Genre Lesson: Historical Fiction
Riding Freedom | 720L
- Learning Goal
- Identify historical terms in historical fiction.
- Approximately 1 Day (60 minutes); Independent Practice-Ongoing
- Necessary Materials
- Provided: Guess that Era Card Clues, The Elements of Historical Fiction Handout, Reading Passage: “The Year Was 1972”, Reading Passage: “The British Are Coming”, History Detectives Worksheet (Student Packet, page 2)
Not Provided: Scissors, Riding Freedom by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Activation & Motivation
Divide students into two teams to play “Guess that Era.” Write “Present,” “History” and “Future” on the board or chart paper. In each round, have students select a Guess that Era Card Clue from one of the following categories: Places, People, Cultural Artifacts, Events, and Language. There are two clues in each category—one clue for each team. After each round of card selection, have students confer with their team to identify the time period using their card clues (recent, old or very old). If they are not yet sure, have them pick a card from a new category. Students should put their cards together. One group will select the past and the other will select the present. They will discuss how the elements are clues to uncovering the time period.
will introduce the genre of our next book—“Historical Fiction.” I will define Historical Fiction as: Historical Fiction is an invented story that takes place in the historical past. I will record the definition on chart paper. What is the historical past? Works of Historical Fiction did not take place just yesterday (though yesterday is in the past), they took place in the distant or historical past, when the world was different than it is now. For example, the Disney movie Pocahontas took place in the historical past, before the United States of America was a nation. I will explain that Historical Fiction is meant to capture the essence of the conditions of people living in a specific time period. It is the job of a good reader to identify the historical details and distinguish them from the purely fictional ones, to better understand the backdrop of the novel. Historical details can be found as terms and phrases in the text that are specific to the real past.
What kind of historical terms and phrases can you find in a text? Just like in our “Guess that Era Game,” we are going to pay attention to the elements of Historical Fiction: People, Places, Cultural Artifacts, Events, and Slang/Language from the past. I will distribute The Elements of Historical Fiction Handout and review the elements of Historical Fiction and the corresponding examples on the handout. After guiding students through each element and example, I will explain that sometimes, I will read about fictional characters, but I will discover many cultural artifacts from that time. In other stories, I may read about real historical characters, but the dialogue will be invented and made up. As a reader of Historical Fiction, I will try to identify which terms and details are historical.
How do I identify which terms and details in Historical Fiction are historical? First, I will examine an unknown term in the story—this can be a person, place, thing, or phrase. For example, I will ask myself if a person in the story impacted history. Is a place made up, or is it significant to a historical time period? Did an event actually happen in the past and is it important in history? Do these cultural artifacts and phrases help me create a strong vision for the time period of the story (how people spoke, or what they wore/listened to/used on a daily basis)? One good question to ask myself if I am not sure is, “Do we have or do this today?” Finally, I will use the context around the sentence to help me determine what kind of historical term this is: a historical setting, person, place, event, or way of speaking. I will classify the term or phrase according to the historical element.
I will model distinguishing terms as historical or fictional, and classifying them according to their historical element with the short reading passage, “The Year was 1972.”First, I will ask myself, is Daniel Johnston a historical character? No, I don’t think so. In this story, he does not impact history, but instead observes it. Is his college dorm a historical place? No, there are still college dormitory rooms today, and there isn’t enough information in the text to determine whether it is an important dorm.
Then, I will ask myself, “Are his bell-bottom pants historically important?” Yes. They were once a popular style of clothing in the 1970s, and people who wear this style today are trying to imitate the past. This is a detail that helps me create a strong vision of the time period in which the story takes place, so I will write an “H” in the sidebar of my passage to indicate that the detail is a historical term and classify it as a cultural artifact. I will continue to identify historical terms in the passage and then classify them as events (Vietnam War), people (hippies), cultural artifacts (The Beatles, Volkswagen bugs), by identifying the element and recording an “H” next to the terms in the passage that are historical.
Ask: "How can I identify historical terms in a text?" Students should answer that you can ask yourself if the character really existed, if the place is significant to the historical time, if the event happened in the past and if it was important in history, if the cultural artifacts and words in the story help create a strong vision for the setting (i.e. how people spoke, or what they wore/listened to/used on a daily basis)? If you are not sure, you can compare or contrast the detail with something that might be said, used, or done in today’s world. You can also look at the context around the word to determine whether it is historical.
will read aloud the reading passage, “The British Are Coming!” We will stop at the third sentence that begins, “Mary and Jonah.” Are these characters real, historically important people or fictional characters in the story? We believe they are not historically relevant, because we don’t know enough about them and can tell that they are being affected by history, not affecting history (like Paul Revere). We will also stop at the dialogue overheard in the second paragraph. Did their father really say this? Probably not because this is fictionalized dialogue.
We will ask ourselves about an unknown word—“shillings”. We will look at the context around the word and determine that a shilling is a kind of money, like a coin, that can be earned. Since we use dollar bills in the U.S. now, this is probably a historical term describing money from that time. We will do the same with “Colonies” (Lexington is not part of a colony anymore; it is part of Massachusetts, a state. We will classify this as a historical place), “the King” (the United States is not ruled by a King or Queen, so this is a historical character), “a sconce,” “a washbasin,” and “carvings” (all cultural artifacts). We will write an “H” in the margin of the passage next to each historical term and classify each term by its element from The Elements of Historical Fiction Handout. We will discuss what we know about the historical time in which this story takes place, and why the terms and details we identified as historical make the story seem more realistic.
are about to read Riding Freedom. We know that this story takes place in the 1800s because it says so in the first sentence of the novel, “In the mid-eighteen hundreds, when the East was young and the West was yet to be settled, a baby was born, named Charlotte.” What did the nineteenth century and the 1800s look like? How did people speak? Are the characters in this story real or imagined? What did they think about? Do for fun? How did they live? In your Student Packet, you will determine which terms and details from Riding Freedom are historically important to the novel’s time period by completing page 2. (History Detectives). Once you identify historical details, you will classify them as people, places, language/slang, cultural artifacts, or events (the historical elements).
Build Student Vocabulary traitor
|Tier 2 Word: traitor|
|Contextualize the word as it is used in the story||“But still, she didn’t like the idea of war. ‘People will be hurt. And, if we don’t win, things could get very bad for us. They hang traitors, you know.’”|
|Explain the meaning student-friendly definition)||A traitor is a person who is not loyal. A traitor betrays their country, or the trust of another person or group of people. The mother in the story is worried that if they do not win the war against the British, they will not be considered loyal. People who are not loyal, traitors, were hung at that time in history.|
|Students repeat the word||Say the word traitor with me: traitor|
|Teacher gives examples of the word in other contexts||I called my sister a traitor because she told my mother that I was the one who spilled the cereal all over the floor. The traitor sold our country’s military secrets to another country.|
|Students provide examples||Would you ever act like a traitor? Why or why not? Start by saying, “I would (not) want to act like a traitor because ______________________________.”|
|Students repeat the word again.||What word are we talking about? traitor|
|Additional Vocabulary Words||inclined, unhitched|
Texts & Materials
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