Today we are headed to the library to choose an historical fiction novel. Because our instructional time is so limited, and so very important, gone are the days when we could take a class to the library to simply enjoy searching through the stacks and reading for pleasure.
By providing my students with book-selection guidelines, I can be assured that everyone is focusing on the genre of historical fiction.
Before we head to the library, I will display the PowerPoint slide. Students need to copy the definition of historical fiction. Since our library is big, and it's hard to keep their attention once we're there, I will make sure that the students understand what historical fiction is before we head out.
Once in the library, I will go over library etiquette with my students. Our librarian also likes to give a quick orientation on rules and procedures. If your librarian is as completely awesome as mine is (and, for the record, I think ALL librarians are awesome), you can ask him or her to pull some historical fiction samples.
I invite students to look at the samples that have been pulled. They are welcome to check them out or go investigate the fiction section for themselves. Some of my students second guess themselves quite a bit on book selection and need me to personally approve their book. I don't mind doing this, but I do try to ask guiding questions rather than just say "yes" or "no" to their choice. I will say things like, "I see a spaceship on the cover. Do you think a story about aliens and space travel is historical fiction?"
When there are 10-15 minutes left in the period, I will ask that my students take a seat to complete their written assignment.
At this point in the period, my students are going to write a paragraph that explains to me that they know what historical fiction is and that their book selection is, in fact, historical fiction.
Before the begin, I talk to them about how they can find examples of historical fiction from a book they haven't read yet. We will talk about making inferences from the cover art and the synopsis on the back cover or inside flap. We also talk about skimming the first few page for clues.
I collect this assignment on their way out the door and grade it as a formative assessment, looking for understanding of the genre. As I'm looking over these over the next day or two, it's a great way to make sure students are truly reading historical fiction. More than once I've had to send a student back to the library to get a novel that is actually historical fiction.
Students receive this assignment the day after our library visit. I usually give them about 2 weeks to complete it. This set of notes is a formative assignment, so my students may not write the paragraph that is the summative assessment until this is complete (this is the consequence for my reluctant readers).
The summative assessment is open note, and I make sure my students understand how helpful these notes will be to them as they write their paragraphs at the end of the quarter.