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IDEAS AND RESEARCH RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS

BRINGING HISTORY TO LIFE

Teachers and librarians play a crucial role in putting good books into the hands of children. As a writer of history, I believe that it is more important than ever to provide young readers with reliable nonfiction and historical fiction texts. We need to present the truth as it was and provide the context to help students understand why people believed and acted as they did. Accurate history texts present a view of life in the past. People change; societies change; governments change. Sometimes that's for the best. Sometimes, it is not. As teachers and writers, we must provide an accurate look into what happened in the past, not as a way to judge people who lived then, but to better understand the way we live now and to plan for the future.

 

 

How to Select Great History Books: Consider The Children's Book Council's Notable Social Studies Books for ideas – K-12.

 

 

A DEFINITION OF NONFICTION:

 

"Nonfiction is a book which can be checked against something outside of itself. That is the truth of the book can be researched, challenged, tested, investigated by making use of sources and experiences not contained within its covers. . . nonfiction may have all of the literary excellences of fiction — but it ultimately makes claims about a world outside of itself, which can be examined." -- Marc Aronson, "What is Nonfiction?" in his blog for school library journal Nonfiction Matters on September 10, 2010

 

FICTION, of course, need not contain reliable facts. It is a product of the imagination, but the best historical fiction does not subvert history. Rather, it gives as reliable a picture as possible while building a story around fictional characters and situations. 

 

TEACHING IDEAS TO BRING HISTORY TO LIFE IN THE CLASSROOM:

 

Create pairings for writing or discussion

 

        Biography - pair the biography with a nonfiction article about the era in which the subject lived.

        Historical fiction - pair a fictional book with a nonfiction article about the time period in which the novel        takes place.

 

Analyze Changes

 

         a. Have student(s) list 5-10 things that have changed since the events in this book occurred. Then narrow the list to the one change that has had the greatest effect on society. Why? 

 

          b. Chose one invention that exists now that didn't exist at the time your book takes place and research its invention. The Technology Timeline may be helpful.

 

Compare Prices Then and Now: Use one of the following website (depending on the dates needed) to compare the prices of foods and goods: The Food Timeline; Comparison of Prices Over 70 Years. Then go to the Inflation Calculator to see how inflation changes the comparison.

 

 Ask The Subject: What one question would you like to ask an historical figures mentioned in this book? Explain your choice? How do you think the person would respond?

 

Pretend You Are the Author and create a timeline, a discussion question based on the historical era, or a "Fun Fact" about the subject of a biography of the historical period.

 

EXPLORE HISTORY:

 

Use the Social Security Name Index to explore how the popularity of names changes over time or in different states.

 

Visit ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY. What happened today? On your birthday? On a date mentioned in the book you just read? 

 

 To read historical books, letters, or jourals:

              Project Gutenberg

              Hathi-Trust

 

To read historical newspapers published from 1789-1963: Chronicling America.

 

For older students who are ready to create a bibliography: KnightCite Citation Service (free)