Fiction Brings History to Life at Middle School

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Not only are seventh-graders becoming stronger readers, but they are also learning about the past at Edmund W. Miles Middle School. English language arts teacher Katie Pallini recently launched the historical fiction unit through Reader’s Workshop.

The district has adopted the literacy initiative through Columbia University Teachers College which gives students the opportunity to read books based on their interests. Ms. Pallini and her co-teachers Suparna Basu and Alyssa DelGiorno opened the lesson with book tasting, in which students could sample dozens of historical fiction books before choosing one to read. While characters are typically fictitious, the stories are based on actual historical events.

In a follow-up lesson, Ms. Pallini read excerpts from Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Book Chains,” stopping periodically and asking students to share their thoughts with each other during turn-and-talk discussions. She also demonstrated jots, in which a reader pauses and writes down their thoughts about a text. Students are asked to note their feelings, predictions and questions, as well as any personal connections to a story. 

Jots, which are kept in reader’s notebooks, are used for their own reflections and to spark class discussions. The readers make connections to each other’s independent books.

“Students are not only deepening their analytical stills, they’re deepening their understanding of different historical time periods,” she said. “They are also learning how to communicate with their classmates by engaging in discussion about the topics and issues presented in the books.”