Books for Teaching Historical Fiction
- Grades: 6–8
From Unit Plan: The Prince and the Pauper Historical fiction is a special type of fiction that requires teachers to integrate information from other content areas in order to help students appreciate the text. These books helped me do just that.
These are teacher resource books:
Teaching Comprehension: Strategies All Readers Need by Nicole Outsen and Stephanie Yulga
This book is full of mini-lessons that encourage higher-order thinking skills as it guides students towards inferring traits of the genres. A must have for middle-level Language Arts teachers.
Classroom Tip: This book includes a wonderful lesson on getting to know the story's characters. The appendix includes a reproducible for character traits that requires students to provide evidence for each listed trait. This activity would be a great precursor to the Venn diagram for characters Tom and Edward.
Graphic Organizers and Activities for Differentiated Instruction in Reading by Nancy L. Witherell and Mary C. McMackin
This book suggests lessons using leveled literature-response sheets and covering literary elements of reading skills. A must have for all teachers interested in differentiating instruction.
Classroom Tip: This book offers two sections on characters: one for character analysis and one for developing an understanding of a character's perspective. Each section offers three possible ways to teach these strategies and different reproducibles to use for supporting your students through the lesson.
The Big Book of Reproducible Graphic Organizers by Jennifer Jacobson & Dottie Raymer
Looking for an attractive way to present the strategy without having students copy the image from the board? This book includes 50 templates, all of which can be modified for different content areas or literary analyses.
Classroom Tip: There are many graphic organizers that would be useful during a study of historical fiction. I've given an example on the list of reproducibles for this The Prince and the Pauper unit.
Teaching Reading in Middle School by Laura Robb
A master in her field, Laura Robb explores strategic reading by giving background research for her suggestions and supplying lesson ideas to help with implementation.
Classroom Tip: Before starting any novel study or thematic unit in a middle school classroom, a good teacher wishing to base his/her own teaching methods on current research of learning styles and behavior would read this book cover to cover. The strategies suggested in Robb's book will help you reach all learners in your class.
Instant Independent Reading Response Activities by Laura Witmer
This book of activities proves a quick and easy way to help students arrive at the important points of an activity. The attractive graphics and large fonts reflect an easy feeling so as to diminish anxiety a middle schooler may have when asked to complete an academic activity. All the activities in this book can easily be calibrated for instruction in the intermediate grades.
Classroom Tip: These are more graphic organizers that would be useful when exploring any piece of writing — fiction or nonfiction.
These are books for building background about the Renaissance Period:
Outrageous Women of the Renaissance by Vicki Leon
This book chronicles interesting women living in 16th-century England and other countries.
Classroom Tip: Another great selection for your classroom library that could also be used as a read aloud.
Elizabethan England (Cultures of the Past) by Ruth Ashby
This book reviews historic milestones in England and its neighboring countries from the late 1400s to the early 1700s. It includes information about the English culture during the reign of Elizabeth I and her family members.
Classroom Tip: This is a great choice for your classroom library.
The Royal Diaries: Elizabeth I by Kathryn Lasky
Live the life of one of Henry VIII's children and explore 16th-century castle life.
Classroom Tip: Place this treasure on your shelf in your class library or use it as a read-aloud companion to The Prince and the Pauper.
Shakespeare's Theatre by Andrew Langley and June Everett
This resource displays information on the Elizabethan stage with beautiful pictures that make this period come alive in students' imaginations.
Classroom Tip: Students should make the connection that the time period of The Prince and the Pauper is the same era as William Shakespeare's. This book can be used to introduce a discussion on contemporary entertainment during the years after the supposed switch took place.
Suggested non-print resources that help bring Mark Twain's novel alive:
Wishbone: The Prince and the Pooch, Lyrick Studios Video
The Wishbone classics always run a parallel story to today's world and match the theme of its lesson. In this 25-minute video, Wishbone acts as Tom Canty, switching places with himself as Edward VI. The parallel story shows Wishbone's owner, Joe Talbot, wishing to switch places with his baseball coach in order to start winning baseball games. He's offered a chance at coaching, but he's coaching a young girls' tee ball team. Joe ends up learning the same lesson as our hero Tom Canty — to be careful what you "wish" for.
The Prince and the Pauper, Disney Studios
This is the 1967 adaptation of Twain's classic. It's out of print, but if you can find a copy to use, it's the closest version of the story I have ever found on video. Because it was filmed years ago, the picture is dark and it can feel long. But I use it to show clips of the story in order to help students visualize its events.
The Prince and the Pauper, Hallmark Productions Inc.
This is a wonderfully entertaining film version starring Aidan Quinn and an excellent companion when reading the Scope Magazine version of the novel. Hallmark creates a unique ending to the story. Your students could also write an alternate ending as an exercise.