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Comparing Varying Points of View of the Same Topic or Event

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In this unit, students are introduced to the performance task in order to give them a purpose for learning about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Students continue reading and discussing Dragonwings, but now also dig in more deeply to informational text about this time and place in history. Students are involved in a study of how a point of view is conveyed in an informational text about the earthquake and how an author introduces, illustrates, and elaborates on a topic within an excerpt of text. Students will read excerpts of “Comprehending the Calamity,” an informative report of the 1906 earthquake and fire by Emma Burke, who lived in San Francisco at the time and experienced the earthquake.  As they read the excerpts, students will identify her point of view of particular aspects of the event like the earthquake itself, the immediate aftermath, and the relief camps. They will also analyze how Burke introduces, illustrates, and elaborates on each of these aspects of the earthquake in the excerpts.

In the second half of the unit, students write an essay explaining how the author’s purpose affects point of view. They compare and contrast Emma Burke’s point of view of the immediate aftermath of the earthquake with Moon Shadow’s point of view of the immediate aftermath and explain how they are different as a result of the author’s purpose.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How does an author convey point of view?
  • How does an author introduce, illustrate, and elaborate on an idea?
  • How does an author’s purpose affect the narrator’s point of view?
  • Understanding diverse points of view helps us to live in an increasingly diverse society.
  • An author’s purpose affects the narrator’s point of view.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read literature and informational text about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies practices and themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content. These intentional connections are described below.

Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the New York State Common Core K–8 Social Studies Framework:

Unifying Themes (pages 6–7)

  • Theme 1: Individual Development and Cultural Identity: The role of social, political, and cultural interactions supports the development of identity. Personal identity is a function of an individual’s culture, time, place, geography, interaction with groups, influences from institutions, and lived experiences.
  • Theme 2: Development, Movement, and Interaction of Cultures: Role of diversity within and among cultures. Aspects of culture such as belief systems, religious faith, or political ideas as influences on other parts of a culture such as its institutions or literature, music, and art.
  • Theme 10: Global Connections and Exchange: Past, current, and likely future global interactions and connections. Cultural diffusion, the spread of ideas, beliefs, technology, and goods. Role of technology. Benefits/consequences of global interdependence (social, political, economic). Causes of and patterns of migration of people. Tension between national interests and global priorities.

 Social Studies Practices, Gathering, Using, and Interpreting Evidence, Grades 5–8:

  • Descriptor 2: Identify, describe, and evaluate evidence about events from diverse sources (including written documents, works of art, photographs, charts and graphs, artifacts, oral traditions, and other primary and secondary sources)
  • Descriptor 3: Analyze evidence in terms of content, authorship, point of view, purpose, and format; identify bias; explain the role of bias and audience in presenting arguments or evidence


Texts to buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please refer to Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
by Laurence Yep
One per student
ISBN: 978-006440085, 0064400859

Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
The Lost Garden
by Laurence Yep
The San Francisco Earthquake, 1906
by Eyewitness to History
Timeline of the San Francisco Earthquake, April 18–23, 1906
by Gladys Hansen
The Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake
Sandy wreaks havoc across Northeast; at least 11 dead
by Matt Smith
Casualties and Damage after the 1906 Earthquake
One Boy’s Experience
by Lloyd Head
Waking Up in a Nightmare
by Expeditionary Learning for instructional purposes
Scene 1: The Great Earthquake and Fires of 1906: A Dramatic Remembrance
by Expeditionary Learning for instructional purposes
Poem of the Earthquake
by Eliza A. Pittsinger
Comprehending the Calamity
by Emma M. Burke
Overlook Magazine, 1906

Optional Activities

Ask recent immigrants to the United States to speak with the class about the experience of coming to a new country and fitting into a new culture.


  • Arrange for a visit to a museum or exhibit about earthquakes, so students can learn more about earthquakes and the aftermath.
  • Arrange for a visit to a local Chinatown, so students can compare the buildings and architecture to those outside Chinatown.
  • Arrange for a visit to a flight/aviation museum or exhibit, so students can learn more about early flying machines like those described in Dragonwings.


Optional Extensions

  • A study of earthquakes and natural disasters
  • A study of the history of a local Chinatown
  • A study of the history of flight

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