The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake/Fire: The Use of Primary Sources
for Writing Historical Fiction
Barbara Fisher
Grove Elementary School
McLean County Unit 5
Summer 2013
Library of Congress,
Geography and Map Division.
This unit is designed to develop students’ nonfiction text reading skills and build
understanding of how authors research and use nonfiction text as the basis for writing
historical fiction. Students will analyze a number of primary sources from the 1906 San
Francisco Earthquake/Fire and practice close reading text strategies through the reading
of various eyewitness accounts of the historic event. Students will observe the factual
information used from primary sources by an author of a historical picture book and then
write their own historical picture book of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake/Fire based
on an eyewitness account.
Overview/ Materials/LOC Resources/Standards/ Procedures/Evaluation/Rubric/Handouts/Extension
Overview
Objectives
Recommended time frame
Grade level
Curriculum fit
Materials
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Students will:
 Read and analyze primary sources of photographs,
videos, maps, and personal accounts using online
resources from Library of Congress and Awesome
Stories websites.
 Summarize a nonfiction text.
 Compare and contrast the factual information within
an eyewitness account to the factual information
shared within a historical picture book based on the
same event.
 Use information gathered from an eyewitness
account and other primary sources to write a
historical fiction picture book.
15 days
5th
Literacy, Technology
Photographs: see resource table
 “Spectators sitting on hillside watching fires
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consume the city after the 1906 San Francisco
earthquake.”
 “People sitting in street in front of ruins from
earthquake, San Francisco, California”
Maps: see resource table
 Map of part of San Francisco, California, April 18,
1908
Videos: see resource table
 Unidentified Staples & Charles. No. 1, San
Francisco after the earthquake and fire of 1906
 San Francisco earthquake and fire, April 18, 1906
Worksheets:
 Copies of Primary Source Analysis Tool for
students:
http://www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/r
esources/Primary_Source_Analysis_Tool.pdf
 Teacher’s Guide for Analyzing Photographs and
Prints
Eyewitness Account Text:
 “Memories of the San Francisco Earthquake and
Fire” by DeWitt C. Baldwin found within Awesome
Stories website. www.awesomestories.com
 Additional eyewitness accounts of 1906 San
Francisco Earthquake/Fire found within
www.awesomestories.com.
Picture Book:
 April 18, 1906 - A Day that Changed America:
Earthquake! by Shelley Tanaka. Hyperion Books
for Children, 2004.
Illinois Learning Standards/Common Core
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CCSS.English Language Arts and Literacy
Reading Informational Text
 RI.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining
what the text says explicitly and when drawing
inferences from the text.
 RI.5.2 Determine two or more main ideas of a text
and explain how they are supported by key details;
summarize the text.
 RI.5.5 Compare and contrast the overall structure
(chronology, comparison, cause/effect,
problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or
information in two or more texts.
Teaching with Primary Sources
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
RI.5.6 Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or
topic, noting important similarities and differences in the
point of view they represent.
 RI.5.9 Integrate information from several texts on the
same topic in order to write or speak about the subject
knowledgeably.
Writing Standards
 W.5.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined
experiences or events using effective technique,
descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
 W.5.3.a Orient the reader by establishing a situation
and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize
an event sequence that unfolds naturally.
 W.5.3.b Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue,
description, and pacing to develop experiences and
events or show the responses of characters to
situations.
 W.5.3.c Use a variety of transitional words, phrases,
and clauses to manage the sequence of events.
 W.5.3.d Use concrete words and phrases and sensory
details to convey experiences and events precisely.
 W.5.3.e Provide a conclusion that follows from the
narrated experiences or events.
 W.5.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the
development and organization are appropriate to task,
purpose, and audience.
 W.5.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults,
develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning,
revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
 W.5.7 Conduct short research projects that use several
sources to build knowledge through investigation of
different aspects of a topic.
 W.5.8 Recall relevant information from experiences or
gather relevant information from print and digital
sources: summarize or paraphrase information in notes
and finished work, and provide a list of sources.
Speaking and Listening Standards
 SL.5.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative
discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher led) with
diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on
others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
 SL5.1d Review the key ideas expressed and draw
conclusions in light of information and knowledge
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
Procedures
gained from the discussions.
SL5.2 Summarize a written text read aloud or
information presented in diverse media and formats,
including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
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Day One:
 Display on Smart Board the photograph: “Spectators
sitting on hillside watching fires consume the city
after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.”
