National Writing Project

Historical Fiction in English and Social Studies Classrooms: Is It a Natural Marriage?

By: KaaVonia Hinton
Publication: English Journal
Date: January 2014

Summary: A study group of ELA and Social Studies teachers share the lessons they learned from reading historical fiction and nonfiction together, exploring how approaching a text from both disciplines can more fully contextualize the work, as well as cultivate historical empathy.

 

We also found that when using historical fiction in their classrooms, teachers of both subject matters wish to promote another key habit of mind: historical empathy, which needs to be built upon contextualizing the historical period. In English, it has been suggested that young adult fiction 'can offer a connection to alienated students, mirror the lives of young adults and provide a forum for adolescents to discuss what it means to come of age, including navigating difficult problems, accessing tools needed to become problem solvers, and fostering empathy' (Bucher and Hinton 10; Stallworth). More specifically, historical details build empathy and help students understand why characters in historical novels make certain decisions, thus humanizing historical periods and events (Bucher and Hinton; Nawrot)."

About the Authors

KAAVONIA HINTON is an associate professor at Old Dominion University, and is the former director of the Tidewater Writing Project.

YONGHEE SUH is an assistant professor, teaching social studies methods, at Old Dominion University.

LOURDES COLÓN-BROWN is an English teacher in Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

MARIA O'HEARN is an AP Government and Politics teacher at Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia, and a PhD student at Old Dominion University.

Hinton, KaaVonia, Yonghee Suh, Lourdes Colón-Brown, and Maria O'Hearn. "Historical Fiction in English and Social Studies Classrooms: Is It a Natural Marriage?" English Journal 103:3 (2014) 22-27. Copyright ©2014 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Reprinted with permission.

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