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Our World Turned to Water

This powerful nonfiction article describes one community’s experience during the Louisiana Flood of 2016. We’ve paired the story with a poem about the power of community after a tragedy.

By Lauren Tarshis
From the October 2017 Issue

Learning Objective: to synthesize ideas about helping others in a nonfiction article and a poem

Lexiles: 820L, 930L
Other Key Skills: author’s purpose, mood, word choice, key ideas and details, close reading, critical thinking, synthesis, summarizing, tone, text features, central ideas and details
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Dig Deeper With These Texts
Guiding Question

How can tragedy bring people together?

Washington Post article: “In Houston, acts of hospitality set off a chain reaction of goodwill”

This Washington Post article highlights the incredible kindness and resilience being demonstrated by the residents of Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Time magazine article: “How Disasters Bring Out Our Kindness”

This TIME magazine article explores how humans use kindness to cope with the stress and grief experienced after a devastating event like the Louisiana Flood.

Scope video: “Rebuilding Hope”

In this beautiful video, Ariel Creamer, 14, gives your students a tour of her town of Rockaway, New York, after Hurricane Sandy.


President Obama’s remarks after a series of tornados devastated Oklahoma in 2013 shed light on the resilience of the American spirit when faced with tragedy.

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

Close Reading, Critical Thinking, Skill Building




Differentiated Writing Prompts
For On Level Readers

According to the article and poem, what can people do to help others who experience disasters? Explain in an essay, using evidence from both texts.

For Struggling Readers

In a well-organized paragraph, explain how both “Our World Turned to Water” and “What We Know” describe people helping others after a disaster. Use text evidence.

For Advanced Readers

Compare the approaches that the author of “Our World Turned to Water” and the poet who wrote “What We Know” take to the topic of a large-scale disaster. Be sure to explain what each writer’s purpose is and what ideas appear in both texts.

Customized Performance Tasks
For Poets

Write a companion poem to “What We Know,” from the point of view of someone who is giving, rather than receiving, help after a disaster. Use “Our World Turned to Water” for inspiration.

For Doers

Follow tips number 4 and 5 in “How to Stay Safe”: With your family, put together an emergency kit and make a plan for what to do in the event of a flash flood. Then share with your classmates what you did to inspire them to do the same.

Literature Connection: Texts that explore survival in the face of a natural disaster.

by Jim Murphy

The Big Wave 
by Pearl S. Buck

Zane and the Hurricane 
by Rodman Philbrick