Using Historical Fiction to Integrate SS and LA

I'm sorry I haven't blogged this past week. We haven't been at school since last Thursday! It has been incredibly cold here (-30s) and we got about 7 inches of snow over the weekend. We've been off for cold days!

I was so excited when I saw Jivey's Workshop Wednesday topic, because it gave me inspiration for a post.. especially when inspiration was lacking since I haven't been doing a ton of teaching lately!

Every year I have students (especially boys) that are incredibly interested in Historical Fiction. I make sure to stock my library with every Titanic, WWI, WWII, Military historical fiction and nonfiction book for kids. I have students who just plow right through those books.

So when it's hard to get students motivated to learn about Social Studies sometimes, I find ways to integrate things they love.

Enter one of my favorite books to teach…

I read this book with my class before Christmas Break, trying out different lessons and ideas to make this pack meaningful and jam packed with resources.

One of my favorite parts of teaching this book is the historical tie-ins. The book is set in Oklahoma during The Great Depression. The main character, Billy, lives on a farm in the Ozarks. His family is a perfect example of what most families went through during this hard time.

Every year my fourthies seem to struggle with setting. They always remember to tell me WHERE the story takes place, but they forget the WHEN. So I make it a HUGE point with this book, since the WHEN is so important to the rest of the story.

I start off by introducing the book and the setting:

After reading chapters 1-2, we stop reading for the week. I have the kiddos hooked now, and I want to keep them interested. I explain to them that in order for us to truly understand Billy's story, we have to be able to understand and connect to what he's going through.

I read these two short Historical Fiction picture books to them:
Description from Amazon: East Texas, the 1930s—the Great Depression. Award-winning author Jonah Winter's father grew up with seven siblings in a tiny house on the edge of town. In this picture book, Winter shares his family history in a lyrical text that is clear, honest, and utterly accessible to young readers, accompanied by Kimberly Bulcken Root's rich, gorgeous illustrations. Here is a celebration of family and of making do with what you have—a wonderful classroom book that's also perfect for children and parents to share.

Description from Amazon: During the Great Depression, a family seeking work finds employment for two weeks digging potatoes in Idaho.

After we read these books, we make a class "web" of all of the things we now know about The Great Depression.

After our discussion, I introduce our research project. I have students think about at least (3) GOOD research questions that they want to use to learn more about The Great Depression.
 I start this research project small on purpose. I don't want them to feel overwhelmed, and I want them to learn about things they are INTERESTED in that relate to the Great Depression. I give them about an hour of class time to research their 3 questions and come up with answers.

The next day, I pass out the project presentation guidelines. I explain that this is a project where they can CHOOSE what to present and how to present it. They LOVE this about it.

I give class time over the rest of the week for students to finish research and work on their project (at home work is done, too.

Every year I have a handful of students who get engrossed in this topic and want to learn more! I always have a "Current Theme" book bin in my classroom where I put books from my library or the public library that relate to what we are discussing in class. So over the time we're reading Where the Red Fern Grows I put in a lot of historical fiction from The Great Depression time period. Some books I include are:

These books are all great literature, and they tie into so many historical events. I love when I can double dip with SS and Reading :) It's amazing the discussions we have as a class when we talk about The Great Depression. I love the empathy my students show, and I'm shocked at how many students can relate all-to-well to the struggles. 

If you're considering teaching Where the Red Fern Grows, I highly suggest it! Although it is a very sad ending, it is such a powerful piece of literature. My entire class is engrossed in the book as we read it together. When we finished it this year, with many teary-eyed students (and teacher.. haha) one of my boys raised his hand and said, 

"That's how we know it's a good book, Mrs. Cap! If it wasn't SO good, we wouldn't all care so much!"

I thought that was pretty deep and powerful for a fourth grader! :)

My 200 page pack will guide you through everything you need to teach this book. I put it 50% off for the first 24 hours, so you have a few hours left to pick it up at it's discounted price. Click here to download.

Make sure you head on over to Jivey's page and link up :)

I'm going to climb back under a mound of blankets and get some hot chocolate to warm up! 


  1. Thank you so much for linking up- these are awesome ideas! Fifth grade teaches this time period here in GA but if I ever move grade levels..... ;-)

  2. I remember when my teacher read this book to me in my 4th grade class. It was such a great book {even way back then}. I remember crying at the ending too!! Your student is right - that is how you know you have read a great piece of literature, when you care enough to get emotional about it!!!


    1. It is such an amazing book! I always cry, but love it! :) Such a powerful and true quote! Thank you :)

  3. I follow you and receive your emails. I received this email 3 hours ago which is approximately 4:25. I was really looking forward to purchasing your your huge 200 page packet for half price. Unfortunately, you must have sent the email after the time had expired. This has happened to me before. Is there any way to get the email so I don't miss the specials? Thanks so much! I really love your blog and your products.

    1. Hi! Do you follow my TPT store? Sometimes they are delayed in sending out those emails. I always post on my Facebook page and my Instagram as soon as I upload a new product so if you follow me on either of those you should get notified right away! :) I'm sorry you missed the half price. I promise though, even for $10, it is still worth it for everything you get! :)