The last unit before the big OAA (our state’s end of the year assessment) is always a tricky one. So much to review, such little time. This year I wanted to create a multi-genre reading and writing unit that would review essential fiction and non-fiction skills that was engaging and driven by student interest.
My students are obsessed with the “I Survived” series. Each book in this historical fiction chapter book series is written from the viewpoint of a boy who survived a major event in world history. I’ve found that these addicting little books are an excellent way to get boys (and girls!) interested in history while burning through an entire series!
Building on their frenzy, I decided to create a four week unit around the title, I Survived: The Sinking of the Titanic [Tarshis, L. (2011). I survived: The sinking of the Titanic. New York, NY: Scholastic Paperbacks]. In this unit, students will research the actual Titanic using a website I created in order to gain an understanding of the ship, its passengers, and why it remains a popular topic to this day. Second, the students will read the I Survived text as a part of book clubs while reviewing fiction skills learned throughout the year. Last, students will produce opinion writing pieces about the Titanic using information gained from their non-fiction research and fiction book study.
Today students present their projects to the class. I admit, I might be more excited about this than they are! I explain that each student within a group must speak. Everyone is a valuable member and worked hard to contribute to their group and so I would like to hear from each one of you! When you get up to present, first tell the class what your opinion choice was, what you decided your project would be, and then talk about what you created.
I give groups a few moments to talk over what they would say and then ask everyone to meet in the front of the room.
I set up a small presentation area near the front of the room and students sat around it. Groups volunteered to present first and we negotiated who would have the honor. After seeing students’ reactions to presentations, the remaining groups were soon ready to share as well.
I’ve included pictures and videos of several completed projects and presentations. Among those included are:
- The Discovery – although a ground rule was to use only what could be obtained in the school, a student appeared at my door one morning with an aquarium, rocks, fake plants, and jewelry. Her group apparently called each other the night before and decided to make a representation of what the wreck site looks like using materials they had at home. The yellow box on top is Dr. Ballard’s submarine exploring the site below.
- The Discovery – another group with the same topic make a paper model of what the Titanic looked like upon discovery. They hinged the front part of the boat together with the back using a brass brad. Their presentation is included as well.
- I Survived – one group of four decided to select characters from the book to illustrate, describe, assign character traits, and locate textual evidence to support. The photo shows their four characters; much of their writing was on the backs.
- I Survived – another group with this topic chose to rewrite the ending incorporating themselves as characters in the book. So impressive! The two photos show their texts with illustrations and I included part of their presentation.
- I Survived – a third group made a paper model of a scene in the book where the characters are attempting to escape the sinking ship onto lifeboats. An abbreviated version of their presentation is included with an overview of the scene they created.
- The Places – this student worked alone to complete his project. His original idea was to construct a Minecraft-like map of the four places that were important to the Titanic’s history. After a day of work, he realized that he would not be able to finish this amount of detail on his own. So he changed his plan and instead made a revised map of the places and a model of the Titanic that travelled on the map.
- The Disaster – this group chose to create a puppet show that reenacted the Titanic’s sinking. They created their characters, built a ship, and even wrote their own script! The photo shows their props while the video shows part of their act.
- The Ship – just a day before starting our projects, a girl in this group received the Titanic model book she had ordered through Scholastic Book Clubs. When talking over project ideas, she offered to let the group use her book and they agreed. They created a model of the ship using preformed pieces from the book and made supplemental pieces, such as lifeboats, out of paper.