Lesson: Historical Fiction Setting: Bud, Not Buddy (Lesson 1)

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Lesson Objective

Authors write historical fiction to show the reader what it was like to live in a certain time period. Readers can use historical fiction to learn about new settings. When readers start a historical fiction book, they think about what they already know about that setting.

Lesson Plan

Lesson 1:


  • Connect prior knowledge with information in texts and compare prior knowledge with newly acquired knowledge. 
  • Determine the setting and the significance of the setting on the traits, feelings, and motivations of characters. 

Big Idea: Authors write historical fiction to show the reader what it was like to live in a certain time period.  Readers can use historical fiction to learn about new settings. 


Teaching Point: When readers start a historical fiction book, they think about what they already know about that setting.


Reading binders, pencils, copies of Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis


Reading Workshop Lesson:

  • Readers, today we are starting a new unit.  We are starting a unit on historical fiction.  Historical fiction is fiction that is set during a different time and place.  Historical fiction is a kind of realistic fiction because it is a story that could have really happened but that didn’t really happen.  The setting is always a real time and a real place.  Good authors do a lot of research about the time period they are using for their historical fiction texts so that they can make their text as realistic as possible.
  • Authors write historical fiction to show the reader what it was like to live during that time period.  They could write a nonfiction text to teach readers about life in that period, but they choose to write historical fiction because they want to tell a story and give the reader a chance to get a better feeling about what life was like then. 
  • Today, we are going to start reading a book set in a time period that you’ve read about in some of your biographies and most recently in We Are the Ship.  We will be reading Bud, Not Buddy.  [Show cover]  Just from the cover, do you have any thoughts about what this book will be about [T&T – they probably won’t glean much from the cover, but they may notice that the main character is black and carries a suitcase.] 
  • Let’s see if the blurb on the back cover gives us a better idea of the book’s setting – its time and place. [Read blurb – maybe read it twice.] Talk with your partner about what you noticed about the setting in the blurb.   [T&T – they should be able to say that it’s set in 1936 in Flint, Michigan.]
  • When we start reading a historical fiction book set in a time period that we know a lot about, we make sure that we keep everything that we know about this time period in our mind.  This stuff that we know about a time period is called prior knowledge because it is the information that you know PRIOR or before reading a book.  You should keep all of this prior knowledge in your head because that prior knowledge will help you understand the book. So what is our prior knowledge of this time period? What do we know about the year 1936? How long ago was it? Was there slavery back then? Segregation? What was life like for a young African American boy? What about Michigan? Where is that? Why does the blurb state that times are hard? What could be going on in the country that makes things harder than usual? [Discuss and make predictions based on knowledge of the setting.]
  • Today, I am going to read the first chapter of the book. All of you will have your own copies so that you can read along with me. Often in historical fiction, the author tells the reader what the setting is in the first chapter, usually in the first couple of pages. That means that the most important things that we need to know about the setting are going to come up in this chapter. We’re going to have to put that together with our prior knowledge to help us understand what life is like for the main character, Bud.
  • [Read to the end of page 2.] Did we learn anything about the setting of the book? We discussed how times might be hard for Bud because there was a lot of prejudice back then. Does the book tell us anything else about why times are tough? [Discuss until students notice that there is a depression going on. Clarify what that is as needed.]
  • [Continue reading. Stop to take some comments at the end of page 5.]
  • [Stop after the third full paragraph on page 7.] Did the author give us any more clues about the setting? [Maybe discuss what jazz is – it seems to be a popular thing during that time period, and it’s especially important to Bud.]
  • [Stop at the end of the chapter and take general comments.] Scholars, when we know that we are reading historical fiction, it is so important to read slowly and carefully through the first chapter to get a really good picture of the book’s setting. By now, you should be able to describe Flint, Michigan, in 1936 with a couple of good details. I’m going to give you a minute to put together all your prior knowledge with what we’ve just learned and come up with some good details to tell your partner about the setting of Bud, Not Buddy. [Give them a minute. Then T&T.]
  • Today you are all going to begin reading a new historical fiction text. I want you to take your time reading the blurb and the first paragraph so that you can understand your book’s setting as well as we understand the setting of Bud, Not Buddy.

See attached worksheet for chapter 1 on figurative language.

Lesson Resources

Chapter 1 - Figurative Language.docx  


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