Fact or Fiction?: Teaching with Historical Fiction

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Fact or Fiction?: Teaching with Historical Fiction. America in Revolution and Conflict October 28, 2011 Fran Macko, Ph.D. fmacko@aihe.info. Setting the Context- The Great Depression and the World Wars. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Using Content Picture Books in the History Classroom: The American Revolution

Fact or Fiction?:Teaching with Historical FictionAmerica in Revolution and ConflictOctober 28, 2011

Fran Macko, Ph.D.fmacko@aihe.infoSetting the Context- The Great Depression and the World WarsWhen World War I began, the U.S. economy was in recession. The war stimulated the U.S. economy, increased employment and wages, and brought great profit to industry.

Entry into the war in 1917 unleashed massive U.S. federal spending, which shifted national production from civilian to war goods.

Unemployment declined in part because workers were drawn in to new manufacturing jobs and because the military draft removed from many young men from the civilian labor force.

After World War I the United States became the world's chief creditor as European countries struggled to pay war debts and reparations.The U.S. lent heavily and unwisely to borrowers in Europe, especially Germany, who would have difficulty repaying the loans.These huge debts made the international banking structure extremely unstable by the late 1920s.

Technology experienced a great boost after the war, as the production of automobiles, airplanes, radios and even certain chemicals, skyrocketed. The advantages of mass production and the use of machinery to perform human labor tasks, became more common.

The post war economic structure had the capacity to produce vast quantities of consumer goods, but this created a fundamental problem: Prosperity could continue only if demand was made to grow as rapidly as supply. People had to be persuaded to abandon such traditional values as saving, postponing pleasures and purchases, and buying only what they needed.Advertising methods that had been developed to build support for World War I were used to persuade people to buy such relatively new products as automobiles and such completely new ones as radios and household appliances. The resulting mass consumption kept the economy going through most of the 1920s.

Income, however, was distributed very unevenly, and the portion going to the wealthiest Americans grew larger as the decade proceeded.In 1929 the top 0.1 percent of American families had a total income equal to that of the bottom 42 percent.People did not have enough money to purchase new products.

To continue widespread spending, the 1920s produced another innovation - "credit," an attractive name for consumer debt.

People were allowed to "buy now, pay later."

American farmers, who represented one-quarter of the economy, were already in an economic depression during the 1920s.

Farmers had expanded their output during World War I, when demand for farm goods was high and production in Europe was cut sharply.

But after the war, farmers found themselves competing in an over-supplied international market.

Prices fell, and farmers were often unable to sell their products for a profit.

The widespread belief that anyone could get rich led many less affluent Americans into the stock market. Investors bought millions of shares of stock "on margin," a practice similar to buying products on credit. They paid only a small part of the price and borrowed the rest, gambling that they could sell the stock at a high enough price to repay the loan and make a profit.

Soon the prices of stocks were rising far beyond the worth of the shares of the companies they represented.

People were willing to pay inflated prices because they believed the stock prices would continue to rise and they could soon sell their stocks at a profit.

Then came 1929 and The Great Depression which ended with World War II.

Framing the SessionWhat is historical truth?

What strategies promote students understanding of historical truth?

How does historical fiction contribute to an understanding of historical truth?

12What is historical truth?For historians, truth is a complex concept.

The idea that history deals with true events and fiction with invented ones isnt always helpful.

To support students in understanding what is true in history, they need to understand that historical fiction combines the three different kinds of truth: literal truth, artistic truth and historical trueness.

This process supports students in becoming critical readers/viewers of history and better historical thinkers.13What is literal truth?Literal truth is an account that can be verified, such as an event that actually occurred at a certain time.The Declaration of Independence was officially approved by the delegates on July 4, 1776.

14What is artistic truth?Artistic truth is an account that cant be verified, but seems true based on what we know about human nature.A young boy describes how happy he felt during a celebration of the Declaration of Independence, as he watched people ringing bells, marching in a parade and hoisting the flag.

15What is historical trueness?Historical trueness is an account that cannot be verified, but is likely to have happened based on what we know about the historical context. It is plausible.A soldier overhears George Washington say that the Declaration of Independence is one of the greatest documents ever written.

