When Norman Ollestad was 11 years old, he was the sole survivor of a Cessna airplane crash in the mountains north of Los Angeles. Last week, one of my freshmen finished Ollestad’s memoir, Crazy for the Storm, and was so enthusiastic during our SSR book talk that I felt compelled to research Ollestad and find out more about the 1979 crash that killed his father, his father’s girlfriend, and the airplane’s pilot.

I haven’t read Ollestad’s book (a New York Times bestseller, by the way), but I was sucked in by a podcast interview he gave back in 2014. If you’re looking for a high-interest activity, you might want to have your kids go here and have a listen.

A word of warning:
The language of the podcast is clean, but Ollestad does use the word “screwed” once. As the plane is about to crash, he says, “When I saw the tree…I knew we were screwed. I mean, I knew we were going to crash into the trees.” The description of the crash site is not overly gruesome and the podcast is appropriate for advanced middle school and high school students.

The book, my freshman reports, does have some f-bombs and awkward sexual stuff, so keep that in mind. Still, a glowing review came from a kid who doesn’t like reading all that much, and I was happy to see his enthusiasm.

You could listen to the Unfictional podcast as a class or have kids plug in their devices to listen individually. Then, discuss the program or use the materials I built to add more structure and rigor to the lesson. These print-and-teach worksheets also include sub plan instructions, in case you need someone else to run the show.

Teach on, everyone!

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Hi Laura Quick question For SSR- wasn’t it only fiction for SSR?

    Suzanne Sosa


  2. Hi Suzanne,
    Yes, usually it is, but I do allow non-fiction texts that use a narrative treatment. Kids just need to get those books approved by me ahead of time. Books like Crazy for the Storm, Unbroken, The Glass Castle, etc., always get approved. 🙂


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high school English, middle school, non-fiction, print and teach, sub plans, Uncategorized


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