When Disaster Strikes
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Approach:  Independent
Level: Year 4 and year 8
Focus: Adjusting reading speed to complexity and purpose  
4 notices, 4 answer sheets, stopwatch
[Important note: This task was written in 2004 and consequently, the notice is out of date at the time of release and publication. If administering this task, use the NEMP resouce but please refer students to the latest phonebook for the most recent information.]

This activity is called When Disaster Strikes. I’m going to give you a copy of a notice that is printed in the back of phone books. Quickly skim read the notice to find answers to the questions on your answer sheet. You won’t have to read every word on the notice to find your answers.

You have five minutes to find as many answers as you can in that time. You can start as soon as I say “Go” after giving you your answer sheets and a copy of the notice. I will tell you when the time is up.

Give each student a copy of the notice and their answer sheet. Say “Go”. Allow five minutes only.

[Click on graphic to enlarge.
% responses
2008 ('04)
1. When there is a storm, what should you do to large windows?
tape across large windows
34 (38)
66 (59)
2. How much water for each person should you have in your “B-READY KIT”?
3 litres per day OR 9 litres
35 (38)
61 (66)
3 litres OR 3
29 (11)
35 (14)
3. When a disaster strikes, you could be on your own for how long?
3 days
52 (44)
92 (85)
4. Where could you get more information on what to do in a disaster?
your Council
16 (15)
57 (52)
Civil Defence
1 (2)
5 (6)
5. Where should you not go in a Tsunami Warning?
[beach, streams and rivers.]
more than one mentioned
25 (30)
69 (68)
one mentioned
27 (23)
24 (22)
6. In an earthquake, when should you turn off heaters?
when shaking stops (or equivalent)
14 (19)
67 (63)
7. If you have to be evacuated, what is one important thing you should do before you leave?
mentioned one thing listed under “Before
you leave
(consider pets; turn off water,
electricity, gas and heating; lock property.)
23 (21)
66 (60)
mentioned one thing listed under “Take
(medicines, toilet items and baby needs;
important documents; radio and torch (and batteries); extra clothing and footwear)
3 (7)
15 (11)
8. What is the phone number for more information about making your home shake safe?
0800 652 333
15 (17)
73 (63)
one digit error
2 (2)
12 (12)
9. What does CD stand for?
Civil Defence (allow spelling errors)
16 (17)
81 (72)

Total score:
3 (5)
43 (36)
7 (4)
29 (24)
8 (10)
14 (18)
30 (29)
11 (14)
52 (52)
3 (8)
Subgroup Analysis [Click on charts to enlarge] :
Year 4

Year 8

This task was very hard for the majority of year 4 students, many of whom found scanning for information among a lot of quite small text very challenging. Year 8 students managed much better, but the fact that 28% of them scored nine or less may suggest that the notice is a little too complex or compressed to serve its purpose well. From 2004 to 2008, the year 4 results changed very little but the year 8 results improved a little. Year 8 Pasifika students averaged substantially lower scores than Pakeha and Mäori students.