Teaching Historical Fiction – Genre Study That’s Popular with Kids

Teaching historical fiction genre study gives you more bang for your buck. As your class studies history, they read stories with similar settings. This way, students gain a better understanding of the time period.

Ms. Sneed Teaches Another Genre of Literature

“Good morning, everyone,” called Ms. Sneed. “Today we’re getting started on our historical fiction genre study.” A few kids smiled, a few grimaced, and some just squirmed in their seats.

Teaching Historical Fiction Elements

“Has anyone ever read a book in this genre?” asked Ms. Sneed.

One child in the front row tentatively raised his hand. “I read a book about the Mercury space program,” he said.

“Hmm, how can we determine if it was really historical fiction?” the teacher queried.

“Well, you said historical, and the book was about history,” said the boy.

“Great! But it’s also fiction, so what else?”

Ms. Sneed worked with the kids until they had a pretty good list. Then she displayed this anchor chart. “In the coming days, we’ll be reading some historical fiction picture books. As you read, look for realistic characters, settings, and events. Remember, however, that some things were made up.”

Teaching historical fiction? Use this anchor chart to teach elements.
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Gathering Historical Fiction Picture Book

That afternoon, Ms. Sneed visited the school library. “I’d like to check out 40 books,” she grinned at Mrs. Vance.

“What? Again? You sure keep this library in business,” the librarian responded. “What do you need?”

“I’m teaching historical fiction and looking for picture books.”

“Hmm.” Mrs. Vance clicked away on her computer. “Here’s a list of 50 historical fiction picture books from Book Riot. We have most of these books. Let’s start there.”

The two educators headed to the shelves. As they searched for the books on the list, each of them found a few more.

“That’s 25. We still need 15 more, said Ms. Sneed.

Mrs. Vance’s eyes twinkled. “I happen to have a few more favorites.” In no time, the pile reached 40 books.

“Thanks so much!” Ms. Sneed called as she rolled the library cart out the door.

Letting Kids Read Books They Like

When the kids arrived at school the next day, a table full of books greeted them. Of course, everyone gathered around and picked their favorites.

“Alright, guys, let’s get settled down so we can read!” hollered Ms. Sneed. “Each of you can select a book and sit where you’d like. When you finish, I’d like you to think about the elements of the historical fiction genre once more. Then, please record them on this organizer.”

When teaching historical fiction, focus on elements with this organizer.

For several days, Ms. Sneed’s class enjoyed historical fiction books. Some days they recorded elements on a table; other days they answered questions. And sometimes they just read for fun.

Kids answer questions about characters, setting, plot, and history when reading historical fiction.

Step 4: Teaching Historical Fiction (and History!) Using Novels

By this time, Ms. Sneed was teaching the mid-1800’s in history, and she wanted to give her students a taste of pioneer life.

One morning, she held up a copy of Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. “Yep. We’re going to read this novel,” she told her class. Everyone sat up taller. “And – you’ll love this part – all of your assignments will be on an interactive website. You can access it from your Chromebooks.” They all cheered.

“Let’s take a look at a few of the features.” Ms. Sneed displayed the website on the Smartboard. “The site asks you to discuss or answer questions, explore figurative language, and even watch videos. But one of the things I love the most is the visual dictionary. Here’s an example.”

Teach Little House in the Big Woods digitally. This unit focuses on pioneer vocabulary.

A few days later, the principal walked in for a quick observation of Ms. Sneed’s ELA block. Right away, she noticed little bodies sprawled out on the floor. Some were reading; some gathered around Chromebooks and discussed. Everyone was very, very busy. “Hey, what’s going on here?” she laughed.

“Just a little merging of the 19th and 21st centuries,” joked Ms. Sneed. As she explained about teaching historical fiction genre study, a small smile spread across her face.

Teaching Genre Studies

Whether you’re teaching historical fiction, realistic fiction, mysteries, mythologies, or fables, genre studies engage students like never before. When you scaffold learning from elements to short stories to full-length novels, kids have fun while improving their reading skills.

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