Lauren Tarshis’s eleventh book in her popular I Survived Series tackles the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Eleven-year old Oscar lived in Castle, Minnesota with his father and mother. After his father died in a blizzard, Oscar became the ‘man of the house’ looking after the farm.
Mr. Morrow, who was an artist for a Chicago newspaper, came to Castle to draw pictures of the farmland. He spent a lot to time drawing Oscar’s farm during the day and sitting on the porch talking to Mama at night. The two wrote letters after he went home. One day Mama announced that she and Mr. Morrow were getting married, and they were all moving to Chicago.
Oscar traveled by train to Chicago. While in the train station, he was tricked into leaving the baggage unguarded. Otis and his gang of thugs stole it. Mr. Morrow told Oscar it was no big deal. He wanted to treat Mama and him to a fancy meal at the Palmer House. They rode a taxi to the hotel. As they were going inside the hotel, Oscar saw the girl who had tricked him into leaving the baggage. Oscar left the hotel to chase her down.
Oscar discovered the girl, Jennie, was an orphan who had helped the thugs in order to have food for her little brother, Bruno. As Oscar was walking away, he found himself in a fire storm. Oscar took refuge from the flying sparks in a chicken coop. While there, Oscar saw Jennie and Bruno’s house catch fire.
What should Oscar do? Would he run inside a house to rescue the girl who tricked him?
FREE Teaching Ideas for I Survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871
Lessons from History: The Chicago Fire of 1871 contains an interview between Lauren Tarshis and Casey Grant from the National Fire Protection Association.
Lauren Tarshis’s website offers several free activities to use with the book. Each of these links go to DOC files that can be edited to meet the needs of your students.
Have students create a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting Chicago statistical information at the time of the fire to today. Students should include:
size of the city compared to other US cities in land area and/or population
modes of transportation
means of communication
Have students illustrate the song “Old Mother Leary”.
If you would like to try out the I Survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871 Book Unit before you buy it, this download containsfree samples including:
Vocabulary Practice for Chapters 1-2
Comprehension Questions for Chapters 1-2
Constructive Response Question for Chapters 1-2
Photos to Show What the Rest of the Unit Looks Like
I Survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871Book Unitcontains graphic organizers for an interactive notebook. Vocabulary, comprehension, constructive response writing, and skill practice are all included. Printable and digital versions are available.