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Posts tagged ‘historical fiction’

Tip of the Week: 25 moments that changed history

I ran across an article on my Flipboard from Time the other day. Titled “25 Moments that Changed America,” the article highlights “instances big and small that cleared the way for something greater to come after. Many of those moments are easy to name: the assassinations, the invasions, the elections. Many are more subtle, their impact visible only in hindsight.”

You see lists like this every once in a while. With some sites, it seems as if that’s all you see. But I click on them anyway. I think we all do. I’m pretty sure there’s some part of the brain that is attracted to lists. So don’t judge my title.

As history folks, we’re especially drawn to that sort of list because, well . . . we’re nerds. We like history trivia. We like learning. We like connecting pieces of the past to the present. So of course we read the list. You’re probably over there right now.

But I also hope that you’re drawn to the list because you know that it might be the foundation for a great lesson or activity.  Read more

OurStory – American History stories and activities

A project of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, OurStory is designed to help children and adults enjoy exploring history together through children’s literature, everyday objects, and hands-on activities.

The National Museum of American History and the National Center for Family Literacy are teaming up on OurStory projects. They are working together to help make reading historical fiction more fun and educational.

The OurStory programs are designed to:

  • teach children about history through the use of objects, documents, oral histories, and quality children’s literature
  • improve student attitudes about reading through exposure to quality children’s literature and the opportunity to own books
  • Foster an environment in which participants of different generations and cultural backgrounds interact, share, learn from one another, and begin to see themselves as part of American history.
  • Broaden participants’ understanding of the history of diverse communities and cultures within the United States.

You’ll find 20 different American history activity sets with recommended books, teaching materials, and engaging activities all focused around historical fiction. You can also find useful links to other history / literacy sites.

Handy stuff!

Tip of the Week – Children’s Lit with a Social Studies Theme

I get to spend the next two days hanging out with other history nerds at the National Council for History Education national conference in Kansas City. The theme this year is

Reading the Past: Literature and Literacy in History

I’ve always been a big believer in the power of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and really just about any sort of text to teach history and social studies. Textbooks are useful in their own way but we do our kids a disservice when we limit their contact with other forms of text.

The problem? It can sometimes be hard finding good fiction and non-fiction resources. So today two awesome places to go to find literature and trade books to use with your kids.

One of the best is the National Council for the Social Studies Notable Trade Books site. Every year, the NCSS selects a few hundred tradebooks, aligns them to their 10 social studies themes, provides a handy annotation, and shoots them out to use. You can download PDF versions of their selections from the last ten years. The books are almost all grades K-8.

The University of Delaware does something similar with their Children’s Literature with Social Studies Themes page. They have divided their books into four categories: History, Civics, Geography, and Economics. You’ll find hundreds of books broken down by grade level, K-6.

Have fun!

Fiction, poetry, and teaching history

I watch the wagon
until I see nothing on the open plain.
For the first time ever,
I am alone.

May B

I am a huge believer in having kids read and write as much as possible while in history class. And one of the best ways to engage kids is to have them read fiction, especially poetry and verse.

One of the best examples of historical fiction in a poetry format is Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Out of the Dust is an incredible story that sucks in middle school readers as it describes the life of 14-year -old Billie Jo in Dust Bowl Oklahoma.

If you’re a bit unsure about how to incorporate this poetry book into your class, use supporting materials such as Literature Guide: Out of the Dust or A Guide for Using Out of the Dust in the Classroom. Another great way to integrate Out of the Dust is to have kids compare and contrast the historical fiction content with a non-fiction book such as Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp.

But Out of the Dust is not alone anymore.

A recent book by Caroline Starr Rose titled May B also does an excellent job of capturing the emotions of history students. While Out of the Dust spends its time in the 1930s, May B focuses on the late 1800s Kansas prairie and helps provide a rich context to the Western movement.

May is helping out on a neighbor’s homestead—just until Christmas, her pa promises. But a terrible turn of events leaves her all alone and she must try to find food and fuel—and courage—to make it through the approaching winter.

It seemed like a great book for any class studying regions, Kansas History, and US History. But I needed an expert. So I asked my wife, an experienced elementary/middle level teacher, for her opinion.

I loved May B. The writing is vivid and beautiful. It captures the severe and sometimes terrible beauty of the Kansas prairies but also beautifully portrays a girl struggling to embrace who she is. This middle level book shares what life was like during this period in Kansas history and is captivating to the end. It would be perfect for reading aloud in class, perfect for grades 4-8, and perfect for a family to enjoy together.

The author has created a handy teacher’s guide helpful for integrating the book and its content into your class.

I’m curious. What other poetry and verse historical fiction are we missing? What do you use?

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Historical fiction

Was scrolling through some older Twitter feeds and ran across what looks like an incredible site. Kimberlin Hurson has put together a huge database of historical fiction books organized by topic and geographic region.

Kimberlin’s put together sections on:

  • Ancient civilizations
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Europe
  • South America
  • Mexico
  • United States

with almost 100 sub-categories.

Most of the books seem to fit a K-6 audience but I’ve haven’t had a ton of time to dive very deep into the database.

But trust me, pretty sweet list!

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