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NCHE Session I – Using Historical Fiction to Create a Literacy Rich Room

I’ve never been to the National Council for History Education national conference. But this year it’s in Kansas City and we were able to budget a trip through our Teaching American History project.

People told me that the NCHE conference is different from other social studies and history conferences because:

the NCHE conference is really just a bunch of history nerds.

So . . . should be good, these are my people. But they truly aren’t messing around. It’s the earliest start to any conference I’ve ever attended. They kick off at 8:00 am and keep it rocking until almost 6:00.

I’ll be posting updates throughout the next few days as best I can. The coffee is helping right now but not sure I’ll be able to keep up. These guys are serious.

The first session is focusing on ways to integrate historical fiction into your classroom.

Why historical fiction?

  • stimulates interest
  • natural bridge between social studies and language arts / humanities
  • develops personal meaning
  • models good writing
  • passion
  • offers a balance between the traditional focus in history on non-fiction

How does the process work?

Introduce different types of historical fiction – biography, poetry, mystery, fables, folklore, fantasy, narrative, graphic novels

Model research questions:

  • In the story, who is real, invented, and/or realistic?
  • What questions does the story leave unanswered about the past?
  • Are the protagonist and his experiences ordinary or extraordinary for the time?
  • If the character shows growth, what led to this?

Facilitate historical research and lead discussion:

  • What type of research has the author used to prepare the account?
  • What other baggage does the author bring to the table? Journalist, novelist, historian? From what period did the author come from? From where?
  • What audience is the author trying to reach? Does this influence the book’s content? Is bias necessary a bad thing?
  • What other sources are available on the subject?

Assign and guide project completion:

  • Must connect the fiction and actual historical context
  • drama
  • Fake Facebook page
  • Letter to main character / teacher replies / other students can also reply
  • Write to the author
  • Travel brochures to the setting
  • Book jackets
  • Movie poster
  • Critque the decisions of a character
  • Book reviews
  • “Live” interviews of a character or author

Find more resources, ideas, and book lists on the presenters Weebly page.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ann Wright #

    I was at the session too. While I thought it was helpful, I came away a bit disappointed. I guess I was looking for more detailed ways, including titles, to use in my AP class. Glad to see you blogging about “us” history nerds.

    March 23, 2012
    • glennw #


      I don’t teach in the classroom anymore but I will always be a history nerd! I was also hoping for some specifics – it seemed a bit generic. Was glad to see that they have a site with access to a book list. Haven’t had time to scan through it yet, hoping for some useful things.

      I did like some of the conversation about the types of questions we can use with kids before and during fiction reading.

      Thanks for the comment!


      March 23, 2012

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