James L. Bumgarner
Duration: 10 Days
Topic: The Great Chicago Fire of October 1871
This unit is based on the Chicago Fire of 1871. The fire was one of the most disastrous fires in United Sates history. This unit will explore some of the myths and controversies surrounding the fire, especially, the story of the O’Leary’s cow and the lantern. Additionally, exploration will center on key ideas like causes, long and short term effects, prevention strategies and comparisons with other disasters. This unit will also focus on other themes like social and economic conditions of this period in history and relate to other disasters (9-11, and riots), problems for city planners and administrators, and civil affairs actions necessary after a major disaster. The unit will be supported with fiction, nonfiction literature and web resources. The main text to be used are: Children of the Fire by Harriette G. Robinette and The Great Fire by Jim Murphy. Additional books can be used to support research and these will be available in class and in the school’s media center.
Rationale and educational Goals:
This unit is part of the eighth grade English Language Arts curriculum. By reading the selected texts and doing associated web activities the students will develop a deeper understanding fiction and nonfiction literature, writing processes, and evaluating an event from multiple sources, including multimedia. Additionally, students will integrate some of the language arts skills with the eighth grade social studies curriculum. This will be done by studying the impact of rapid expansion and migration along with the consequences of rapid urbanization, the social and economic climate after the Civil War, and some positive lessons learned. By using the research skills required in communications, students will compare the argument and counter-argument that authors present in describing the cause of the Chicago fire.
Grade 8: Language Arts skills to develop and reinforce are:
1.02 Explore expressive materials that are read, heard, and viewed by:
- generating a learning log or journal.
1.04 Reflect on learning experiences by:
- evaluating personal circumstances and background that shape interaction with text.
1.02 & 1.04: The SWBAT explore aspects of the Chicago Fire by keeping a daily reading log from “Children of the Fire”. This daily log will summarize the sections of the assigned reading with particular emphasis on characters, setting, and story grammar. Additionally, the incidents that the characters experience will require reflection by the students in the form of responses about how they would react, if prejudice and racism is apparent, and what actions they would take if they would have the same experience.
2.01 Analyze and evaluate informational materials that are read, heard, and/or viewed by:
- summarizing information.
- generating questions.
2.01: The SWBAT summarize the errors and mistakes which lead to the destructiveness of the Chicago Fire. This will be done by groups generating a discussion web after reading chapter two of “The Great Fire”. This chapter focuses on why the fire was so quick to spread and supplies some answers as to how the mistakes could have been prevented. The web topic is “Could the Chicago Fire have been prevented?” The activity will require group work and oral and written presentations by group members. A discussion web worksheet will be provided to each group. Group members will be assigned either the “Yes” or “No” position and they must supply at least 4 reasons for their position.
2.02 Create a research product in both written and presentational form by:
- researching and organizing information to achieve purpose.
4.01 Analyze the purpose of the author or creator and the impact of that purpose by:
- evaluating any bias, apparent or hidden messages, emotional factors, or propaganda techniques.
2.02/4.01: The SWBAT create a research product by doing a fact/fiction text set and anticipation guide before and after reading chapter seven of “the Great Fire”. The anticipation guide will have facts and fiction as presented by Jim Murphy. This anticipation guide will then be compared and contrasted to the three assigned web sites. A written report will be presented that compares and contrast the conclusion of Jim Murphy and the authors of the assigned web sites. Emotional factors and propaganda techniques used by the authors must be addressed.
5.01 Increase fluency, comprehension, and insight through a meaningful and comprehensive reading program by:
- reading literature and other materials selected by the teacher.
5.01: The SWBAT increase fluency, comprehension, and insight through reading “Children of the Fire” and successfully completing the “Questions to Talk About” worksheet.
5.02 Study the characteristics of literary genres (fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry) through:
- reading a variety of literature and other text (e.g., young adult novels, short stories, biographies, plays, free verse, narrative poems).
- evaluating what impact genre-specific characteristics have on the meaning of the text.
5.02: The SWBAT study the characteristics of literary genres by reading “Children of the Fire” (fiction) and “The Great Fire” (nonfiction) and evaluate the impact of genre specific characteristics by using the map on pages 24-25 from “The Great Fire” and track and label the routes and sites taken by the main character in “Children of the Fire”.
6.01 Model an understanding of conventional written and spoken expression by:
- extending vocabulary knowledge by learning and using new words.
6.01: Children of the Fire”. This will be done by successfully completing the vocabulary exercises developed for the novel. This will include definitions, a sentence completion exercise, and a word sort. This work is to be maintained in the student’s daily reading journal. There will be a final multiple choice examination on the vocabulary words.
Grade 8: Social Studies skills to develop and reinforce are:
3.04 Describe the development of the institution of slavery in the State and nation, and assess its impact on the economic, social, and political conditions.
5.05 Assess the influence of the political, legal, and social movements on the political system and life in North Carolina.
3.04/5.05: The SWBAT identify the institution of slavery and its impact by comparing the life of Hallelujah and the white child, Elizabeth, she encounters during their escape from the fire. This will be done by creating a mobile and having students work in groups to make comparisons of the “poor, black, slave girl” verses the “wealthy, white, free girl”.
Text and other references:
The Great Fire. Murphy, Jim. Scholastic Inc., NY, NY. 1995.
Children of the Fire. Robinet, Harriette G. Aladdin Paperbacks. NY, NY. 1991