Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Historical Fiction Writing Unit

One of my favorite genres to read is historical fiction. Since it is a favorite of mine, I tend to do a lot of read alouds that are historical fiction. While reading Number the Stars last year one of my students asked me if 'they could write one.' (Don't you love it when your kids have brilliant ideas?) So last year I spent part of winter break creating a historical fiction unit for my kids and I to work through together. I'm a huge fan of Katie Wood Ray, and I knew I wanted to immerse my students in historical fiction. I wanted them to discover what historical fiction is by reading it. I truly believe that if we expect our students to write something they need to read wonderful examples of it.
So I gathered a large variety of historical fiction picture books (some from my classroom library, public library, and school library.) I start my unit by reading Players in Pigtails. It is a new book to most of my students, and I use it to model how to "read like a writer." My students and I jot down our "noticings" together on a noticing chart:
Noticing chart
I then read another historical fiction book to them, (another favorite is The Yellow Star) and have them tell me what they notice. Once I feel like they have the hang of it, I set them free on the other historical fiction books in the room. I give them two complete days of writing workshop time to read as many historical fiction picture books as they can. They write down what they notice and why they think the author did it. I allow them to read alone, or read with a partner. Some students partner up for a book or two and then go their separate ways when other books interest them.
On the third day I break the students into groups and have them create a group noticing chart.
Group A's Noticing Chart
Group B's Noticing Chart
Once they share their noticings with each other we make a class chart. It is "amazing" how the students charts always matches the historical fiction features that I want them to include in their pieces. This is the very reason why I LOVE to take the time and let my students immerse themselves in a genre before we write it.
If you are interested in teaching a historical fiction writing unit with your class you can find my unit here. What's your favorite writing unit to teach?

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