When reading the work of Susan Beth Pfeffer, my classes are split in half: some of the students read The Dead and the Gone and the rest read Life As We Knew It. When we get to the end of the books, I want to do something besides just a boring test. This assessment is what I've used for two years and it works really well.
Here's an except from the sheet:
In both of Susan Pfeffer’s novels, the main characters struggle to adjust to life after a natural disaster disrupts every aspect of “life as they knew it”. Miranda and her family as well as Alex and his family both wrestle with changes in their daily routine, loss of loved ones, uncertainty about the future, hunger, sickness, and survival. The challenges that both Miranda and Alex face are not unfamiliar to us today. In cities and towns all over the world, people struggle to survive all different types of unexpected changes in their lives. You will read an article that focuses on a person or group of people who have encountered unusual, unexpected, or even life-altering events, just like Miranda and Alex.
Attached to this handout are one of six different articles along with a word cloud that I created for the article. I switch the articles up from year to year - being a teacher on the east coast, this was a good year to compare disasters in the books to Hurricane Sandy.
Please note that due to copyright restrictions, I am not able to include the actual text of the articles that I use, however, this document contains links to the articles. Feel free to substitute your own: all it takes is a quick Google search for any of the concepts from the books.
Links to websites to create word clouds are also included: feel free to make your own or eliminate that step from the student work.
If you do not teach both of the novels, this assessment would work perfectly for just one of the books. It does not have to be in a mixed setting.
My 8th grade students complete this over the course of three 56 minute class periods. Their final product is six short-answer questions and two thoughtful paragraphs. It is highly engaging and requires the students to relate these fictional stories to our own world. It's always a home run in my room.
Also included in this bundle is an extension activity I offer to my students (could be used for extra credit or an additional assessment). It asks them to use the website ready.gov to create a disaster preparedness plan for their family.