A WebQuest for Fourth Grade Students

By Jennifer O. Joyner

Amy A. M. Rhodes

John R. Yingst





| Introduction | Task | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion|

| Teacher Notes |


Imagine yourself outside playing in the yard. It appears to be a beautiful spring day, except for a few storm clouds in the distance. A light drizzle starts to fall to the ground. Although it is only mid-afternoon, the clouds darken the sky and as the rain starts to increase, you reluctantly go inside. Soon, the light drizzle turns into a violent storm. You look out your window and to your amazement, water has started to fill your street. As thunder booms loudly and lightning streaks across the sky, your heart begins to pound in fear. You realize that there is something odd about this storm. It seems scarier than any other storm.

*Click here to listen to the introduction.

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You are a survivor of the Johnstown Flood of 1889. The Johnstown Historical Society has asked you to retell the story of your survival. The Historical Society is planning to use your story, along with other interesting historical accounts, in their upcoming book; Johnstown: On the Water’s Edge. You will need to write about your experiences. Along with your story, you are to include pictures that show life in Johnstown both before and after (include family and surroundings). You will need to add captions to these pictures. You will also need to develop a map of the water’s fury.

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Step 1: Use the first class period to explore the different websites in the resources section. You will be using the information provided by the websites to help you research the topic.

Step 2: Your goal for this step is to answer the following questions on a separate piece of paper.

      1. What happened?
      2. Who was involved?
      3. When did it occur?
      4. Where did it occur?
      5. What caused it to happen?

Step 3: After answering the above questions, you are ready to begin your story.

Step 4: Write about your experiences as if you actually lived through the flood. Answer the following questions on a separate piece of paper.

      1. Where were you at the time of the flood?
      2. Who was with you?
      3. What were you doing?
      4. How did you survive the flood?
      5. Describe Johnstown before, during, and after the flood.
      6. Describe how you felt. Remember to include the following:

-thoughts about the fire at the bridge

-massive loss of life

-loss of family

-loss of personal possessions

-night of the flood

-days following the flood

Step 5: Find a classmate to peer edit your work. This will be your chance to finalize and polish your final copy.

Step 6: After you have completed your story, you are ready to select pictures for your photo album. You will be able to find the pictures from the websites in the resource section. Remember to include the following:

      1. A minimum of five pictures.
      2. Captions for each picture explaining how it related to your life in Johnstown.

Step 7: Now that you have created your story and have put together your photo album, you are ready to develop a map of the water’s fury during the flood of 1889. There are a few websites in the resource section that include maps. You need to find one of these websites and recreate the path of the flood on paper provided by the teacher. Include the following:

      1. Map key/legend
      2. Direction of the water
      3. Where the flood started
      4. Towns involved (At least 3 towns)
      5. Map should be neatly colored and easy to follow.

      7. Be creative-add something(s) on your own, such as:



-other rivers



Step 8: At this point you are ready to publish your work for the Historical Society. You will need to combine your story, photo ablum, and map into one final packet. Now you are ready to present your packet of information and share what you have learned with your classmates.

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You will be evaluated on the following:

    1. Story
    2. Photo Album
    3. Map

Click here to view the Scoring Rubric. 

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You have researched the Johnstown Flood of 1889 and its impact on the people of Johnstown and those who survived the aftermath. This webquest may have grabbed your interest in exploring other natural disasters and those who have been affected by them. Other disasters may include; major earthquakes, tidal waves, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. Now it is time for you to go and explore more about a natural disaster that interests you.

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Teacher Notes

Grade Level: 4th grade

Subject Matter: Language Arts, Social Studies and Science

Skills: Writing in different genres, writing narrative historical fiction, introducing and refining research skills, Pennsylvania history, geography and map skills and analyzing original source documents.

Materials Needed:

-lined paper, drawing paper, construction paper

-colored pencils, crayons,and markers

-rulers, scissors, glue, tape, and stapler

Context: This long term Webquest is intended to be taught with a Pennsylvania fourth grade social studies curriculum. It can also be taught along with a science unit on weather. The intent of this Webquest is to create a historical fiction narrative, with accompanying pictures and map about the Johnstown Flood of 1889. Below is a brief outline for how you may want to proceed with this Webquest.

Evaluation: The reason our Webquest does not have any points assigned is to allow the teacher to designate his/her own points according to their own standards.

Quick Facts: Here is a link that you may find useful if you need some quick information about the flood.

Click here to view the Facts About the Flood.


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