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ELA G5:M4:U2

Analyzing Literature about Natural Disasters: Inferring about Impact on Survivors

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The Foundational Reading and Language Standards Resources Package for Grades 3–5

Use this guide to build additional literacy blocks alongside the module lessons.


In this unit, students will read several pieces of short fiction that are set in a time and place where a natural disaster is occurring. Throughout the unit they will discuss the guiding question: “What can literature about natural disasters teach us about their impact on the people who experience them?” Students will first read the picture book Eight Days: A Story of Haiti, and discuss text-dependent questions to infer about the impact of this disaster on the characters in the story. They will then collaborate to write a shared literary analysis essay that focuses on the narrator’s point of view to infer about how this influences how events are described in the text. Students will then analyze imagery and figurative language in the text to determine how these elements contribute to the meaning of the story. Next, students will read a short story titled “Save Bella!” about the experience of a boy and his pet dog during Hurricane Katrina. With this text, too, they will continue to build their understanding of the impact of natural disasters on the lives of the people who survive them. 

Students will then more independently analyze the text and write a short essay on how a narrator’s point of view influences the description of events before, during, and after the hurricane. For the mid-unit assessment, students will read a new piece of short fiction, “In the Middle of the Storm,” about Hurricane Sandy, and demonstrate their ability to read, analyze, and write about a narrator’s point of view and its influence on the description of events. Afterward, students will read about the perspectives of the authors who wrote the texts they have read and infer about how the background of an author affects his or her perspective on a natural disaster. They will also synthesize their thinking about the guiding question through written reflection and discussion. Finally, for the end of unit assessment, students will read about the perspective of another author and, as an optional arts integration, consider their own perspective on the impact of natural disasters on survivors through a piece of artwork.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What can literature about natural disasters teach us about their impact on the people who experience them?
  • A narrator’s point of view affects how events in a story are described.
  • Visual elements in literature contribute to the meaning of the text.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies and Science content that many teachers may be teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

NYS Social Studies Core Curriculum:

  • 5.10 Increasingly, the nations of the Western Hemisphere participate in and benefit from international organizations that promote peace, cooperation, economic development, global health, and cultural understanding.
  • 5.10.a Multinational organizations and non-governmental organizations in the Western Hemisphere seek to actively promote democracy, protect human rights, support economic development, and encourage cooperation between nations.
  • 5.10.b The United Nations helps maintain peace between nations and uses international pressure to protect human rights and promote cultural understanding.
  • 5.10.c When nations or regions in the Western Hemisphere face challenges due to natural disasters, health epidemics, or political upheavals, multinational organizations provide global support and assistance.


  • 2.1b Weather can be described and measured by:

–    Temperature 

–    Wind, speed, and direction

–    Form and amount of precipitation

–    General sky conditions (cloudy, sunny, partly cloudy)

  • 2.1e Extreme natural events (floods, fires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other severe storms) may have positive or negative impacts on living things.
  • 5.2g The health, growth, and development of organisms are affected by environmental conditions such as the availability of food, air, water, space, shelter, heat, and sunlight.



ELA G5:M4:U2:L9

End-of-Unit Assessment

Optional Activities

Arrange for climatology experts, meteorologists, or other weather experts to speak to the class and answer questions about the accuracy of the details conveyed in each story.

Ask students to interview individuals from the community who have experienced a natural disaster.

Identify a current natural disaster (local, national, or international) and develop a class service project to educate others or to assist. 


  • With an art instructor, explore and examine additional elements of imagery and/or complete a more thorough analysis of how color and composition add meaning to a story.
  • During Social Studies or Science instruction, have students investigate how to locate factual information about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the 1900 hurricane in Galveston. Ask students to write about the connections they are able to make between their research and the details described by the narrators of each story.

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