*Note: Do not reveal the title of the photograph or
reference the San Francisco earthquake/fire of 1906 so
students may develop a greater array of questions and
inferences.
 Hand each student a Primary Source Analysis Tool
worksheet. To guide students in recording their
observations, reflections and questions, use the
Teacher’s Guide Analyzing Photographs & Prints.
 Have students “Pair and Share” their ideas from the
worksheet. As teacher listens to partners share,
he/she records student ideas on anchor chart that
follows format of the “Primary Source Analysis
Tool” worksheet.
 Display on Smart Board the second photograph:
“People sitting in street in front of ruins from
earthquake, San Francisco, California”
*Note: Once again, do not reveal the title of the
photograph or reference the San Francisco
earthquake/fire of 1906.
 Hand each student another “Primary Source
Analysis Tool” worksheet to record their
observations, reflections, and questions regarding
the photograph.
 Refer students back to the first two photographs
viewed from Day One lesson. Discuss and then
have students “Pair and Share” their ideas from the
worksheet. As teacher listens in on partner groups,
he/she records student ideas on anchor chart that
follows format of the “Primary Source Analysis
Tool” worksheet.
 As a whole class, discuss the ideas recorded for
both photograph analysis anchor charts and any
other important ideas discussed in student partner
groups but not yet recorded on chart.
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
Finally, reveal (or confirm) the two photographs
were taken from the San Francisco earthquake/fire
of 1906. Show students on Smart Board a map of
the four square mile area affected the most by the
earthquake/fires: Map of part of San Francisco,
California, April 18, 1908
Day Two:
 Hand each student a copy of the eyewitness account
text: “Memories of the San Francisco Earthquake
and Fire” by DeWitt C. Baldwin.. This account is
found within Awesome Stories website.
www.awesomestories.com.
 Inform students they will be performing the first
close read of the text by stopping after each
paragraph and writing the main idea of the
paragraph in the left-hand margin. Model this close
reading skill with the paragraphs on the first page of
the eyewitness account.
 Instruct partner groups to continue the close read of
the eyewitness account by working together to read
and write the main idea of each paragraph in the
left-hand margin.
 Show Parts 1, 2, and 3 video footage of San
Francisco earthquake effects in the areas mentioned
within the DeWitt’s C. Baldwin’s eyewitness
account: Unidentified Staples & Charles. No. 1,
San Francisco after the earthquake and fire of 1906
Day Three
 Using the first page of the DeWitt C. Baldwin’s
eyewitness account text, model with students how
to combine the main idea notes in the left-hand
margins to create a summary of the text.
 Instruct partner groups to continue to summarize
the remaining text using their main idea notes from
Day Two.
 How do the photographs relate to events mentioned
within DeWitt’s C. Baldwin’s eyewitness account.
Show another video footage (Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4) of
San Francisco earthquake effects: San Francisco
earthquake and fire, April 18, 1906
Day Four
 Share an overview of the Shelley Tanaka’s picture
book April 18, 1906 A Day That Changed America:
Earthquake! Discuss with students the book’s
historical nonfiction text features of photographs,
Teaching with Primary Sources
Illinois State University
pictorial maps, and diagrams related to the San
Francisco earthquake/fire. In addition, discuss how
the author incorporated four eyewitness accounts,
including the account of DeWitt C. Baldwin, to
develop the picture book.
 Read aloud to students pages 13, 14, 15, 28, 29, and
30 of April 18, 1906 A Day That Changed America:
Earthquake! These pages focus on the story of
DeWitt C. Baldwin.
 Instruct students to perform a second close read of
the DeWitt C. Baldwin’s eyewitness account. This
time partner groups will highlight parts of the
account that are incorporated within the historical
fiction picture book: April 18, 1906 A Day That
Changed America: Earthquake! Students will need
to be provided with copies of pages 13, 14, 15, 28,
29, and 30 from the book to more closely analyze
the two texts.
 As a whole class, discuss student analysis of what
nonfiction text from the eyewitness account was
used by the author as well as how the author quoted
information accurately from the text. Next discuss
what the author created or added to the DeWitt C.
Baldwin’s story that was not found within his
eyewitness account. Create a two-column anchor
chart (Factual Events/Fictional Events) for ideas
generated from whole class discussion. Discuss
reasons for the author creating or adding the extra
information.
Days Five through Fifteen
 Review with students the plot line of the DeWitt C.
Baldwin story within the picture book. Inform
students they will be creating a historical fiction
picture book of another San Francisco eyewitness
account.
