Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Bliss and Historical Fiction

HAPPY WINTER BREAK! We had a great last day of school before the holidays! I was able to give my students their holiday gifts, but I think they were actually more excited to take home their finished historical fiction writing project to show their families over break!

Here's a look at our historical fiction writing unit!

Duration: 2-3 weeks

Over the past few weeks, we have been reading and writing historical fiction. We read the chapter book, Little House in the Big Woods, as a read aloud in November to get the kids excited about what life was like over 100 years ago. It was great to practice making connections to the text because the story was actually set in Wisconsin in the 1800's. As a girl, I read the complete Little House series and love sharing them with my young readers!

Beginning in December, we started discussing westward expansion and why people traveled west on the Oregon Trail. I pulled down our old classroom map and showed the students the path that many travelers took. Wow, do kids love maps!!

We started our writing unit by reading the story, Going West, by Jean Van Leeuwen. It is a great story, filled with the emotion that families felt as they left the homes they knew and set out for a new adventure. My students were transfixed during the entire story, some with their mouths hanging open (which made it very hard for me to keep a straight face while reading...) We discussed the words, "historical" and "fiction," explaining that historical fiction is writing about the past and it is "made up." However, historical fiction is realistic of what life was like. First graders love using new, fancy vocabulary!

Following the reading of Going West, each student created a historical character, determined their age, and wrote about who they were traveling west with.

The next day, we began using the text, If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon, as a learning tool. The book is written in a question and answer format. For example, the first page asks the question, "Why did people travel all the way to Oregon?" and then the next few pages answer the question in kid-friendly language, with plenty of picture support. Each day for about two weeks, we read a few pages of the text and my students had many questions that they were still wondering about! We had to take to the internet to quench our thirst for information!

Following our reading each day, students responded to the question from the point of view of their character that they created! Take a look at a student's work below. Pick up a copy of your own historical fiction writing pages by clicking the link!

As a great, light-hearted compliment to the historical fiction listed above, there is also a set of Little House in the Big Woods picture books. They are very sweet and leave you feeling cozy and relaxed. We enjoyed these, as well, during these last few days leading up to winter break! LOVE THEM!

I hope that this post is helpful in writing and discussing historical fiction with young students!
Until next time,
Mrs. O'Connor
This seems appropriate in the spirit
of the holidays! So true!

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