This week, in preparation for the first novel study of the school year, AIM seventh graders developed background knowledge related to Fever 1793 by Lisa Halse Anderson. Students worked together to construct mosquito traps that they placed on window sills and near plants outside on the AIM patio. In the days leading up to the "reveal", students have made predictions about the contents of their traps and plausibility of methods such as these for preventing exposure to yellow fever (the epidemic featured in this book based in Philadelphia in 1793). The traps project is one of the many alternative questioning method Language Arts teachers are using to guide students toward answering questions related to the novel such as: "Was the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 avoidable?" and "What methods of prevention were available to the citizens of 1793 Philadelphia?"
AIM's approach to core novel instruction is unique in that the development of background knowledge is imbedded into the curriculum. Students are provided with ample opportunities to make real world connections to what they read and to access prior knowledge. Literature such as Fever 1793 is selected because of its rich historical nature and the opportunities for interdisciplinary instruction.
Providing students with a hands-on, collaborative learning project helps them to start talking with each other about topics covered in the book and also helps develop important critical thinking skills, explained Middle School Teacher Heather Wong. As students got to know each other during this new school year they were required to identify the guiding principles of working with a group and had to read instructions and follow directions while making their traps out of recycled soda bottles, brown sugar, yeast, and water.
Additional hands-on activities and projects are planned during students' reading and discussion of Fever 1793 including stations where students present information related to the foods, culture, and vocabulary of the book. The traps will remain in place on the patio for the time being protecting our outdoor classroom space from pesky mosquitoes.