August 25, 2013

Mentor Text: Heroes of the Titanic

I'm linking up with Collaboration Cuties for their Must Read Mentor Text linky. This week's linky features Social Studies themed books.

I don't actually teach Social Studies but its content is found in numerous literary pieces that I use in my Language Arts classes. With the emphasis being placed on the Common Core State Standards, literary text is being de-emphasized while informational text is being strongly emphasized. Many of the favorites that I have included in my fifth and sixth grade Language Arts classes over the years are not found on the CCSS's rigorous text exemplar lists either. And the books that kids BEG to read are generally not found there either.

One such title is "I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic 1912" by Lauren Tarshis. Last year in fifth grade, my current crop of sixers got turned onto the I Survived historical fiction series when they saw me reading one of its titles. The Titanic version was being offered in the Scholastic book club brochure as its dollar book for the month of April. They begged me to get it and let them read it as a class. I had enough bonus points to get 20 "free" copies so I did, but we ran out of time at the end of the year so I promised them we would read it at the beginning of sixth grade... which is NOW!

This book is NOT a sixth grade level book, rather it's a fourth grade level, but I've got kids in this class that are reading at a second grade level and kids that are reading at college level. However, its content is probably one of the most fascinating and sought after informational topics overall. I look more at interesting content, then plan accordingly to differentiate work as needed when selecting books for use in class, especially this class. Here's where today's mentor text comes in...

by Anne Marie Welsh

... allowing me to differentiate and meet  several Common Core ELA Standards at the same time.

Heroes of the Titanic is not only a visually appealing text but also a strong, yet accessible, informational text. Half the height and twice the width of a typical paperback "picture" book, along with its cover art, it just begs to be picked up. I purchased it at last year's school book fair at the same time I was ordering Tarshis's copies. I had a plan in mind back then.

Many of the same characters and places on the ship discussed in "I Survived the Titanic" are explained in child friendly language in Heroes of the Titanic. Among them are Captain Smith, Thomas Andrews, and lesser known Mr. Stead. Locations on the ship where the fictional tale take place come to life within the informational text. Actual photographs or near photograph quality illustrations are included to aid even struggling readers with comprehension. CCSS criteria for comparing literary and informational text, characters, and events are easily mastered by students.

Perhaps one of the REAL reasons why I like Heroes of the Titanic so VERY much is the information that is on the following page that shares the third class passenger story of Anna Turja. Anna, a young Finnish immigrant, was one of the survivors of the tragedy, who ended up living in my hometown. People from all over the world have read her story...

... and visited her resting place. I have met groups of my students after school hours at the local cemetery where Anna is buried to allow a piece of history to come alive for them. We have made crayon rubbings of her headstone, displaying the SURVIVOR of RMS TITANIC, for all the class to see.

I can NOT wait to start reading Heroes of the Titanic along with "I Survived the Titanic, 1912" with my sixers.

Happy Reading,
Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6


  1. Hello Teacher Blogger!
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  2. I love this book! My fourth graders love it too. I must admit I have an obsession with the Titanic and my love for it carries over to my kiddos.

    Hunter's Teaching Tales
    Find me on Facebook

  3. This looks like a wonderful text! I love to read about the Titanic. While this is a fourth grade level text, it would be great to add to our nonfiction history collection...

    Sarah @ Hoots N' Hollers

  4. Great book pick! How cool that you have a hometown connection- talk about bringing history to life! So interesting...
    Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

  5. I love the two books you referred to today! I also have both in my classroom library and I love the Heroes one because it's so long and has great text features! Kids are always obsessed with the Titanic and I think it's a great way to hook them, even if it's not in the curriculum!

    Thanks for linking up!
    Collaboration Cuties

  6. My students last year were OBSESSED with the Titanic! :) I haven't seen the Heroes book, but will definitely check it out. Thanks for sharing!

    Joy in the Journey

  7. My kids love I Survived... too. I'll have to check out the book you mentioned. I've really been trying to offer more engaging non-fiction options in my class library. I've found that the more reluctant readers tend to gravitate to that section.

    Simply Sixth Grade

  8. Like Bethany, I also have an obsession over the Titanic and I love sharing that. I've got the I Survived book but will definitely be getting this one. I absolutely *love* how your students get to visit the grave of a real survivor from your town. What a way to make connections between now and history!!! :) Erin
    I'm Lovin Lit


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