Historical Fiction: A Wealth of Interpretations
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Students will learn about historical fiction as a writing genre. They will take historical context into account when reading, to better understand the motivations and actions of the characters.
- contrast different points of view and note the change in perspective as the character's life experiences change.
- Two contrasting class sets of the Dear America books or My America books. You may want to try the following titles:
- Construction paper to be used as an "album" at the end of the unit
- Magazines, drawing paper, colored pencils, etc. for the students to use for their "albums"
Set Up and Prepare
- Venn diagrams to compare and contrast the two books (or the changes in the character's point of view)
- If you use the Dear America or My America books, set up literature circles for students to discuss the books. Make sure your role for each member is clear.
- Set up a binder for students to respond to prompts or their roles in literature circles and keep all the information in one place.
- If you use George Washington's Socks, set up questions or prompts you would like the students to respond to.
Step 1: Assess prior knowledge. For example, in the two Dear America books noted above, make sure the students know about the Civil War. What were the issues? Why did they fight? This is perfect when studying the Civil War in social studies.
Step 2: Divide your students into literature circles. They should already have had experience with this type of literature learning. If you prefer teaching full class, then use George Washington 's Socks as your literature book.
Step 3: Hand out the Dear America books (or George Washington 's Socks). Have the students discuss what they can predict from the illustrations alone.
Step 1: Either have the students read and respond to the books through literature circles or read and discuss the books as a class.
Step 2: Every other day, students respond in their binders to the book they are reading, either by doing their literature circle role or by responding to questions or prompts that the teacher provides.
Step 3: Have students use Venn diagrams to compare and contrast the two books or the changes in Matt's perception of the different "sides" in the American Revolution as the plot develops.
Step 4: As a culminating activity, students can write diary entries that would come after the end of their book. An alternate or additional activity can be creating a photo or drawn picture scrapbook reflecting what they have read. Since photography was used in the Civil War, they may choose to do this as photos or they can keep an artist's journal, using drawings. Their photos can be drawings, cut out pictures from magazines, computer pictures, or staged photos of their own. For each one, they need to have an entry, explaining what the photo or drawing shows. (This can be finished as homework.)
One fun extension for this activity is to use folk songs to show point of view. The most apparent one is "Yankee Doodle." Teach your students the song if they don't already know it. Then discuss how originally it was sung by the British to make fun of Americans, since a "doodle" meant a fool. However, the Americans took it over, changed the words, and made it into an anthem of sorts, turning the tables on the British.
- Literature Circle binder entries responding to the book read
- Culminating "picture" project
- Did the students' responses and discussion show that they understood how history is seen differently, depending on the point of view of the character?
- Did their written projects reflect their understanding of historical point of view?
- Were students engaged and focused during the work times?
- Were students able to see the differences between the two points of view in the diaries? (Dear America or My America)
- Did students see how Matt's perception of the soldiers fighting in the American Revolution changed once he actually participated in it? (George Washington's Socks)
- Students' success with Literature Circle binder entries
- Students' success with diary entries, using the point of view of the character
- Student success with artist's journals or photo albums relating to the story