thousands of pounds of airborne pollutantsWhy is it important for the private sector and the government to work together during extreme weather events?