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Take your students on an adventurous historical journey, engaging them in a Common Core thematic author study. Lauren Tarshis is the author of the I Survived series as well as the critically acclaimed Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree and Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love. Introduce your students to a role model, someone who overcame reading struggles to enjoy endless hours of reading and writing. Text complexity is measured by three criteria: quantitative, qualitative, and student knowledge and task complexity. Common Core asks us to include Tier II vocabulary, or terms that transcend all content areas, as well as content-specific vocabulary. Use the two strongest details to write a paragraph answering the question: What word BEST describes the main character? An example of a cumulative activity is to meet as a whole class to fill in the character study matrix. Understanding the use of a flashback helps to better understand plot or the sequence of events in the story. Understanding how the setting contributes to conflicts and resolution is important to understanding plot.
As students read, have them collect a list of words to create word walls a reference tool for writing activities connected to the books. Create a verb chart for the past, present, and future forms of selected verbs harvested from the books.
Common Core asks students to engage in three types of writing: persuade, explain, and convey personal experience, distributed at 30%, 35%, and 35%, respectively. Text-to-world connections meet the Common Core thematic approach to teaching because they connect to real world events and build background knowledge. Research a topic of interest sparked from reading the novel: icebergs, Civil War technology, Underground Railroad, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. Create a timeline of historical events (before, during, and after) as they unfold in the story. Personal experience writing encompasses journals, letters, blogs, poetry, and creative writing. Glogster (for Educators): Create multimedia posters presenting an overview of the book or research sparked from reading the book. Mary Blow, a sixth grade English teacher in upstate New York, has been one of Scholastic’s teacher bloggers and has written about strategies and resources to support teachers through the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. The activities in this guide engage students in reading groups, class discussions, and individual writing opportunities.
If you know a student who struggles with reading or who never imagined he or she could write, much less publish a book, then introduce them to Lauren. More importantly, she shares a well-guarded childhood secret, one she kept from family, friends, and teachers for most of her school years.
Now Lauren is living a dream she never imagined—and teaching students that it is never too late to learn.
Whether you are hanging over the edge of a magnificent sinking ship, swimming in raging floodwaters, or dodging bombs that are falling like rain, the historical facts embedded within the stories build background knowledge. An author study provides a window into the author’s style of writing, including vocabulary that are often repeated throughout the series.


As a group, identify ten details from the story that are factual, or based on historical events or scientific research, and ten details that are fictional, or created from the author’s imagination.
Pretend that you are a news reporter during the historical time period and interview the main character. Each group will choose a book and select what they believe is the BEST character trait and fill in the corresponding section of the classroom chart.
Using think alouds, show students how to fall back one sentence and hop ahead two sentences, looking for clues to the meaning of the unfamiliar word.
It asks that we focus on logical fallacies and textual evidence to support an argument or opinion.
Nelson Mandela, former South African president, once said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The following activities ask students to evaluate the author’s use of information, engage in mini research, and utilize research information in their own writing.
Historical fiction novels are great models to demonstrate how authors utilize information from research to engage in personal writing, incorporating research details to create stories from the imagination. The resources below are great for primary and intermediate level teachers because teachers can create student accounts, and no e-mail addresses are required. She is a three-time finalist for the National Book Award, winner of the Newbery and Printz and Coretta Scott King awards. Encourage your students to make connections between the events in the books and in their own lives. Hopefully, your students, unlike the protagonists in the series, will never have to find out. Lauren hated school because she struggled with reading, not even reading a book until she was in high school. Each book in the I Survived historical fiction adventure series begins with a flashback, captivating students by starting the story at a climactic point in history. The author’s notes at the back of the book help students understand how a writer researches and weaves fact and fiction into a story, providing a great model for using research in a creative writing project.
An added benefit is that these stories are rich in jargon, specialized vocabulary, such as nautical or military terms, or earthquakes and hurricanes. Write an I Survived newspaper article, using details from the book to tell the character’s story. In I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906, one student may describe Leo as loyal and another as persistent.
When students find a word they do not know, have them write it on the front of the index card. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Explain what Nelson Mandela meant by this.
For example, in I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912, you may want to write an ode on the Titanic or the mummy. Have each student write a letter from one character to the other, using details from the books to retell the events. However, as with any Internet activity, you will want to inform parents of any online activities in the classroom.
For the past four years, Mary has been a teacher advisor for Scope and Storyworks, Scholastic’s literary magazines at elementary and middle school levels, providing ideas and suggestions for transitioning to the Common Core.


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As an adult, she fell in love with children’s literature and learned to write children’s books by analyzing the author’s style of writing, much as we are asked to do with the Common Core.
The author’s use of metaphors, similes, onomatopoeia, and other literary devices provides rich fodder for exploring connotative and figurative meaning of the text. These terms build necessary background knowledge that supports learning in other content areas. In either case, the students can support their opinions by using the character’s actions, such as running into a fire to save his friend, Morris.
On the back, include the context clue, or the word or phrase that helped them figure out the meaning of the word. In I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906, you might write a poem on the gold nugget. The I Survived historical fiction series takes young readers on journeys into the past, giving them an up close and personal view of terrifying and thrilling adventures based on disasters that have left their mark on history.
The qualitative measures, combined with student background knowledge and with the text-dependent tasks listed below, suggest that the books are perfect for intermediate grade levels. Enjoy a Bingo Lingo Game, available at Scholastic Printables, to help students familiarize themselves with some of the most common root words before reading. Depending on the age of the students, you may want to engage them in researching a person or object for additional background information.
Most importantly, the books follow the main characters on a soul-searching quest, as they discover how resilient they truly are and find out that they are also survivors. It is a perfect time to engage students in mini research projects, inspiring them to become self-motivated learners as they seek answers to scientific questions and build a better understanding of their world. For example, in I Survived the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, 1941, the flashback starts with bombs raining on Danny.
Include a synonym or antonym (a word they already know) for the word, as well as the definition in their own words.
Once students learn a root word and understand how affixes change a word, this knowledge can help them decode many new words.
It's a series of 50 poems about growing up, traveling all over America in the 1950s to follow her father's job in the Air Force. The water is freezing, cold enough to harbor huge icebergs that can rip open the hull of an unsinkable ship. Have students sort the words into categories: “Jargon,” or specialized terms, and “Web Words,” or words that they think will reappear in other texts.
Depending on the grade level, you may want to sort words by long or short vowel patterns first. You know, writing in form is a way of developing your thinking a€” your thinking along with the tradition. And we were driving once some place in California and a cop stopped us and said, 'What do you think you're flying, boy?' And my father said, 'B-52s.' " On how moving around shaped her childhood conceptions of death For much of my life a€” my sister and I have talked about this a€” when we moved, we just thought the world behind us disappeared and all of the people, they just didn't exist any more.



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