March 21, 2011
The Earthquake in Haiti:
How Do Writers Portray a Tragic Event?
Essential question: How do writers portray a tragic event?
Using a Scope article about Makendy Estimphil—a young survivor of the earthquake in Haiti, as well as a video and a newspaper article about the earthquake, students think about how a tragic event is portrayed in different genres.
• to explore different genres that deal with the same topic
• to build listening- and reading-comprehension skills
• to participate in class discussion
• to make connections among different genres
• to write a reflective essay
• “Out of the Rubble,” in the March 21, 2011, issue of Scope
• Video clip
• New York Times article
1. Essential question: How do writers portray a tragic event?
Duration: 10 minutes
Write the essential question on the board and keep it posted for the duration of the lesson. Briefly discuss the question as a class. Ask, What are some examples of tragic events? (natural disasters, war, car accidents, deaths in the family, etc.) If you were to write a story about a tragic event, what would you include? (Answers will vary, but students may say interviews, videos, photographs, charts, etc.)
3. Genre: Video
Duration: 7 minutes
Watch our exclusive video about the history of Haiti and the devistation caused by the earthquake there. As students watch, they should take notes on: what the video is about, which images are powerful and why, and what feelings these images evoke.
- What did you learn about the conditions in Haiti prior to the earthquake? (Suffering in Haiti goes back hundreds of years. The Haitian people have endured political corruption, natural disasters, slavery, poverty, etc.)
- Did you find the video to be emotionally powerful? Explain? (Answers will vary.)
- How is video different from other formats, such as magazine articles or stories? In other words, what elements can be used in a video that couldn’t be used in other genres? (A video allows the author to weave together narration, photographs, and music.)
4. Genre: Narrative Nonfiction
Duration: 30 minutes
Read the article “Out of the Rubble” as a class. (Project the article on your whiteboard as students follow along in their individual copies.) While reading, students should take notes on: what the story is about, which sections are particularly powerful and why, and what feelings the story evokes.
- How is the story in the article different from the story in the video? (The article focuses on one survivor’s story, as opposed to the country as a whole.)
- What makes “Out of the Rubble” effective in telling the story of the earthquake? (It humanizes the tragedy by focusing on one person’s story; the reader becomes emotionally invested in the narrative.)
- What feelings does the story evoke? (Answers will vary.)
- How are the images in the article similar to and different from those in the video? (The images in “Out of the Rubble” focus on Makendy and how his life has changed. The images in the video include historical photos and illustrations that depict Haiti’s past, as well as photographs showing the earthquake’s destruction.)
5. Genre: Newspaper Article
Duration: 20 minutes
Project the New York Times article “Fierce Earthquake Devastates Haitian Capital” on your whiteboard. Point out the date: January 12, 2010. Then ask, Why is this date significant? What is the genre of the article? (It’s the day of the earthquake; the genre is newspaper article.) How is a newspaper article different from narrative nonfiction, like the Scope article about Makendy Estimphil? (Newspaper articles tell “just the facts.” Narrative nonfiction uses storytelling techniques found in fiction to tell a true story.)
Divide students into small groups. Have each group read the newspaper article out loud together. As they read, they should takes notes on: what the story is about, which sections are powerful, and how the style and voice differ from the Scope article “Out of the Rubble” and the video. (1. The story is about the earthquake immediately after it happened; 2. Answers will vary; 3. The article contains many quotes and covers many different areas of Haiti. It is written in a dry, factual voice and centers on the earthquake. “Out of the Rubble” contains many emotional and personal details about Makendy. It follows one person’s experience before, during, and beyond the disaster. The video is about the country of Haiti as a whole and offers historical context.)
6. Reflective Essay
Duration: 20 minutes (also makes great homework!)
Students write a reflective essay in response to the essential question: How do writers portray a tragic event? They should draw on the magazine article “Out of the Rubble,” as well as the video and the newspaper article, to answer this question.
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