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In 5th grade, our first CIA unit is Earthquake Terror written by Peg Kehret.  It is an exciting realistic fiction adventure story about a boy and his family who must survive a terrifying earthquake while camping on a deserted island.  I really enjoy this story and I think it is a great book to start with in September.  It eases the students into our daily CIA schedule and the story is attention-grabbing to the students.

Planning the Earthquake Terror Unit

When I begin my planning for the unit, I do what Sarah suggests, I look at our new school year calendar and begin to figure out my plan.  Because of time and our school schedule, and because I want to finish all the 5th grade CIA units, I sometimes have to double up on a few of the lessons.   I would recommend that if you need to do this, try combining the lessons that involve writing.  I have found that the students do better because the information is on their minds since we just worked on that information.  Earthquake Terror will take until October 18th to finish, including the formal writing project.

This year, since we are using binders to help our students with learning and practicing organization, I have put all the documents from the unit into a packet for students and they have a vocabulary packet for the unit as well.  As part of my preparation, I have written all the vocabulary words on sentence strips, which I post on the day of that lesson.  After we study the word, I put it in the pocket chart so students can continue to refer to it daily.  This year I am including a couple of things when we work on vocabulary.  First, we spend some time breaking the word into syllables and second, sounding those syllables to help us to remember how to spell it later.  Then we continue with the vocabulary procedure suggested by Sarah.  I always do the vocabulary work first and I have the students sit at their desks so they can see the document camera.

Turn and Talk

After vocabulary, I call them to the carpet.  They bring their packets and pencils and sit next to their turn and talk partners.  Before we start the unit, I make sure I match up the students with a turn and talk partner.  This list is color coded and posted next to our turn and talk stems pocket chart.  My current group of students is going to need some practice with this part of the lesson.  I have invited my reading coach to come in and help me demonstrate.  She also suggested that I have the students do a stop and jot to give them time to rehearse what they want to say.

The Lesson

The students always look forward to the main part of the lesson.  As the days go by, you can see the students’ eagerness to get to the reading increase.  I really like the first quadrant because we get to practice rereading for different purposes and it gives students practice at skills they will need for the common core standards.  I think several students were surprised at how much information you can get from the blurb.  They also enjoyed working on the setting map and going back to refer to it and add a few more details.  My students were so caught up in the action of Mrs. Palmer breaking her ankle and knowing the earthquake was going to happen that we had to keep reminding ourselves that we as the reader knew these events but our characters do not.  It was like a secret that we wanted to tell but couldn’t.  I think it was very good for students to have this experience especially for writing their Retell Summaries.  Although, they know additional information it was important to focus on the Important Events list.

Extended Reading

Some students come to 5th grade and have favorite authors, and it is always surprising to me how many do not.  The best thing about CIA and Earthquake Terror, is that students begin reading her other books.  One of my students told us about a similarity between Earthquake Terror and another Peg Kehret book.   We wondered if all her books include similar items.  Art they always about some type of scary event.  Now the readers in my class can find out and compare and contrast their thinking.

Before I started using the CIA approach, I felt like I was doing all the reading work while wondering if students were engaged or not. Although I chose interesting, powerful books, I needed the other pieces of the CIA approach to help me get to deeper thinking.  Now, the work I do helps students to build their reading and writing skills and, in addition, gives them books worth reading and talking about.


Written by Lynn Boze --- 5th Grade Teacher