More Information About Fever 1793
This is the author’s official website. Have the students go to the computer lab and search this website. Have the class look up the novel Fever 1793 and read the summary and the book reviews within the site. Have the students also read her biography which is easily accessible on the same site. Then have the students in their groups prepare a 5 minute presentation on who Laurie Halse Anderson is and how she became a writer, but more importantly what events in her life might have prompted her to write this novel. A novel that is about a 13 year old girl who has to grow up quite quickly in order to take care of not only herself, but her grandfather and others. For fun have them include a section of the website that they found interesting and why. This will help the students see how authors can take experiences from their own lives and make them into a full novel. For example, Laurie Anderson was diagnosed with cancer at a certain point in her life. This is very relevant to the novel and Laurie Anderson has firsthand experience of the fright that a severe illness can inflict.
This website provides a list of a few vocabulary words that are commonly found in the novel along with a brief definition of each word. The words in the website include: keen, trough, miasma (a word used MANY times throughout the novel), destitute, larder, cooper, handbill, apothecary, slovenly, and scullery. The teacher might want to go over a list of other words before these words and discuss their importance to the time period. Then encourage the students to use the dictionary to help them with the work sheet where they will match the vocabulary word on the left to its definition on the right. After the students have completed the worksheet, discuss these words and their importance to the novel. Connect the words with the time period and the time period with the novel.
Students will describe a character’s traits based on what other characters say, think, and do. Discuss the importance of character description such as what they are wearing, how they act in certain situations, and what the main character (Mattie) says about them. The students will then write a half page description of any character in the novel based on what Mattie says about them and then another half page paper on what you personally think about that character. “How does the same character differ? How is the character the same? Is Mattie a reliable narrator? Should we take her opinion as fact? Then draw a picture of what you think this character looks like, remember that colors are important.” The students will be able to infer what they know about the time period and take their own conclusions couples with Mattie’s conclusions and make an accurate assumption about a given character. For example, Mattie’s mother seems like a harsh, strict, working woman. Mattie resents her mother because her mother makes her work hard, but her mother has a coffee house to run and Mattie has responsibilities.
McVey, Regina. GenDisasters. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Electricity Accident January 18, 1902. 2007. 22 Sept 2008. http://www.gendisasters.com/data1/pa/accidents/philadelphia-electricityaccjan1902.htm
Rag Linen. Rare and Historic Newspapers. 2008. 10 Oct 2008. http://raglinen.com/wp- content/uploads/2008/07/1790marchgus.jpg
Place the students in groups of two to three per group and have them brainstorm a name for their paper and have them write an article for this prompt, “You and [two] other colleagues at a Philadelphia newspaper in 1793 have been assigned the task of writing the last newspaper for what might be months. Your editor asks you to write a  page edition recounting the events of this hot summer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the people still surviving in the city. Your articles should demonstrate how the city coped and what was going on with people and businesses.” Remind the students to be creative in their approaches and how they put this newspaper together.
The second website is an old newspaper article. Have the students notice the sensory language and the tone of urgency and importance in the article. This article is VERY descriptive, perhaps too much so. This activity will help the students not only get a feel for sensory writing but also identify with the conflict that is currently going on in Mattie’s family and home life. Everything around her is suddenly changing for the worse.
The third is just a website with pictures of older newspapers that the teacher might want to pass around so the students can get an idea on how to present their newspapers.
University of Maryland Medical Center. Yellow Fever-Overview. 2008. 26 Sept. 2008. http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/001365.html.
This website discusses Yellow Fever in more depth. There are links to symptoms, treatment, prevention, etc. Discuss the difference between the way Yellow Fever was treated then and how it is treated now. The first article deals with how Yellow Fever was treated during the time of the novel. Discuss the dangers of Dr. Benjamin Rush’s treatment of bleeding the victim. The second article explains how Yellow Fever is dealt with today. Have the students write a short essay to this prompt, “Why do you think Yellow Fever was so feared? Put yourself in Mattie’s position and write a short one page, hand written diary entry on your feelings throughout this whole ordeal.
