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Natural Disasters: Nature's Fury

Library of Congress/Patricia Solfest & Kimberly Wardean

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This resource was reviewed by OSPI in Spring 2015. Learn more about the review process and the data analysis approach.

Background from OER Project Review Team
The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution and serves as the research arm of Congress. The Library of Congress offers classroom materials and professional development to help teachers effectively use primary sources from the Library's vast digital collections in their teaching.

EQuIP (Learn more)

Revision needed (4.3)
Chart with scale of 'meets criteria' from 0 (None) to 3 (All). Alignment: 1.75, Key Shifts in the CCSS: 1.25, Instructional Supports: 1.0, Assessment: 0.25.

Achieve OER (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Weak) to 3 (Superior). Explanation: 1.25, Interactivity: , Exercises: 1.25, Deeper Learning: 1.5.

See standard error chart for the review scoring

Reviewer Comments (Learn more)

Moderate (2.75)

Strengths/Ideal Use:

Ideal use would be in a history class. Historically significant material, but little support for CCSS.


  • Limited instructional materials

Strengths/Ideal Use:

Teacher must be experienced with a clear pedagogical vision in mind. Since the unit doesn't offer any scaffolding, this is left up to the teacher. The resources are plenty, however, a teacher needs to know what to do with them. Students cannot simply "analyze" something without first comprehending. The unit is broad with students self selecting text. This is difficult for teachers to monitor comprehension when every students is reading a different piece of text. The teacher must also create rubrics and scoring guides for all assignments and this is very time consuming, as well as ambiguous.

The Teacher Guides are strong. The Gallery of Artifacts are interesting and engaging. Strengths include photos, songs, and personal accounts and valuable Primary Source resources that allow students to analyze and promote inquiry.


  • Text is not provided---students could be reading below or above their Lexile, which in turn may be out of line with CCSS 8.10.
  • Check your library or media center to see what historical fiction and resources are available to support research on American natural disasters.


  • Provide a list of books or pieces of text to choose from. This is a very broad task and materials may not be available. Make sure students are reading appropriate leveled texts within their own Lexile levels.

Strengths/Ideal Use:

Ideal use for this resource (as is) is as a bank of resources. Teachers of ELA classes or Social Studies classes interested in implementing ELA standards would need to insert ALL ELA content.

It is an engaging combination of photos, personal accounts and lyrics. Audio and visual materials can serve as a great scaffold to complex text.


  • No explicit instruction for close reading of text. No lesson plans or guidance on literature unit — general instructions to read a novel.
  • Activities labeled as 'extensions' aren't geared toward students who read well above the grade level text band — 'extension' activity is just more at the same level.
  • Lack of identified assessment.


  • Provide specific lessons for teachers to deliver that will teach students how to do close reading and how to make meaning from their novel reading.
  • Provide suggested text for significantly above and below grade level readers, along with suggested instruction and activities.
  • Provide standards-based rubrics for major assignments and suggestions for formative assessment throughout.

Strengths/Ideal Use:

The ideal scenario to use this resource might be one of three ways:

  1. introducing students on how to complete research using primary sources
  2. an introduction to the Library of Congress
  3. using multiple print and digital sources in an assignment.

The biggest areas of support come from the multiple sources a teacher could use for students to study the late 19th/early 20th century and how people during that time period reacted to national disasters. The way the unit is set up allows students to practice looking at several sources, some of which come from different media sources, which hits on CCSS Writing Standard #7 and #8. The unit uses primary sources for students to examine. Some examples of primary sources the unit uses includes song recordings, photographs, and personal stories. The grade-level CCSS the unit targets are the research standards (Writing #7 and #8 for grades 6-8).

The unit is a good introduction to the Library of Congress and allows students to use multiple, and various, sources to examine how people reacted to certain natural disasters. This unit has students use several different sources as they complete their research. The final assessment does leave a lot of discretion up to the teacher, but students are expected to choose sources within the unit to finish the final assignment. Teachers could have students complete a writing, or other type of assignment to show proficiency in the standards. There is not any specific reading assignment, but a teacher could use the support materials (i.e. how to analyze a primary source, how to analyze a photograph, etc) to work with students in analyzing the materials. This unit could be used in a Social Studies class too as students work with primary sources and learn research skills.

Strengths include:

  • Focus on research skills and introduces students to the Library of Congress (LOC) — the site is created from the Library of Congress. When students look for evidence they are using sources from the LOC. Since the LOC is so large students can look for several sources from various medians (digital, print, etc.).
  • Supporting documents such as how to read a primary source, how to analyze a photograph, a song, or sheet music — quick links allow students to receive support to learn the necessary research skills. These can all be found under the preparation portion of the unit.
  • Students are required to analyze several media sources — when students complete research under the gallery of artifacts they can look at photos, songs, and personal accounts.


  • Some links do not work.
  • The CCSS the unit targets are vague — the targets simply say they are targeting grades 6-8. There is not a lot of specifics in working with reading and writing with students.
  • Assessment — the assessment does not have a tool or more directions on how to assess students research skills.
  • Suggestions:

    • Fix the links listed in the evidence portion.
    • Could let teacher know what adjustments they may have to make if they teach different grade levels.
    • Provide some example, or a link to a possible rubric to use.

Creative Commons License
This work by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.