Daily Archives: April 25, 2007

Kids Writing Historical Fiction: All Sorts of Research

As I’ve mentioned here before, I spend much of the year with my fourth grade students studying historical fiction; at the end they create their own works of historical fiction about the Pilgrims. I’ve written about how we begin, especially their work with primary sources. To motivate them to get the basic facts we did a Pilgrim Jeopardy game and now are on to the really fun part — the kids have created composite main characters and are “interviewing” them. That is, they are using the same questions they used for their fall immigration oral history interviews to create an imaginary interview with their composite Mayflower passenger.It is amazing how just about all the questions still work. (The only ones that don’t are those asking about how they learned English and about their progress in citizenship.) And they make great research questions. The kids have to really dig deep to figure out how their characters would describe their old countries (England or Holland in the early 1600s). They use books written for children and adults, primary sources, and some excellent web sites.

The absolute best research source for them is our trip to Plimoth Plantation. The folks there do a brilliant job of recreating the settlement as accurately as they can based on the material available. In fact, our whole unit is the result of my meeting someone from Plimoth long ago who told me about the place and sparked my imagination. The rest is….as they say…history! And so tomorrow Dalton’s whole fourth grade is off for their two day trip back in time. At the moment the kids are far more considered about the long bus trip and we teachers about the weather (doesn’t look good for Friday), but I guarantee that we will all come back in awe once again of the whole experience.

We will go first to the Mayflower 2, a recreation of the original ship which is populated by actors playing passengers as if it were April 1621. We’ll stop by the teeny weeny Plymouth Rock and then walk through the actual location of the original settlement to Burial Hill. I love doing this because the kids really can see exactly why they chose the spot. We then go to the Plantation for a colonial dinner and various activities (writing with quills, colonial games, dressing like a Pilgrims, etc) before bed (sleeping bags in their perfectly okay classrooms — we don’t sleep in the Village itself).

The next morning we go to the 1627 Pilgrim Village which is always just wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! My kids are so ready for this. They have questions related to their research all ready to go! The actors are always wowed by our students, they know so much and have such great questions. We also go to the Wampanoag Homesite which the kids love.

Then back on the bus, more videos, and home before dark. An exhausting and exciting two days always. And the following Monday — the kids will be ready to dive into those imaginary interviews bring all to them all the research they did while away.

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Filed under Historical Fiction, History, Teaching