16Why teach with historical fiction?Historical fiction:Engages student interest.Levels the playing field.Provides details of daily life.Focuses on individuals over events.Presents the complexity of issues.Provide multiple perspectives.Bridges the gap between narrative and informational text.

17What are the features ofquality historical fiction?Quality historical fiction should:Present a well-told story that doesnt conflict with historical records.Portray characters realistically.Present authentic settings.Artfully fold in historical facts.Provide accurate information through illustrations.Avoid stereotypes and myths.

18What are the challenges of teaching historical fiction?Historical fiction provides limited access to the broad range of historical interpretation.Many examples of historical fiction present the dominant interpretation of history or that which is found in most textbooks.This interpretation, or selective tradition, often excludes the voices of minorities, and as a result, limits student access to the truth.

19Historical fiction is often presentist.The authors give the characters present-day thoughts, beliefs and concerns, thereby presenting an inaccurate view of the past.

20Historical fiction often contains historical inaccuracies.

Historical fiction reflects the historical context, the authors purpose, and ideological predisposition.The prevailing cultural attitudes of the time in which the novel is written may influence the authors attitude toward the events.

21To effectively use historical fiction to support students in understanding history, they need to:understand the three types of truth.understand what historical fiction is and what they can expect to learn from reading it.know that historical fiction and non-fiction present history in different ways.question what they read.

22What are the guiding questions for reading historical fiction?Guiding questions for reading historical fiction include:Could the events described have happened? What evidence do I have?Which characters really existed? What evidence do I have?How does this book help me understand life in the past?

23How can teachers use historical fiction to build understanding of history?Pairing historical fiction with non-fiction on the same event allows students to experience the three kinds of historical truth: literal, artistic and contextual or historical trueness.

In this strategy, students read historical fiction to savor the story, and to identify examples of literal truth, artistic truth and historical trueness.

As they read, they sort the information into three categories: fact (literal truth), fiction (artistic truth), and not sure. 24After compiling their lists, students work in pairs or small groups to discuss and verify, where possible, the information on their fact, fiction and not sure lists.

As a class, they share and discuss their lists for further verification of the information on the fact and fiction lists. Here they also differentiate between artistic truth and historical trueness.

Finally, they compile a class list of questions based on the items on the not sure list.

25Using the class list, students read the paired non-fiction text and clarify the information on their not sure lists, marking the facts with a check.

Questions that are not answered as a result of reading the non-fiction text can be the basis of additional research.

26Modeling the Strategy

27The Great DepressionOut of the Dust by Karen HesseChildren of the Dust Bowl by Jerry Stanley

28Step One- Compiling the ListsForm groups of 2-4.

Read the excerpt Out of the Dust.

Make three lists based on your knowledge of the Great Depression:What is fact?What is fiction?What are you unsure of?

29Step Two- Comparison and DiscussionShare and discuss the items on your lists with your group.

Come to consensus on what is fact, what is fiction and what remains uncertain.

Create research questions based on your list of unsure items.

30Step Three- Group DiscussionWhat did your group identify as:Fact?Fiction?Unsure of?

What as a class can we come to consensus on?

What is your list of research questions? Where might you find the answers to these questions?

31Step Four- Conducting ResearchUsing the paired non-fiction title, research the answers to the questions that were generated from the not sure list.

Based on your research, place the items in either the fact or fiction list.

Step Five- Group DiscussionReview and discuss the results of students research.Check for accuracy of students categorizing of information.From the list of fiction, what are some examples of artist truth? Of historical trueness?How does each type of truth add to our understanding of the historical period or event?

Classroom ApplicationWhere and how could you use historical fiction in your classroom?

What adaptations could you make to the strategy of paired texts?

Turn and talk with a colleague.

34Additional TitlesFiction:The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Non-FictionChildren of the Dust Days by Karen Mueller CoombsChildren of the Great Depression by Russell FreedmanDriven from the Land: The Story of the Dust Bowl by Milton MeltzerLife During the Dust Bowl by Diane YanceyThe Dust Bowl and the Depression in American History by Debra McArthurFinal ThoughtsHigh quality historical fiction:Engages student interestLevels the playing fieldProvides details of daily lifeFocuses on individuals over eventsPresents the complexity of issuesProvide multiple perspectivesBridges the gap between narrative and information text

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