Language has changed dramatically since the time period of Matilda Cook. Discuss with the class how and why language changes throughout time and place. The students will keep a dictionary of unusual words and phrases that they will add to every time they come across an unfamiliar word or phrase. Have the students also create a dictionary with unusual words and phrases they use today and where they might come from. Have the students share one or two of these phrases with the class. The above website is where I found this activity. This activity will help the students understand why and how language changes which also helps in the understanding of the time period in which the story takes place. Some examples might include: stays (p. 3); the necessary (p. 24); ninny (p. 33); flagstones (p. 35); mucky (p. 69); headed for a lark (p. 76). As the students come upon words/phrases like these, have them search up the definition in the encyclopedia and/or dictionary.
This website has many more ideas for discussion questions. The one I used was, “Mattie’s grandfather didn’t think there was any need to rush out of Philadelphia when the fever started to spread. Why did some people think it was safe to stay? What would you have done?” Divide the students into groups and have one half argue points for staying and one half argue points for leaving. This will help the students understand why some people might have stayed and why some people might have left for the country.
This site has a huge list of book report activities for all ages. It’s a good site to help you start brainstorming some fun activities.
Rubrician.com. PBL Project Based Learning: Written Report Checklist. 2000. Oct. 1 2008. http://4teachers.org/projectbased/912wrt.shtml
This website is very helpful when coming up with a grading rubric that you could give the students to help their writing and overall syntax. You can add or subtract to the already posted rubrics according to your own classroom needs.
After the students read the novel have them do a book report. The students will respond to one of these prompts:
“Imagine that you are the author of the book you have just read. Suddenly the book becomes a best seller. Write a letter to a movie producer trying to get that person interested in making your book into a movie. Explain why the story, characters, conflicts, etc., would make a good film. Suggest a filming location and the actors to play the various roles."
“Interview a character from your book. Write at least ten questions that will give the character the opportunity to discuss his/her thoughts and feelings about his/her role in the story.” You need to have a concluding paragraph that makes sense of your questions. They need to have a point! “Write a feature article (with a headline) that tells the story of the book as it might be found on the front page of a newspaper in the town where the story takes place.” Instead of telling the story as a summary, have the student choose a scene or event from the story in order for it to be more detailed. Again, include a concluding paragraph summing up the main point of the article. Depending on what you are focusing on in the classroom is where you can direct the book reports. For example if the students are struggling with sensory language, have them focus on that in their book reports. Challenge the students to be creative and go beyond book summary.
Have the students pre-write: “when do you think Mattie made the transition from child to adult. Was it when she had to flee with her grandfather? Was it when she recuperated from the illness herself? Was it when she watched her grandfather die? Was it when she found Nellie?” Mattie has had to take on a lot at a young age. There are many pivotal moments in the novel where it is obvious that Mattie is taking that step into adulthood. “What are some moments in your life that made you realize that you are no longer a little kid?” Include specific examples from the novel and expound. Then discuss what the children wrote. Include textual evidences such as page 213 “I glanced at Eliza. ‘May I go?’ ‘You don’t need my permission,’ Eliza said. She was right. I could choose for myself.” Etc.
Explain the plot outline: Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. Draw the classic diagram on the board and have the students give examples of each of these from Fever 1793. This is a helpful site for teaching plot structure. I would use a couple of the main points and then have the students read another short story and use these terms to explain and define the plot. The exposition would be the setting, time and place of the story, the set up. Rising action could be argued that the rising action started when Polly died. Climax is when Mattie’s grandfather dies and it seems that she is destined to be alone and things can’t possibly get worse. Then the falling action is when Mattie finds Elisa and they are able to move back home into the coffee house and start a new life for themselves. The resolution can be argued to be either when the frost comes and kills the disease, or when Mattie’s mother walks through the door.