What Time is it? Paying Attention to Place in Time in Historical Fiction

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SWBAT accurately create a timeline events when they are described out of order.

Big Idea

Historical fiction, as well as other complex fictional stories, reveal important back story through flashback and future insight in the text. This can be confusing.

Introduction and Modeling

10 minutes

Historical fiction often times will tell the story in a back and forth sort of way that is really difficult for developing readers to follow. This lesson supports them in paying attention to the element of time in historical fiction books.

I start by reminding students that story elements are really important. For their book clubs, they should recording on paper the story elements from their book club book and when they read for pleasure, they usually record story elements in their head. Story elements include character, setting, plot, problem and solution. Historical fiction also has an element of time.

I use an example of a recent read aloud that has a character who refers back to an earlier experience to explain her present reaction. I reread the passage while I take note on a timeline in my journal. It is important to pay attention to when the character jumps backwards and forwards in time because they usually alerts us to an explanation that we should know and understand.

Guided Practice and Independent Practice

20 minutes

After I demonstrated how to pay close attention to the text as I read and also pay close attention to way my movie in mind changes, I ask the students to do it in a new read aloud. I am reading from short chapter books, but this works very well in historical fiction picture books as well.

I start by telling them that although a character may jump backwards and forwards, most of the time, they are jumping backwards and back to present. For the time like they create during the guided practice, they can have the present time very close to the end.

As I read, they take note, using phrases, of events in the story and put them on a time line. After I'm finished reading the chapter, I ask them to share with the class, as I discuss the reasoning behind where they put the events. If there is a disagreement, we talk about it and I verify with the text.

I remind them that not only are typically story elements very important when they are reading historical fiction, but the element of time is also important. It explains something about the character or their situation and gives us some back story to help the reader understand.

They then create a timeline based on their book club book.


5 minutes

After students have had a chance to create their own timeline of the story, they meet with the rest of their group to share it and revise it where needed. 

On person shares first while everyone listens. If there is a disagreement, they check in the text until they can find enough support to come to an agreement. They complete their timeline to the best of their ability with the help of their group mates. 

They will add to as they finish their book.