Guest Post: 3 Historical Fiction Books My Students Love by Jenna Watley

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Hello everybody!  I’m Jenna Watley, a 4th grade teacher in the Omaha, Nebraska area.  I’ve been in education for six years, and I teach all subject areas, but history and writing just happen to be two of my favorites!  I also have a passion for fashion (hence the name of my blog, The Fashionista Teacher), and enjoy experiencing life with my husband of almost four years and our two fur-babies, Lucy and Henry.

When I first started teaching at my current school, my team decided to have the students complete a “Genre Challenge” throughout the year, in which they were required to read 20 books of various genres, including realistic fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, biographies and information text.  It has been such a great way to help our young readers experience new authors, series and genres of literature that they might not typically choose on their own.  As a part of the challenge, students read three historical fiction books throughout the year, but I’ve found that many choose to read more than the required amount because they end up really liking historical fiction more than they originally thought!

Today I’m sharing three of their favorites:

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#1 I Survived series

I couldn’t choose just one book from this series because my students love them all!  The I Survived books are by far the most popular historical fiction choices in our classroom, and even my struggling readers really enjoy these entertaining, easy-reads.  The series is written from the perspective of a young boy who experiences major historical events, including the September 11th attacks, the sinking of the Titanic, and Pearl Harbor.  Many kids even express interest in reading more about the topic once they’ve completed the book and love to connect their new knowledge to other texts and discussions in the classroom.

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#2 Al Capone trilogy

Al Capone Does My ShirtsAl Capone Shines My Shoes, and Al Capone Does My Homework are also popular choices for the “Genre Challenge.”  Set during the Great Depression, main character Moose and his family move to Alcatraz where his father takes a job as a prison guard, and his sister with autism attends a special school in San Francisco.  My more advanced readers really enjoy this series, and I appreciate the history lesson taught, as well as the character building lessons woven in throughout.

#3 Papa and the Pioneer Quilt 

I used this book as a read aloud to kick off the Oregon Trail mini-unit, which is part of our Nebraska studies.  The students really enjoyed following Rebecca and her family on their journey to Oregon, and the quilting pieces she collected along the way to document her memories.  It led to a great discussion about the hardships pioneers faced on the trail and the special meaning quilts had to settlers as a way to document their journey.  A few of my other favorite read-alouds are C is for Cornhusker, Unspoken (pictures only), and Sarah Plain and Tall.

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It has been a pleasure to share with you today!  Thanks so much, for the fun opportunity, Debbie!  Happy reading, everybody!

One comment

  1. Jane Heitman Healy

    Thanks, Jenna and Debbie. I love the idea of a genre challenge to get kids to try something new. I was not familiar with the “I Survived” series, so thanks for introducing me!

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