Teaching Historical Fiction

If you have been a follower of mine for a while, you know that teaching historical fiction is one of my favorites!  Exposing students to different genres is a passion of mine, but historical fiction has a special place in my heart, mostly because I am a bit of a history lover.  I love the chance to help my students make better sense of the world and the past.

6 reasons why we should be teaching historical fiction

Today I thought I’d present you with a few reasons why teaching historical fiction should be on your list of things to do with YOUR elementary students as well!  Here goes!

Six Amazing Reasons for Teaching Historical Fiction

teaching historical fiction

Integrating Subjects:

Historical fiction allows students to explore different historical periods, making history come alive. It engages their imagination and emotions, fostering a deeper understanding of the past. In fact, tying a historical fiction unit to your social studies lessons accomplishes a few things.  First, you save time!  Second, the literature makes the history more clear.  Storytelling is a huge part of passing down history. Did I mention that it saves teachers time?

Personal Connection to History:

By experiencing history through the eyes of characters in a story, students develop a personal connection to the past. This connection can make historical events and figures more relatable and memorable.  The ability to “see” a story through the lens of a historical character transfers to ALL reading and helps students to visualize life during that era.  It’s a great time to help students pay attention to setting clues and to visualize as they read. I believe so much in helping students understand that history is more than a series of dates.  It’s people going through real experiences. In addition, historical fiction sparks creativity and imagination by transporting students to these different time periods. It encourages them to visualize historical settings and lifestyles.

Critical Thinking:

Analyzing historical fiction prompts critical thinking as students evaluate the accuracy of historical details within the story. In addition, they learn to distinguish between fact and fiction. Although it’s a challenge for elementary students, teaching historical fiction can help provide a foundation for critical thinking.  What details in the story are accurate?  Why did the author include them?

Cultural Awareness and Empathy:

historical fiction lessons and activities

Through exposure to diverse characters and settings, students gain cultural awareness and empathy. They learn to appreciate different perspectives, customs, and challenges faced by people from various backgrounds.  In fact, helping students reflect on the story through the eyes of each character is so powerful.  How did each character feel?  How did the author help us to see that?  What lessons are the characters learning?  What are YOU, as the reader, thinking about the events as they unfold?

Language and Literacy Skills while Teaching Historical Fiction:

science of reading and historical fiction

Reading historical fiction generally enhances language skills by exposing students to rich vocabulary and complex sentence structures. It also nurtures literacy skills such as comprehension, inference, and interpretation.  As you can imagine, books set in different times and places introduce the opportunity for new vocabulary.  When reading a text set during the Civil Rights era, we can teach words like “segregation” and “protest”.  The Science of Reading research is clear.  To improve reading comprehension, we need to build background knowledge.

Amazing Classroom Discussions:

Historical fiction often raises thought-provoking questions about people, places, and eras. This encourages quality classroom discussions where students can push their own thinking and understanding.  Additionally, students bring different backgrounds and experiences to the discussions which helps everyone learn and grow.

As you can see, teaching historical fiction obviously has a ton of benefits!  Students at this age certainly love to learn, and exposing them to new genres is one way to expand their world.  There are tons of great historical fiction books to explore. Whether you use picture books, chapter books, or a combination, give it a try!

I have several more blog posts to check out if you are interested.

This post is all about how I do book clubs related to historical fiction.  Another one shows how I start my historical fiction unit.

Finally, this post shows some fun writing activities I do with historical fiction!

Interested in some help teaching historical fiction?  Here are a few resources that can help! Just click the images below. The first 3 are some of my favorite novels to use.

Number the Stars Novel Study and Teaching Guide
Esperanza Rising Novel Study and Teaching Guide
Sarah Plain and Tall Novel Study and Teaching Guide

Below is a link to my “I Survived” resource.  This guide allows you to teach ANY “I Survived” book!  Use with whole class, read alouds, book clubs, or let each student pick their own book!  The lessons remain the same.

I Survived Novel Study

Looking for an entire historical fiction unit?  Look no further!  Just click HERE or the image below.

Historical Fiction Lessons and activities

Finally, this is one of my FAVORITE resources–and I use it every year with my historical fiction unit.  Everything you need for a fun menu writing project is in here!

Response to Reading Activities

Rather pin this post for later?  Here you go!

teaching historical fiction in elementary school

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