Life Day by Day
Author: Catharine Niuzzo Honaman

Time: 1- 2 classes
Preparation Time: 1 hour to read lesson and to make copies for students of excerpts from Samuel Pepys’s diary at www.SchoolHistory.co.uk
Materials: Excerpts from Samuel Pepys’s diary at www.SchoolHistory.co.uk

Students will read selected passages from the diary of Samuel Pepys who lived in London in the 1660’s during the devastation of the plague. Students will describe what Pepys personally witnessed and then compare his observations with the passage from Year of Wonders. “Ring around the Rosie” and the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin will then be discussed in light of the plague.

This is the explain lesson. Students will analyze passages from a first person account of the plague to see how disease in a community affects every aspect of life.

Students will be able to:
1. Read a passage from a piece of historical literature with understanding;
2. Make connections between the piece of literature and concepts being learned in history and science classes;
3. Identify words and phrases that are unique historical words and phrases to the literary passage.

National English Education Standards
Standard #2
Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions of human experience.

Arizona State Standards

Strand 1: Concept 4
PO 3. Determine how the meaning of the text is affected by the writer’s word choice.

Strand 1: Concept 6
PO 4. Connect information and events in text to experience and to related text and sources.

Strand 2: Concept 2
PO 1. Describe the historical and cultural aspects found in cross-cultural works of literature.

Teacher Background
It would be good to read the diary of Samuel Pepys and a little about how London was affected by the plague.

Related and Resource Websites
www.SchoolHistory.co.uk (The web site where the Samuel Pepys diary can be found)



1. While it is sometimes challenging for us to connect to the thoughts of authors who have written in the past because the grammar, vocabulary, and even mindset can be so different from our own, there is something very compelling and immediate about diaries. Perhaps people in any age let down their guard a little bit more when writing in such an intimate format. Ask the students to imagine what people three hundred years from now might think as they read their thoughts written in a diary or journal. Ask the students what they write about, or might write about in their diaries. What is most interesting, how do the events in the news affect them or the actions of those around them? Do they think that they live in a historically important time now?

2. Begin by asking the students to write down all the areas of life that might be affected by an epidemic hitting a large city. Compare lists. Then have the students read passages from Samuel Pepys’s diary. Use the excerpts from his diary at: www.SchoolHistory.co.uk . Have the students write down examples from Pepys’s diary that fit into the categories they brainstormed at the beginning of the lesson. They may add to the list as they read if they find areas they did not initially think of. Also ask them to write down words and phrases that give us a glimpse into Pepys’s feelings and emotional response to the horrors that are a part of his daily life. How is his approach to writing about this calamity different than how you might write about it in your diary? Are there things you know about the plague from both a scientific and historical perspective that Samuel Pepys did not know even though he was living in the midst of it?

3. On August 31 Samuel Pepys writes that it is estimated that 10,000 people died in London. Discuss with the students the impact this would have on your city or your state. What services would be affected? What would happen to the morale of the people? How do people cope with that much death?

4. Images and references to the plague are still with us. Ask the students if anyone can recite “Ring around the Rosey” or tell the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Students should have an "aha” moment at these allusions now. “Ring around the Rosey” actually describes the symptoms of the plague and how quickly a person dies from it. The story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin relates to the need of communities to rid themselves of plague carrying rats.
Embedded Assessment

Both the written work and the class discussions offer opportunities to evaluate how well the students are engaging the objectives of the lesson. The last question of the class discussion (What images in both pieces will stay with them?) could be used as a brief written assignment for which students could be graded on both proper use of written language and effectively backing up their opinions with clear examples from the text.


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

1996-2007, The University of Arizona
Last update: November 10, 2009
  Page Content: Rachel Hughes
Web Master: Travis Biazo