Gary Hanna
The Shattered Sky

This gripping work of nonfiction describes the biggest non-nuclear explosion in history: The 1917 Explosion in Halifax Harbor.

By Kristin Lewis
From the November 2017 Issue

Learning Objective: to analyze how an author brings a story to life

Lexiles: 890L, 820L
Other Key Skills: mood, supporting details, key ideas and details, close reading, critical thinking, author’s craft
Topic: History,

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Dig Deeper With These Texts
Guiding Question

How did the 1917 Explosion in Halifax Harbor affect the city of Halifax?

Timeline of the collision

This interactive timeline created by historian and writer Janet Maybee illustrates the collision between the Mont-Blanc and the Imo step-by-step. The timeline includes maps, photos, and audio clips of a radio interview with pilot Francis Mackey after the explosion.

Poem: “Requiem...for a December Morn Long Ago”

This poem by Owen McCarron tells the story of those who experienced the explosion in Halifax.

Article: “Vincent Coleman and the Halifax Explosion”

Read this article about railway dispatcher Vincent Coleman, who heroically sent out a telegraph to train conductors in Halifax warning them of the explosion.

Video: “New time capsule in the works for Halifax Explosion anniversary”

As a class, watch this video about a time capsule that is being prepared to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the explosion in Halifax. The time capsule will be buried under the Memorial Bell Tower in Halifax.

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

Close Reading, Critical Thinking, Skill Building

1. PREPARING TO READ

2. READING AND DISCUSSING

3. SKILL BUILDING

Differentiated Writing Prompts
For On-Level Readers

Think about the title of the poem. What does the speak “know?” What do the people of Episcopal “know?” Answer both questions in a short essay. Use text evidence

For Struggling Readers

In a well-organized paragraph, explain one way the author helps you, the reader, understand what it was like to live through the 1917 Explosion in Halifax Harbor. Use text evidence to support your answer.

For Advanced Readers

In a well-organized essay, explain how the author helps you, the reader, understand what it was like to live through the 1917 Explosion in Halifax Harbor. Use details from the article as well as the video to support your ideas.

Customized Performance Tasks
For Museum Lovers

Create a museum exhibit for your school about the 1917 Explosion in Halifax Harbor. Your exhibit may include photographs and labels, reproductions of artifacts, and multimedia.

For Historians

Choose another disaster from history. In an essay, compare how people responded to that disaster with how people responded to the 1917 Explosion in Halifax Harbor. (One option is for students to use “Our World Turned to Water” from the October 2017 issue of Scope.)

Literature Connection: Curricular texts set during WWI

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave 
by John Boyne (novel)

Truce 
by Jim Murphy (nonfiction)

War Horse 
by Michael Morpurgo (novel)