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ERIC Number: EJ1043153
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 5
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0037-7724
Historical Fiction, the Common Core, and Disciplinary Habits of Mind
Schwebel, Sara L.
Social Education, v78 n1 p20-24 Jan-Feb 2014
The Common Core State Standards call for the increased presence of nonfiction in the school curriculum and for students' exposure to narratives characterized by textual complexity. At first glance, these recommendations may discourage classroom teachers from continuing the longstanding instructional practice of using historical fiction to enrich students' understanding of historical events (e.g., the American Revolution through books like Esther Forbes's "Johnny Tremain" and Christopher and James Lincoln Colliers's "My Brother Sam is Dead"), historical figures (e.g., Ben Franklin through Robert Lawson's "Ben and Me"), and historical concepts and settings (e.g., legal segregation and discrimination during the Great Depression through Mildred D. Taylor's "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" and Pam Muñoz Ryan's "Esperanza Rising"). This author states that to abandon this pedagogical practice because of the Common Core would be misguided, as research has demonstrated that historical fiction draws students into the study of the past. Unlike twenty-first century social studies textbooks, recently published historical fiction is often characterized by textual complexity. These weighty texts feature historical settings and are characterized by sophisticated vocabulary, rich intertextuality, polyphonic narration, and experimentation in form; they are far more textually complex than any textbook on the market. Moreover, they are conceptually complex, asking readers to wrestle with the often fraught relationship between historical past and contemporary present. The strongest argument for historical fiction's continued utility in social studies curricula, however, goes to the heart of the Common Core's central premise about literacy: that is, that each academic discipline approaches texts, whatever their subject or form, in distinct ways and for different purposes. The implication, of course, is that the process of learning to read well must necessarily encompass the experience of reading in a range of disciplinary modes, which is commonly called "content area literacy."
National Council for the Social Studies. 8555 Sixteenth Street #500, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Tel: 800-683-0812; Tel: 301-588-1800; Fax: 301-588-2049; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A