How the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Affected the People of San Francisco | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G6:M3A:U3

How the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire Affected the People of San Francisco

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In this unit, students delve more deeply into learning about the San Francisco earthquake and fire in order to write a newspaper article to answer the question: How did the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire affect the people of San Francisco? The unit informally begins in Lessons 12 and 13 of Unit 2 (while teachers assess students' literary analysis essays). Students begin by researching factual information and eyewitness accounts and collecting what they find on graphic organizers. Students also read literary texts about the earthquake and fires and make connections between the ideas in those texts.

In the second half of the unit, students analyze newspaper articles in order to learn about the features of a newspaper article. Students then evaluate the information and quotes they have collected through research to determine an angle for their article. They organize their information to write a newspaper article to answer the research question, following the inverted pyramid structure--where the most important information is at the beginning.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What is the purpose of a newspaper article?
  • Why do newspaper articles contain more than one perspective of an event?
  • Understanding diverse points of view helps us to live in an increasingly diverse society.
  • Newspaper articles contain multiple perspectives of the same event in order to give the reader a sense of what an event was like for a lot of different people.

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 fires. 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 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.


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.

Texts and Resources to Buy

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

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

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions

A journalist or editor from a local newspaper or magazine.


  • Arrange for a visit to a local newspaper office, so that students can see journalists in action.
  • Arrange for a visit to a museum or exhibit about earthquakes, so that students can learn more about earthquakes and the aftermath.


Optional Extensions

  • A study of the history of a local Chinatown.
  • A study of a local natural disaster and how it affected the local community.

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