Historical Truth Chapter 6. How Can I Encourage Students to Use Historical Fiction to Build Their Understanding of History?. Historical Thinking. The Framework of Mara Zarnowski’s “Making Sense of History” Big Idea:
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How Can I Encourage
Students to Use Historical
Fiction to Build Their
Understanding of History?
The Framework of Mara Zarnowski’s “Making Sense of History”
“How can I encourage students to use historical fiction to build their understanding of history?”
Teaching history should be beyond teaching just simple facts about human history. There are two purposes of teaching history to students. One is savoring history to make it more interesting and approachable for students so that they can associate themselves with fictional historical figures. The other purpose is teaching historical knowledge to help students understand the past, present and future. The benefit of introducing historical fiction is students can hear the voices that were “silenced and missing from historical accounts” in the social studies curriculum.
“Historical truth is a broader concept than our everyday, common-sense notion of what is true or false”
Verifiable truth = Literal truth
Unverifiable truth = Artistic truth or Historical trueness
“Historical fiction written for children and young adults reflects only a narrow range of historical interpretations and perspectives”
Think about the accuracy of historical facts.
“Teachers report that historical fiction is appealing to students and sparks interest in learning.”
-Can learn about the difficult parts of history in approachable ways.
e.g., Days of Tears
“Historical fiction that contains previously unheard voices”
-See and feel history from different perspectives and points of views.
e.g., The Game of Silence and Worth
“Historical fiction and nonfiction on the same topic”
-Providing examples of different kinds of historical truth.
e.g., Fever and An American Plague
See “Suggested Historical Fiction and Nonfiction on the Same Topic”
Zarnowski’s 6 week Lesson plan outline
Week 1 and 2: Reading historical fiction: Savoring the story and sorting out fact and fiction
Week 3 and 4: Reading nonfiction: Clarifying “Not Sure” items
Week 5 and 6: Writing a class question-and–answer book: Documenting the facts
“This list of historical fiction /nonfiction pairs will provide students opportunities to inquire historical truth and gain historical know ledges”
“How does Historical Fiction Contribute to an understanding of historical truth?”
- Have students read Johnny Tremain which was written in 1943 during World War II and compare it with My Brother Sam is Dead by Collier & Collier which was written in 1974 during the Vietnam War era.
- Then have students discuss the attitude of each author towards war and why the authors wrote the books
- Introduce two books to students and explain that both books deal with westward expansion by different group of people- the Ojibiwa community in The Birchbark House and a pioneer family in Little House in the Big House
- Invite students compare work, play, family life, hardship and pleasures in daily life between the books
- Introduce Worth and Rodzina to students and tell them the main characters in the books are different.
- Have them read and discuss how the two characters’ experiences with Orphan train differ from each other.
- What are the main characters’ conflicts?
- How are these conflicts resolved?
- How do these books help you understand how children were affected by the orphan train program?
The book contains a series of powerful monologue and dialogue that can lead to good discussions.
- “The Kitchen” (pp.3-14).
Characters: 2 slaves, Mattie, Will (Mattie’s husband), Emma (the daughter of Mattie and Will)
Dialogue: Having a serious discussion about upcoming sale of slaves
- “Interlude 1”: “Emma as am Old Woman” (pp.15-17)
Character: Old Emma
Monologue: Emma recalls the horror of that day and claims that no picture can capture what it felt like.
- “The Dining Room” (pp.18-29)
Characters: Master, Slave-Seller
Dialogue: conversation between the master and slave-seller
Zarnowski claimed that students need to be able to ask deeper and critical thinking questions beyond knowing what happened in the story. Here are questions Zarnowski suggested.
How does the book help me understand daily life in the past?
Could the events really happen? What evidence do I have?
Which events really happened? How do I know?
Which characters really existed? How do I know?
How Can I Show Students
That Accounts Are
Incomplete and Require
Additional Facts to Tell the
“Many students are convinced that there is only one true version of history. They think that most authors of history books dealing with the same topic provide exactly the same information, but use different words. And if they do spot differences in information between books, one book must be wrong and the other right”
Using this organization will help you think about goals, materials, and activities, resulting in a coherent teaching plan based on theory and research but works in your real world classroom.