Our 5th grade Social Studies curriculum was focused on United States History, through the Civil War.
To supplement the curriculum, I used historical fiction novels during our reading class to broaden the students’ knowledge, perspective and (hopefully) interest in the time period.
Typically I’d have the students put together some sort of project (video, speech, long – any of the Ways to Show What They Know), which gave them opportunities to connect the fiction with what they were learning about the actual history.
To focus on the reading skills, I used these Historical Reading Assignment Options. Giving them options for assignments made it really easy to differentiate. Since not all of the students were doing the same work at the same time, I could make adaptations (allowing more time, simplifying requirements, providing additional resources, etc.) without it being obvious to other students. The options also gave kids a chance to draw if they liked to draw, to write if they preferred to write and to otherwise be more engaged in their work.
We’d start the unit with a blank calendar for the weeks of the unit, and I worked with the kids so they could schedule for themselves when they’d do each assignment in order to have everything done by the final due date. I think they learned a tremendous amount from this process, particularly about time management and study skills. We did units like this several times during the year so they kids got better at judging how long assignments would take, how much time they’d need – skills they will use in every class and every job they ever have.
At the beginning of the unit, I would introduce four or five novels. I’d talk about the basics: the number of pages, the level of text complexity, a short description of the plot. Then the students could look a the choices, confer with friends and then each chose which book they wanted to read.
When I was in school, I disliked almost every book I was required to read, even though I loved reading, so I tried to give my students options as often as possible here too. I loved that no matter which books they picked, they all got useful, interesting information from their reading so they all had something to share.
Our Choices for American Revolution Historical Fiction:
1. “George Washington’s Socks” by Elvira Woodruff
2. “The Fighting Ground” by Avi
3. “War Comes to Willy Freeman” by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
4. “Fever 1793” by Laurie Halse Anderson
5. “My Brother Sam is Dead” by James Lincoln Collier