Lesson: What is historical fiction?
Grade Level: Elementary
Duration: 2-3 sessions
Lesson Aim: What is historical fiction?
Picture book title: Philipok by Gennady Spirin
Vocabulary: genre, historical fiction
Elicit students’ prior understanding of different fiction genres by asking the following questions.
What is a make believe or fantasy fiction?
What do we mean by realistic fiction?
Next, display the front cover of the book and ask;
“What can you tell me about the setting of the story from looking at the illustrations?”
What time period do you think the story relates to? (If students say “a past time period” ask, how do you know?
Teacher will say, “Today I am going to read to you a different type of fiction. It is called historical fiction”.
Historical fiction is similar to realistic fiction in the sense that the characters and events in the story are realistic i.e., they can possibly happen in real life.
Historical from the word history relates to a time period way back in the past; at least about twenty or more years ago.
The setting of the story in a historical fiction relates to a time period long ago.
By paying attentions to the details and illustrations, one can understand the culture traditions of that time. Historical fiction provides a window into the past and may depict how people lived their day to day life, how they dressed up, their culture, traditions, and events that happened at that time.
Characteristics of Historical Fiction
Historical fiction as we know is a story that is set in the past. It relates to a time period that is at least twenty or more years ago. Some of the characteristics of historical fiction are:
• Fictitious characters in a historical setting. Such a story may depict important events, culture, and traditions from that time.
• Fictitious and true historic characters. In this type of fiction, authors often create a main fictitious character who meets other true characters from that time. The author’s purpose for writing such fiction often is to inform readers about the important role played by the true characters in history.
• True historical characters with a few minor fictitious ones. Such historical fiction is often based on true or real events. Even though the story and characters are true, but the story is still considered fiction because that author had to create the dialogue, thoughts, and actions of the characters.
Activity: After reviewing the characteristics of historical fiction, teacher will read the book Philipok to the class. Teacher will introduce the title and author of the book, and then invite students to make predictions about the story.
Teacher will then say, “As I read the story, pay attention to the details that point to the genre of the story.”
Teacher will read the book to the class.
After reading the story, teacher will ask the following questions based on Bloom’s Taxonomy to check reading comprehension.
1. Who was Philpok? Recall
2. Why did Philipok leave his house? Comprehension
3. How is the school in the story different from today’s school? Analysis
4. How the characters in the story look different compared to children/people of today? Analysis
5. What details from the story tell it is historical fiction? Comprehension/Analysis
6. What can you change in the story to make it reflect today’s time period? Synthesis
Lesson Follow Up:
For next class, teacher will read a different title from historical fiction to develop students’ familiarity and comfort level with the genre.
Historical Fiction Books for Children (Watch the Video)