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September 6, 2010

SCOPE Digital Lesson Plan
A step-by-step mini-lesson combining a high-interest
Scope
story with online and whiteboard content

Exploring Descriptive Writing Through
Narrative Nonfiction
Teaching Objective: to read a high-interest article about a 1974 tornado outbreak and learn about descriptive writing in narrative nonfiction

Lesson Summary: Using the article “We Should All Be Dead,” you and your students will explore descriptive writing in the genre of narrative nonfiction. First, you will motivate students by showing them a video clip of a tornado that hit Xenia, Ohio, in 1974. Students will then read the article—as a class or independently—and discuss descriptive writing. They will view a series of photographs of the aftermath of the Xenia tornado and list descriptive details. The culmination of the lesson is to write a descriptive paragraph.

You will need:
Video clip of the Xenia tornado
Slide show of the damage caused by the Super Outbreak
Critical-thinking questions to project on your whiteboard (or print)
"We Should All Be Dead" on pages 4-9 in the September 6, 2010, issue of Scope

STEP-BY-STEP LESSON PLAN

1. PRE-READING
Show the video clip of the Xenia tornado. Tell students they will be reading an article about the event shown in the clip.

2. READ THE ARTICLE
Read the article "We Should All Be Dead" as a class. Or have students read the story independently.

3. READING-COMPREHENSION DISCUSSION

Project the critical-thinking questions on your whiteboard and guide a brief class discussion.

4. EXPLORE GENRE
• Ask students, What is narrative nonfiction? Explain that it is nonfiction that incorporates elements of fiction writing so that the piece of writing reads like a story, even though it is true.
• Ask, In what ways does "We Should All Be Dead" seem like a story? Point out that it contains many descriptive details, which can be an element of fiction. It is also suspenseful and conveys emotion.

5. IDENTIFY DESCRIPTIVE DETAILS
• As a class, find examples of descriptive writing in the article. (The introduction is a good section to focus on.) Ask students to locate sense details, especially sight and sound.
• Ask, How do these details help create a clear picture of what happened? Does the author do a good job of describing the scenes of destruction?

6. WRITE DESCRIPTIVE DETAILS
Now it's your students' turn to write their own descriptive details.
• Show the slide show of the tornado's damage. (You might want to limit viewing to the first 10.) For each, ask students to think of details that describe what they see.
• Show the video clip again. As a class, briefly discuss what details students observe in the clip. What sights and sounds are in it? What smells and sensations does it evoke? How do survivors' quotes add to it? Have students write down a few notes about these details.

7. WRITE A DESCRIPTIVE PARAGRAPH
Have students write their own descriptive paragraphs about the tornado in Xenia, based on the photographs and video and the details they wrote down in Step 6.

Answers to the critical-thinking questions:

1.
Where does the title of this article come from? How does it reflect the main idea of the article? (understanding main idea) It comes from a quote in the Xenia newspaper. It reflects the severity of the tornadoes.

2. What details show how powerful the tornado in Xenia was? (identifying details) It was half a mile across; it was the strongest tornado in U.S. history; 33 people died and 1,000 were injured; etc.

3. Why do you think the author included Vicki Gamble's memories of the tornado? (understanding narrative nonfiction) They add an exciting, human element to the story; readers feel what it was like to be in her place.

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