Learning the genre of Historical Fiction Story with "Names"

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SWBAT to understand the genre of historical fiction in order to plot their own.

Big Idea

Historical fiction is realistic fiction.

Lesson Opener

10 minutes

In my lesson openers I always have a "connect" in which I connect students' thinking about yesterday's lesson to today's lesson. I then have a "teach" in which I model for students the lesson of the day and also have them try it out. When I think about my modeling, I use three categories; skill, strategy, and process. I model by stating the skill to the students, then giving them a strategy in which to use the skill, followed by the process to try out the strategy.

Connect:  I will say, “We have been brainstorming ideas for our historical fiction stories and drafting scenes. In order to see how an author crafts a short historical fiction story, we are going to analyze the moves the author makes in historical fiction story called “Names” by the late great Maya Angelou.*

I will say, "This story is about names and how important they are. Who knows where their name is from? Why were you named the name you have? I will have students share out and then share out where my name come from (it's Italian and from a Johnny Mathis song my mom liked)."  I will then say, "Our names are important to us, they are our identity."

"This story is a historical fiction story, but I want you to see how this story could be written in an time period. A great historical fiction story has realistic problems and feelings in it, it just happens in a historical setting."

Teach: I will say, “In order to learn about the genre of historical fiction, I am going to show you how to practice the skill of analyzing an author’s craft and the strategy of annotating for realistic and historical details. The process I will use is as follows:

1) Read Names.

2) Annotate when I see an author making a craft move

3) Add if this craft move is “realistic” or “historical” fiction

I will model for students how I read through the first part of the story and how I notate the authors’ moves by annotating on the text and using the author's craft resource sheet (see below video). 

*I could not find out much information about this story. Although it has many realistic details from Maya Angelou's life, some say it is a fictional account. I chose it because of the narrative and historical elements and because the students could relate to it.

Active Engagment

20 minutes

Active Engagement: I will say, “You will now read through the story and stop and jot at least twice on the page where you see Maya Angelou including realistic story details and historical fiction story details" (they will either read independently, with a partner or as a whole class read (this depends on their stamina)). I will ask the students, (at least 3 students-one who is at standard, one is approaching standard, and one who is above standard) “What did you jot notes about and where did you annotate it in your text? How could you use the same type of “moves” in your writing?”

Closing of Active Engagement: I will say, “Remember successful writers practice the skill of learning a new genre by using the strategy of using a mentor text to discover the craft moves authors make. The process they use is review terms that are connected to author’s craft’s moves, read the text, stop and jot where they see the author’s moves and connect it to how they could use the same moves.”

Independent Practice

15 minutes

Independent Practice: “You will now take the story and fill out the plot diagram: plot diagram for historical fiction (either independently or with a partner), in order to understand how to craft your own historical fiction story. I will walk around and confer with students using possible conferences about using the historical fiction plot diagram.

If they are working in partners, I will have them share out as a whole class after they are done. If they are working independently, I will have them share and compare with their partners. 


I believe that the end of the lesson should be an assessment of the days’ learning; therefore it should be independent work. I always end class with an exit ticker in which students write down the response to a question.

Closing: They will turn in their plot diagram and story with the annotations.