On Friday, June 2nd, the first Book Talk between School #8’s sixth graders and Mrs. Horowitz’s AP United States History students took place in the OHS Library. The students discussed Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793, which takes place in Philadelphia during a yellow fever outbreak. The book tells the story of fourteen year-old Matilda as she endures the epidemic and copes with uncertainty and loss. Although the book has an overall sombre mood, Fever 1793 teaches valuable life and historical lessons that provoked conversation in the Book Talk.
The format of the event modeled the Book Talk that took place in April between the tenth grade Integrated English and World History students and their parents. The students formed groups in circles and both sixth and eleventh graders asked questions and conversed about the book. The conversations were also completely student-run, as Mrs. Horowitz describes, “In these moments, you really have to let go as a teacher and allow the students to take full ownership of the experience.” Despite the age difference, the discussions were well-balanced between the two grades.
The juniors were highly impressed by the sixth graders, as Ashley Bentsen recalls, “The sixth graders were insightful far beyond their years, and I think the questions asked were relevant, detailed, and made for great conversation.”
The sixth graders also enjoyed the banter, as Arielle Benjamin recounts, “It’s amazing how two completely different age groups can collaborate together to make something unforgettable. Listening to each other share their ideas and thoughts was incredible.”
This experience has been a unique one because students would not ordinarily be able to discuss a book that is suitable for both sixth and eleventh graders. Overall, the Book Talk was a success. Mrs. Cibrano says, “The level of discussion in each of the groups was amazing, and it is our plan to do it again next year based on all of the positive feedback that we received!” To hear some of the discussions that went on, click below. (WARNING: the audio clip may contain spoilers!)
Thank you to Mrs. Horowitz, Mrs. Cibrano, and Mrs. Cleary for organizing this Book Talk.