Why do I enjoy teaching historical fiction? It gives me more bang for my buck. As my class studies history, we read stories with similar settings. This way, students gain a better understanding of the time period.
How to Enjoy Teaching Historical Fiction
Spread historical fiction over the entire year. Teach the elements at the beginning of the year. Then pair great books with your history units. Historical fiction brings history to life!
Start with the elements.
Use picture books often.
This is a quick and easy way to make learning more fun. Read historical fiction aloud as you study events in history. Kids love it!
Where can you find the books?
- School librarians are a great resource. Just ask!
- Read Me a Story, Ink offers printable stories, as well as several stories to listen to. For example, “A New Day Dawning” by Joyce Hansen explores the dilemma faced by former slaves at the end of the Civil War. The story is available as an audio file (17 minutes) and in text form.
- The Indianapolis Public Library posted a list of 19 historical fiction picture books.
Discuss story elements or have students write out answers on one of these sheets.
Pair longer novels with key units.
By the time I reach the mid-1800’s in history, I’m ready to teach a novel. Many times I also use one for World War II. My favorite books are listed below.
- Pioneer Times: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder – This classic children’s book is set in the woods of Wisconsin. It focuses on everyday life of a pioneer family. The book level is 5.3, but the author’s simple storytelling makes it accessible to younger/lower readers.
- Slavery: Meet Addy by Connie Porter – This short book from the American Girls series can be read aloud or used for a short novel unit. It introduces Addy, a slave, and chronicles her escape to freedom. The book level is 4.0.
- Abolition: By Freedom’s Light by Elizabeth O’Maley – Set in Richmond, Indiana, this book mixes real and fictional characters. Sarah, a thirteen-year-old girl believes that helping runaway slaves is wrong. Then she finds out her stepmother is an abolitionist! The Indiana Historical Society has published a free teaching unit for this book, which is suitable for grades 4-6.
- World War II in Europe: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry – This poignant story of two Danish friends during the Holocaust is sure to thrill your students. Its contents and book level are appropriate for fourth grade and up.
- World War II in Asia: Elephant Run by Roland Smith – Nick Freestone lives in London during World War II. His mom decides it’s too dangerous there for him. She sends him to Burma to live with his dad. But the danger has just begun! This longer book (336 pages) is full of adventure. Kids in grades 4-6 will love it.
Are you looking for more historical fiction novels? Bookworm for Kids has put together an annotated list of historical fiction books. You can also take a look at my Pinterest board, Historical Fiction. For each book, I include book level, number of Accelerated Reader points, pages, and price. New titles continue to be added.
Integrate pictures and videos.
Students have trouble visualizing objects and activities from the past. Photos, drawings, and videos help. Check out my storage system for Little House in the Big Woods. These photos and videos are organized in a Google site, but you can link to a document just as easily.
I post new ideas, activities, and free downloads every week. Click here for an index (and to see what’s coming soon!)
Enjoy teaching historical fiction!