Writing Historical Fiction

Historical_FictionHISTORICAL FICTION is a made-up story set in specific time and integrates references to real people, places, and or events and writing one can help meet both English Language Arts and History/Social Studies Content Area Standards.

Writing historical fiction can be an efficient way for students to utilize what they are learning about Fiction Writing in your class and what they are learning about real people, places, and events in their History or Social Studies class. Could be an interesting Spring term team summative assessment across the two departments. ELA teacher(s) read(s) for ELA Standards and H/SS teacher(s) read(s) for H/SS TeamworkStandards.

This work of creative writing can be a fictionalized version of something the students have read, observed or experienced.

Story submitted for grading should answer five W’s and H questions:  Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?  The writing could even be a story patterning plot line of a text the class has studied together. But, each student story must include the basic fiction elements of CHARACTER, SETTING, and CONFLICT.

For character, students’ work could have literary character meet a real historical personage.  What if Scrooge, Katniss Everdeen or Esperanza met Abraham Lincoln or Robert E. Lee; Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Harriett Tubman; Cesar Chavez or Frida Kahlo; Martin Luther King, Jr or  John F. Kennedy?

For setting, have students consider your home town or state, or the country or continent your students currently are studying about in their history or social studies class.  (Opportunity for descriptive writing.)

For conflict, have students choose a significant historical event to play a role in the lives of their fictional character(s). The incident may make up a significant portion of the story or simple serve as the triggering action. For example, the main character may be a key character in the historical incident or may simply have observed, heard about, or read about the incident on line, and the main story is the characters involvement or response to that real historical incident or event.

For authenticity, encourage students to

  • use the internet to research housing, clothing, transportation, music, and slang of the Computer Cartoonhistorical period chosen for the story.
  • locate pictures of real places, real implements or tools; listen to music of time, and describe or incorporate real historical details.
  • view photos that show specific physical features, what people wore and how they styled their hair in that specific place or time.

Students should submit with their story a page with the list of resources they consulted that includes one from their history texts as well as a list of other sources they’ve used in the story.

  • Label alphabetically sources used in the order the referenced source appears in the story.
  • If you’ve not yet taught formal citation styles, only require parenthetical citations like (A) referring to source A, (B) for source B.  This will make checking for completeness more efficient.
  • The goal here is to teach academic integrity of acknowledging sources. Another assignment can require and be grade for specific citation style.

Consider adapting one of the graphic organizers used for analyzing fiction to remind students of kinds of details and features their classmates will be looking for during the peer feedback step of this writing project.  Make two copies of the organizer:  one for writer check list after the first draft and another for in-class or homework peer response after second or third draft of story.

Show on your grading rubric the specific Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and General Grading Guidelines -ColorHistory students will be asked to demonstrate and teachers can measure in this assignment.  Attach a version of this General Grading Guidelines for Written Assignments so students are aware of how to earn the grade they crave and understand clearly the grade they ultimately receive.

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