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Encourage your students to be intrigued by subjects from the past, especially those that had a profound impact on the individual. One such subject, the Black Death, is mentioned in tales such as Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Years, Boccaccio’s The Decameron, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and Poe’s “The Mask of the Red Death.” As a result, students wish to understand more about this pandemic that swept across Europe and other parts of the world. Although topics such as the plague are mentioned in social studies texts, because of time constraints, the information provided is minimal. This product is designed to ensure that students have an opportunity for a much richer experience when reading classical, as well as contemporary, literature.
The reading passage, although based on well-documented facts, is written as literary nonfiction. A sub-genre of nonfiction, this type writing serves two purposes: to inform and entertain. Through its use of literary devices and carefully selected sensory vocabulary, the passage's setting allows the reader to imagine the culture, climate, and historical era of the events discussed. These include the Black Death pandemic, the Dancing Plague, and the Flagellant Movement. Its domain-specific vocabulary is based on the theme of epidemiology.
The passage also allows students to see the real-life connection by discussing the importance of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the role of epidemiologists, and the status of the disease today. It does so in a sensitive manner appropriate for youth, without the use of unpleasant details. Moreover, it requires no teacher preparation other than reading over the materials provided.
“The Black Death: An Ongoing Search for Truth” is designed especially for ninth and tenth grade. Its SAT vocabulary is at the 10th-grade level. However, this high-interest topic will likely appeal to grades nine-through-twelve. It contains the following resource components.
• an anticipatory set
• a thirty-seven slide PowerPoint presentation focusing on the importance of using
primary sources and enriched with vibrant photographs
• SAT and domain-specific vocabulary embedded within the reading passage and with
definitions and parts of speech provided
• a reading comprehension quiz with answer key
• a fill-in-the-blank vocabulary assignment with answer key
• five optional vocabulary review strategies including a word chart, games, and
crossword puzzle with answer key
• a final vocabulary quiz with answer key
• a mini-lesson and short assignment in creative writing
Common Core Alignment
Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details..
Analyze how an author's ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text.
Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text, and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literary nonfiction at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience's knowledge of the topic.
This language arts product is divided into two parts. The first is a PowerPoint presentation consisting of thirty-seven slides and accompanied by a suggested anticipatory set. The second is a seventeen-page unit divided into ten separate lessons, with the time required to teach each of those lessons varying from fifteen-to-forty-five minutes. None of the lessons require the instructor to have advanced knowledge of the topic, and all are easy to teach. However, it is advisable to look through the lessons before teaching it so that if questions arise, you will be prepared to answer them.
The components are designed to be taught in approximately three hours and twenty minutes over a six-day period. This time frame is based on studies that indicate vocabulary is learned best through frequent repetition. However, if you choose to lessen the teaching time, it is easy to eliminate any or all of Parts VI through IX. These are games and activities added to allow students to internalize and become comfortable using the vocabulary. For those who choose to use all the activities, a suggested schedule, one which can easily be modified, is included.
Scientists concur that a contagion, the disease-producing organism, Yersinia pestis, brought about those deaths. This community of lethal microbes had thrived for millennia within the rodent populations, the rats and marmots of Asia. Now it had awakened with a savagery unimaginable to its future victims. Like other of the world’s massive outbreaks of illnesses, scientists consider these occurrences epidemics. However, this disease refused to remain confined to one area or community. Instead, it spread across Europe and Asia, evolving into a pandemic, one which caused the deaths of nearly 1.5 million people in Europe alone.