An I Survived Virtual Field Trip

Genia Connell

Editor's note: This post first appeared on Scholastic's Top Teaching Blog. If you're participating in the virtual field trip to the Museum of the American Revolution with Lauren Tarshis, you don't want to miss Genia's fabulous resources and extensions below!


For the last few years, the most popular books in my classroom library have been the I Survived series. Each year, several students seem to discover these historical fiction adventures, and they read one after the other. Because many third graders are beginning to notice the world around them, the iconic disasters and historical events depicted in these engaging books are high-interest topics.

I was excited when I heard that the series’ author, Lauren Tarshis, was hosting a virtual field trip to the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia; it would be the perfect enhancement to our social studies unit on the Northeast Region. Because we had not yet studied this part of American history, I knew Tarshis’s latest book, I Survived The American Revolution, 1776, would be the perfect introduction. While many of my third graders can read this series independently, others aren’t quite ready for the fourth-grade-level text, so I decided to present it as a class read-aloud.  

Also, heads up to teachers with struggling readers! Fellow blogger Mary Blow has done an outstanding blog post showing how you can use the I Survived series to help those readers. She shares before, during, and after reading activities for I Survived the American Revolution, 1776, which pair beautifully with the webcast. 


Getting Started With a Chalk Talk

Before beginning the book, I wanted to find out what my students knew — and didn’t know — about the American Revolution. Using a chalk talk strategy for accessing prior knowledge, I was able to see that there were many misconceptions about the war — its causes and the outcome — that I could help dispel during our book talk discussions. Knowing where my students are in terms of background knowledge, helps me guide them during book talk discussions.





Chalk Talk Posters


While We Read

For each class read-aloud we do, my students are active participants in the reading. As we begin any read-aloud, each student gets a piece of 12 x 18 paper that they can use to track what’s happening in the story. Because there is no set template, each student’s paper looks completely different — which I love! Some things we normally chart on our papers include:


  • Settings
  • Characters
  • Conflicts
  • Recurring words
  • Interesting words
  • Figurative language
  • Author’s craft examples
  • Timelines of events



More completed examples of these interactive sheets can be seen in my post, “The Tale of Despereaux, A Read-Along Guide.”

As I read chapter after chapter, I noticed many of my students were really focusing on author’s craft, especially with regard to how the author used language to build suspense and make the reader feel that they were a part of the story. While these sheets help my students make sense of the text while we read, they also become a record of great examples of mentor text students can use in the own writing.



At the end of each chapter, we pause for students to summarize and think about what they just read. On the Read-Think-Wonder sheet shown below, students summarize the chapter, write what they think is happening in the context of the story so far and ask questions they have about the text.





Virtual Field Trip Resources

You are ALL invited to join Tarshis in this unique adventure. The virtual field trip will be available for streaming starting on February 7, 2018. But you can also register now to receive a downloadable virtual field trip classroom kit and helpful reminders via email.



Whenever I take my students on a virtual field trip, I like to build the hype for it with a few pre-visit activities and resources. Below you’ll find a few I plan to use on this field trip.


Visit the Museum’s Website

A week or so before our trip, my students will visit the Museum of the American Revolution website. They explore the site independently to build background knowledge before our "trip." 



Plan for Our Big Road Trip

The day before the trip, my students work in small groups to complete the form below which helps with their mapping skills, and understanding of everyday applications like Google Maps.



The Day of the Virtual Field Trip

On the day of the virtual field trip, I’ll present my students with a ticket (to help build excitement and add to the realism) as we gather around the interactive whiteboard at the front of the room. I’ll have them take notes about what they saw and learned through the video. 



After the Trip

Afterwards, as we discuss what was learned through the virtual field trip, we will go back to our chalk talks. These are helpful to confirm or dispel what we thought we knew and to see if any of our questions were answered.

Virtual field trips are a great way to help students experience something inaccessible to them during the school day. Excitement is already building in my room for this trip. I hope your class will be able to take part as well!

Thanks for reading!



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