What do you remember about your history classes? How did you learn? Were you one of the very few individuals who had the awesome history teacher who dressed in period clothing and set up a tepee in the middle of the classroom to make a point? Was it story time or memorization of dates and places?

My history experience was a little bit of both, unfortunately the history books I studied from were a little skewed and opinionated for the “Christian Perspective.” That’s a different post for a different day, I suppose. For now, I’m going to tell all of the future teachers out there what I learned in the article “Those Were the Days: Learning About History Through Literature”

Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it. Oscar Wilde

I doubt if anything learnt at school is of more value than great literature learnt by heart. Richard Livingstone

In this article, Patricia A. Crawford and Vicky Zygouris-Coe analyze the effectiveness of using Historical Fiction in the History classroom, and they offer a wide array of possibilities for using historical fiction to make a difference. Historical fiction can make a difference because it connects readers to the actual events using human interactions. We feel things more deeply when we can see them through the eyes of our narrator.

The definition of historical fiction is “works of realistic fiction that are set within the historical past.” Students are given a broader view of the historical events, they can go and live the history through the pages of the book. Teachers can use historical fiction in many ways, and the article gives a few ideas for teachers.

Text Sets “are collections of books that are grouped together because of a common element, topic, theme, or type of text” and they are effective in the classroom because that allow choice for the students as well as placing a personal interest in the topic at hand. It also provides multiple perspectives on complex issues, and encourages students to question and investigate “standard truths.”

Jackdaws is a term that I was unfamiliar with. It is originally a bird that forages and collects supplies as it travels. In the classroom a Jackdaw is a collection of artifacts that bring stories to life. Some examples the article gave were a ration booklet from WWII, a campaign button from a presidential election, a protest sign from the Civil Rights Movement. These things are better if they are originals, but they can be researched recreations. Students are able to touch and get close to the movements that they are studying.

Time Lines that are developed by the students are also helpful. I have always loved timelines because I can see them all at once and I can make sense of when events occurred. Two ideas are to do a Text Time Line where you use the events from a specific novel, and the other idea was to outline in order of historical occurrence all the novels that the class might be reading.

Literature Study Groups was my favorite idea, but I’m a literature kind of girl. The basic idea is to let students choose a novel to study from a list, work in groups, and discuss the novel as they read it.

Celebration was the last idea, and it is setting up any reason to celebrate a historical event or time period. You could focus on cultural aspects of the era, music, or even learning possible dances from the time period. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

This article was very enlightening to me, and I hope some of my teacher readers out there are going to look it up right now. Making history more fun means making it more memorable, and I always have an easier time remembering a complex story line over dates and figures.

Here is a list of books to get you started reading Historical Fiction.

List of Historical Fiction novels that the article references:

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Mildred Taylor (1976)

My Brother Sam Is Dead Collier & Collier (1974)

Number the Stars Lowry (1989)

Johnny Tremain Forbes (1943)

The Watsons Go To Birmingham, 1963 Curtis (1995)

The Power of One: Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine Fradin & Fradin, (2004)

Out of the Dust Hesse (1999)

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