 Instruct students to choose a different eyewitness
account to the San Francisco Earthquake/Fire from
the www.awesomestories.com website. Students
will independently perform a close read of the
account using the “main idea of each paragraph”
strategy practiced on Day Two.
 Next, students will develop a plot line for their book
identifying what information from the eyewitness
account they will choose to incorporate and what
plot elements will be created from their own minds.
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

Evaluation
Students will then work through the publishing
process of writing a picture book rough draft,
revising, editing, and creating final draft complete
with text features of photographs, maps, diagrams,
etc. Students can use www.loc.gov website to
search for text features that specifically relate to the
locations and events mentioned within the
eyewitness account used for the basis of their
picture book.
Note: Throughout these days, the teacher will be
using the Readers/Writers’ Workshop mini-lesson
time periods to review literary elements which
students need to consider when writing and revising
their historical fiction picture book. These minilessons could include: point of view, character and
setting development, figurative language and the
use of specific nouns and vivid verbs, dialogue,
revising/editing techniques, etc.
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Students will be evaluated on:
 Historical Fiction Picture Book Rubric
Extension
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

Students can read historical fiction novels based on
the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake/Fire. The
reading of these books may be done within
Literature Circle or Book Club formats. Books will
be chosen by student interest and appropriate
reading levels. Possible titles include:
1. I Survived the San Francisco Earthquake, 1906
(I Survived Series #5) by Lauren Tarshis.
2. Quake!: Disaster in San Francisco, 1906 by Gail
Karwoski
3. Surviving the San Francisco Earthquake:
Illustrated History by Jo Cleland
4. Into the Firestorm: A Novel of San Francisco,
1906 by Deborah Hopkinson
5. Earthquake At Dawn by Kristiana Gregory
Students can use the Awesome Stories or Library of
Congress websites to read other eyewitness accounts
from other historical events. Students can write and
publish another historical fiction picture book.
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Primary Resources from the Library of Congress
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Image
Description
Spectators sitting on
hillside watching fires
consume the city after
the 1906 San Francisco
earthquake.
People sitting in street
in front of ruins from
earthquake, San
Francisco, California
Map of part of San
Francisco, California,
April 18, 1908: showing
buildings constructed
and buildings under
construction during two
years after fire of April
18, 1906.
Citation
Genthe, Arnold.
Spectators sitting on
hillside watching fires
consume the city after
the 1906 San Francisco
earthquake. 1906.
Viewpoints; a selection
from the pictorial
collections of the
Library of Congress ....
Washington : Library of
Congress ..., 1975, no.
129. Library of
Congress Prints and
Photographs Division.
http://www.loc.gov/pict
ures/item/2007681309/
People sitting in street
in front of ruins from
earthquake, San
Francisco, California.
c1906. Copyright by
Leo G. Altmayer.
H77088 U.S. Copyright
Office. LC-USZ6296790 (b&w film copy
neg.) Library of
Congress.
http://www.loc.gov/pict
ures/item/89709554/
URL
http://www.loc.gov/pict
ures/item/2007681309/
Library of Congress,
Geography and Map
Division.
http://memory.loc.gov/c
gibin/query/r?ammem/gm
d:@field([email protected]
band(g4364s+ct001848)
)
http://www.loc.gov/pict
ures/item/89709554/
Teaching with Primary Sources
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Unidentified Staples &
Charles. No. 1, San
Francisco after the
earthquake and fire of
1906] / [production
company unknown].
San Francisco
earthquake and fire,
April 18, 1906 /
Unidentified Staples &
Charles. No. 1, San
Francisco after the
earthquake and fire of
1906] / [production
company unknown].
Late April, 1906. Before
and After the Great
Earthquake and Fire:
Early Films of San
Francisco, 1897-1916.
Library of Congress
Motion Picture,
Broadcasting and
Recorded Sound
Division.
http://memory.loc.gov/c
gibin/query/r?ammem/pap
r:@field([email protected]
band(lcmp003+24351s3
))
San Francisco
earthquake and fire,
April 18, 1906 /
[production company
unknown]. Before and
After the Great
Earthquake and Fire:
Early Films of San
Francisco, 1897-1916.
