Lesson Plan: Historical
read an historical novel, based on a period in history, and
arrive at its meaning and main ideas, discussing it "all class."
This can be done in conjunction with the social studies teacher,
as an interdisciplinary unit, and students use their understanding
of the time period to arrive at the meaning of the plot, theme,
and characters' actions. Various Google tools are used for
information gathering, working with partners, and final student
lesson uses My Brother Sam is Dead, an historical
novel based on the American Revolution. The lesson can be
modified for any historical novel.
Carol LaRow, leading online educator who just spoke at the
NECC in Washington DC. View student
Using Historical Fiction in the Classroom.
This week while sorting and categorizing my "favorites
list" I found a link to an article I had saved years ago that
contains a wealth of information about Historical Fiction
and how it can help you excite students about history.
This is a great article that explains what
Historical Fiction is and how it can be used in the Classroom.
Below I've posted tid-bits that stood out to me, below that
is a link to the full article:
The writer of good historical fiction recreates
the past with an immediacy neither expository history nor
pure fiction can achieve alone. Good historical fiction must
not only be good history, but must also be good literature.
The historical novelist presents the reader with characters
caught up in a conflict and builds his narrative from historical
details. As the reader becomes involved with the characters
and story line, he begins to absorb the historical data and
begins to recognize the many human qualities of the character
. Gradually the characters become real to the reader and the
reader begins to “root” for this character if he or she is
being treated unjustly. The reader might question in his own
mind the need for law or government to protect this character’s
And, at this moment, the reader is unconsciously
using his cognitive ability to sort and group these historical
details; he compares them to his own society, and begins to
discern the differences in the historical period he is reading
about and to compare it to his society today. If the historical
novelist accomplishes this kind of reader involvement, he
has made some impact on the reader’s conscience. He has made
the reader think, consider, discover, and, most important,
begin to realize the importance and usefulness of studying
history. He has, of course, as his central purpose, also described
and explained some significant historical tendency.
The writer of good historical fiction is aware
of the various interpretations of the same period of history
and, if he is sophisticated about the historiographic view,
he will integrate historiography in his novel. James Lincoln
Collier and Christopher Collier, authors of My Brother Sam
Is Dead, attempt to deal with the histoiographic dimension
in this novel. They include the Whig, Progressive, and Imperialist
interpretations of the American Revolution within the framework
of the novel. The Whig interpretation is that the American
Revolution was justified because of the tyranny of George
III against the colonists. The Americans were patriots who
organized to fight for freedom. This historiographic view
is expressed through the character of Sam, the hero of the
When the history teacher brings this kind of
fiction into the classroom he is providing the student with
another understanding of the past. The historical novel uses
imaginative and figurative language to entice students into
a historical exploration. The character and drama interact
with past events in such a way as to involve the student in
a study of the past on an emotional level as well aa a cognitive
level. This student involvement is a logical reason why history
teachers should be persuaded to use historical fiction.
Once students become immersed in the novel’s
setting, character, plot and theme, they become interested
and stimulated by the novel’s story. They begin to draw inferences
while reading the novel, about geography, governmental organization,
religious beliefs, social attitudes manner of dress, types
of food, size of towns or cities, modes of transportation,
distribution of wealth, social classes, and laws. They begin
to absorb the historical details in the novel without even
realizing they are being instructed. In contrast, if these
same historical facts were presented in a textbook and the
teacher asked the students to memorize or know them, it is
likely that little information would be retained by many students.
The events become more significant because the
students must understand them in order to understand the novel.
Students retain the historical information more easily because
it has been understood within the context of the plot, character,
setting and theme of the novel. Students begin to consider
the relevancy of this segment of the past in relation to the
society they live in. The students begin to see how a study
of the past helps them to understand the present. The impact
of a historical novel on students cannot be minimized. The
range of their imagination and understanding can be broadened.
If they respond to a good historical novel, they might be
motivated to research the novelist’s use of historical data.
They begin to discern the novelist’s biases and they might
decide to search for historical data to support or contradict
the point of view expressed by the author...
Most students like a good story, a story with
excitement, adventure and challenge; if a historical novel
is well written, it includes these elements and more. The
“more” is historical accuracy in detail and theme, the necessary
elements of a meaningful historical exploration through fiction.
The conflicts of men and women in history become real to the
student because these men and women can be presented in their
human dimension. They are mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles,
sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, who are caught up in a
particular event. Their defeats and successes evoke an emotional
response from readers. This response is the draws students
into the world of the past and embues his perspective with
an historical dimension. The historical figures emerge as
human beings responding to a human condition in the context
The history teacher can devise numerous strategies
and techniques for sifting the fact and the fiction. The historical
clues may be picked out by students who see textbook history
spring to life in historical fiction. Students can become
experts or “nitpickers” about the writer’s use of historical
data and the exercise can be stimulating for class discussion.
Reference sources for checking the accuracy of historical
data include encyclopedias, almanacs, biographical dictionaries,
dictionaries of history, serious local and national histories,
and numerous other readily available sources. Students may
check school and town libraries as well as local historical
societies and the state library. Primary source materials
are often available locally in church records, deeds, wills,
probate records in town halls, local cemeteries, local tax
lists, federal census, town meeting records, old maps, letters
and diaries, sermons, industrial records, local newspapers
and elders who have resided in a community for a long time...
Read the Full article which includes Guidelines
and Strategies for using Historical Fiction in the Classroom:
Historical Fiction Online Resources:
How to teach historical
history by Goggle.
Historical Voyages and Historical Events Amazing research
from Carol LaRow.
Historical Fiction books covering topics related to the American
a Dollar: to My Brother Sam is Dead Research
My Brother Sam is Dead Resources
Available at the History of Redding Website:
War Research mostly Connecticut information but an excellent
American Revolution Sites Connecticut Society of the
Sons of the American Revolution (SAR)
the Revolution Occurred- a very good timeline of events
that led to the colonist revolt, what happenned during it
and how our nation was formed.
of the Revolutionary War- Awesome resource showing you
dates, locations and winners and losers.
of the Revolutionary War
Money and Inflation
and Death Aboard British Prison Ships
of Prisoners who died on British Prison Ships
George, 1732-1799. The writings of George Washington
from the original manuscript sources: Volume 13 Electronic
Text Center, University of Virginia Library
Complete General Orders of George Washington October
2, 1778 to 1780
and the Revolution The Revolution split some denominations,
notably the Church of England, whose ministers were bound
by oath to support the King, and the Quakers, who were traditionally