Since the book is a required text from the New Haven Public Schools curriculum, there was no choice for them not to read it, but the students did get a choice in what they were interested in learning more about. For the majority of the students, connect ability to the characters and time period were major priorities, with little emphasis placed on the background of the disease.
In this unit, the students’ questions will be answered and they will be able to draw conclusions about life in the turn of the century. The idea behind this unit originated from class critiques and book reviews that offered mixed reactions to the book. The feedback that I received from the students made me realize that if I wanted this book’s likeability to soar, then I had to teach other subject matter in addition to the book. It was also a goal to change the perspectives of the students about the book from utter dislike to pure love for the heroic scientists who risked their lives for medical research and science. Despite the grotesqueness of the introductory chapter, the book promised rich conversation and student discourse from start to finish about life in the early 1900’s.
As stated before, forming relationships with the characters and their stories is extremely important in being able to become a part of the experience of the book. My students were presented with great characters, portraits, and letters, but there was no meaning derived from them without the knowledge of the past. Once the students are given the framework, their understanding of the past becomes more applicable. Student-centered discussions can build upon prior knowledge, so that the students can filter out the information that is the most useful for them to use and teach others about.
The unit will include reading, writing, and researching topics surrounding yellow fever. The new background that the students will learn will enhance their close reading of the book. The new information is designed to get the students actively involved. Hopefully, it will invite connections to the real world and interpretations of life at this time period. The unit will appeal to students who are auditory learners, visual, kinesthetic, and linguistic learners because of the multiple resources that are being highlighted and used throughout the unit. The experience of the book will be richer once the students gain more insights about what they are interested in.