1906?.Library of
Congress Motion
Picture, Broadcasting
and Recorded Sound
Division.
http://memory.loc.gov/c
gibin/query/r?ammem/pap
r:@field([email protected]
band(lcmp003+03734s4
))
http://memory.loc.gov/c
gibin/query/r?ammem/pap
r:@field([email protected]
band(lcmp003+24351s3
))
http://memory.loc.gov/c
gibin/query/r?ammem/pap
r:@field([email protected]
band(lcmp003+03734s4
))
Teaching with Primary Sources
Illinois State University
Rubric
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Student _____________________________ Book Title ________________________________
Historical Fiction Picture Book Rubric
10 points
8 points
6 points
4 points
Historical
Content
It is evident the
author
researched the
historical facts of
the time period
through primary
sources and
included a
number of
accurate facts
fluidly throughout
the story’s
plotline.
It is evident the
author
researched the
historical facts of
the time period
through primary
sources. A
number of
accurate facts are
included in the
story, but they are
not naturally
embedded within
the story’s
plotline.
Historical
Fiction
Genre
The story
includes a strong
human interest to
the historical
content.
Emotions or
situations we can
relate to as
human beings are
depicted in the
story.
Little or no
evidence the
author
researched the
historical facts of
the time period
through primary
sources. Little to
no facts are
presented
accurately within
the story’s plotline
and/or are not
naturally
embedded within
the story’s
plotline.
The story lacks a
human interest to
the historical
content and does
not include any
reference to
human emotion
or situations.
Story
Element
Development
* Strongly
developed main
character through
description of
actions,
appearances,
feelings, or
dialogue.
* Strongly
developed plot
with a beginning,
a buildup, a
climax, and
satisfying ending.
* Strongly
developed story
that works toward
depicting a
theme.
The story
attempts to
include a strong
human interest to
the historical
content.
Emotions or
situations we can
relate to as
human beings are
attempted to be
depicted in the
story.
* Strong attempt
to develop main
character through
description of
actions,
appearances,
feelings, or
dialogue.
* Strong attempt
to develop plot
with a beginning,
a buildup, a
climax, and
satisfying ending.
* Strong attempt
to develop story
that works toward
depicting a
theme.
There is some
evidence the
author
researched the
historical facts of
the time period
through primary
sources although
facts may be
presented
inaccurately
within the story’s
plotline and/or are
not naturally
embedded within
the story’s
plotline.
The story
includes a human
interest to the
historical content
but little emotions
or situations we
can relate to as
human beings are
depicted in the
story.
* Little
development of
main character
through
description of
actions,
appearances,
feelings, or
dialogue.
* Attempt to
develop plot with
a beginning, a
buildup, a climax,
and satisfying
ending.
* Attempt to
develop story
toward depicting
a theme is
evident.
* No development
of main character
through
description of
actions,
appearances,
feelings, or
dialogue.
* Plotline missing
some aspect(s) of
a beginning, a
buildup, a climax,
and satisfying
ending.
* Story lacks a
theme.
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Sentence Fluency
Word Choice
Mechanics
3 points
2 points
1 point
The writing shows a
very strong attempt to
begin sentences in
different ways and vary
the length and
structure of sentences.
The writing shows a
very strong attempt to
substitute more vivid,
descriptive words for
everyday words.
No indentation,
capitalization,
paragraphing, or
punctuation errors.
The writing shows an
attempt to begin
sentences in different
ways and vary the
length and structure of
sentences.
The writing shows an
attempt to substitute
more vivid, descriptive
words for everyday
words.
Few indentation,
capitalization,
paragraphing, or
punctuation errors.
The writing shows little
attempt to begin
sentences in different
ways and vary the
length and structure of
sentences.
The writing shows little
attempt to substitute
more vivid, descriptive
words for everyday
words.
Many indentation,
capitalization,
paragraphing, or
punctuation errors.
2 points
Spelling/Grammar
1 point
Most of the words are spelled
correctly and used
grammatically correctly and
allows the reader to easily
understand the text.
The number of spelling and
grammar errors in the text
interferes with the reader’s
understanding of the text.
Points: ___________/41
Comments:
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Illinois State University
Handouts
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
Primary Source Analysis Tool for students (online version)
http://www.loc.gov/teachers/primary-source-analysis-tool/

Primary Source Analysis Tool for students (pdf version)
http://www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/resources/Primary_Source_Analysi
s_Tool.pdf

Primary Source Analysis Teacher Guides
http://www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/guides.html

Teacher Guide – Analyzing Photographs and Prints
http://www.loc.gov/teachers/usingprimarysources/resources/Analyzing_Photographs
_and_Prints.pdf
Teaching with Primary Sources
Illinois State University
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