Fact, Fiction, or Somewhere in Between?

45 min.

Educators like this


  • Compare and contrast fiction and nonfiction.
  • Study philosophies, stories, and facts that relate to American Civics and note important ideas.
  • Evaluate texts on American civics & democracy.

Big Idea

The purpose here is for students to see that interesting historical figures and facts can be used to create even more interesting historical fiction. Also, they must be able to separate fact from fiction, historical fiction from nonfiction. This is a great way to get students thinking about narrative voice, about using real events to imagine narrative, and to get them writing about cross-curricular ideas.

To begin this lesson, as students to respond to the wonder above in their writer’s notebooks for three minutes. Then, ask them to share aloud so that you can begin a discussion with their pre-existing ideas about this topic. Record any important take-aways on the board or chart paper for future reference.

Either print these articles or give students electronic access to them. Alternate the articles so that students near one another have different articles. Give 5 minutes for students to read; ask them to note the opinion(s) expressed in the articles and to compare this with the previous writing and discussion.


http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php... (don’t be deterred by the name of the website)


Once the articles have been read and notes have been taken, ask students to get into groups of three so that each group has three people with three different articles. Each student gets 2 minutes to share his/her findings with the group. At the end of the sharing period, each group should decide what they think about fiction and nonfiction and be ready to share with the whole group. Take time to let each group report out and record any take-aways on the same chart paper from the anticipatory activity for future reference.

Speak to the social studies teacher that aligns with your grade level ahead of time and ascertain the topic/period they are studying at the time of this lesson. Then, pull texts that represent historical fiction and nonfiction about this same topic/period. Copy excerpts or provide books, magazines, articles, poems, short stories, etc. as examples. Give students time to explore at least two of these texts, record the characteristics of them, evaluate them for quality, historical merit, literary merit, and for their own preference using the chart linked here. The chart provides an example of something that might be paired for 9th grade ELA and Exploring Civics, the 9th grade social studies course in my district.

Once students have examined at least two texts and completed the chart, ask them to choose one person from history that relates to the topic you’ve chosen that interests them. For example, if they watched the video on John Locke and really though this ideas were interesting, they could choose him. From here, ask students to write a rationale about why they chose this person, what’s interesting about him/her, and what story they want to tell about this person. This story will be made up, but based on historical facts. Circulate the room while students are writing and identify at least two students that have great ideas to share. Ask them to share these with the class as exemplars.