Creating the History Story: Curriculum Guide For Middle School Students

Goal:  Each student will create a story that will integrate critical thinking, historic research and creative writing skills.  The project could also result in a story telling festival, but additional work in telling skills would have to be incorporated.

1.  Students will research the details of the era.

2.  Students will create an original character based upon themselves.  This will include an autobiography.

3.  Students will create an original story from an authentic historic episode, determining how it affected the life of their character.


1. The Form:

‘Historic Fiction’, what an odd term!  How can something be historically correct and still fictionalized?  It would be good idea to take a well-written piece of historic fiction and examine it.  Something specifically from the era you will be covering would be most appropriate.  What of this novel, short story or essay was historic, and what was fictionalized.  It is important for them to know that authentic historic detail is essential, but that building a human character is the stuff that imaginations were created for.


2.  The Research

Prior to the creation of our stories, it is essential for students to have a sense of the era we are working in.  Both the economic, social, political and philosophical forces which molded people’s lives become necessary knowledge before one can understand why people take the actions they do.  Rosa Parks would not have caused a furor if she refused to stand on a bus in 1970.  Nelson Mandela would not have been jailed today.  Indeed, Elizabeth Cady Stanton would have taken up a very different cause had she been born a decade later.  We are shaped by the world we are born into.  In addition, students need to have access to the personal details about the era we are working in.  How American’s lived during WWII, what they ate, how it was prepared, what the primary forms of transportation were, and what their mothers gave them for a cold, all become equally important in historic fiction. Within the guise of this work students will go back to the sources of this information again and again, searching out the details of daily living and specific facts and dates.  I know that through your curriculum much of this has already been covered.  Take time to create a time line of your era to be studied.  Include not only the events of era, but the social, economic, and philosophic trends that were popular.  Have students research through books, pictures, magazines, films, music and any other forms, the details of life during the era you are focusing on.  It is a good idea to keep this information about, in the form of books, charts, reference papers, pictures, costumes and artifacts so that students can return to them throughout the process.

Since you have the advantage of living in the area that will be our setting for the stories, trips to sights like the armory and the opportunity to see any artifacts that might still be standing would offer great advantage to the students.  The more they are equipped with the realities of the physical setting and the small details of life during   the war, the fuller their imaginary work will be.

Story writing In Nine Sessions (allow for flexibility!)

WEEK1    Defining Ways and Means

This initial session will serve to:

1.  Warm students up to the creative dramatic and storytelling techniques we’ll be using

2.   Define project goals

3.   Techniques Workshop – Storytelling

Homework: Using your newly acquired techniques, work a joke that I will tell you about the settlers into a tale and practice telling it.  Remember Characterization, visualization and all the possibilities available to the narrator.

Week 2  Discovering Our Hero/Heroine

1.  Warm-up:  We’ll share some of those jokes!

2.   Finding Your Character

We will complete an exercise that will enable students to discover the         hero/heroine of their story.  This is the most essential step of this              session, or the “hook” that will pull them through the remainder of the         writing and research.  It will be primarily a guided imagery exercise               during which they will identify their character.

Homework for session 2: Write down and draw what you saw during the guided imagery.  Include as many details as you possibly can from beginning to end.

Week 3 Deepening the Character

This week will be primarily dedicated to using creative dramatic and interview techniques to deepen and better understand our characters.  Numerous questions and need for details that are not known will arise.  The students will keep careful note of these.

Homework for session 3:  Any questions or details that were not readily known to you about your character………………find them.  Using the research material available and you own ability to relax and imagine their world, fill in all the details that you did not know about your characters life.  Add this information to your last homework assignment and call it “Biographic Materials.”

Week 4  Telling the First Tale

During this session students will work on a short original story about their character developed from their guided imagery work and improvisational techniques.  They will then practice telling this tale in teams, using the telling skills that they were introduced to earlier.

Homework for session4:  Practice this story.  Each time it is told focus on clarifying details and your presentation.

Week 5 The Times

This session will be dedicated to researching the era.  We will combine the information that individuals have accumulated by creating a time line with the whole class.  We will determine what events economic, historic, political, and philosophical might have most effected the native population of the area.  Students will begin to create a personal time line for their character.

Homework for session 5:  Finish the personal time line for your character.  Show what was happened during your characters life within the tribe, the nation (the ‘Nation’ of the Native Americans) and the new colony as a place being settled by the English.  Include events that touched the social, economic, political and philosophical lives of the people. (You have a week for this one.)

Week 6 The Opening

This session will be used to conduct a guided imagery establishing the opening of each student’s story.  The opening will include a full description of the world their character lives in and some specific idiosyncrasies that bring their character alive.

Homework for session 6:  Write the opening of your story.  In teams, tell them to each other and obtain peer counseling on how well you have communicated the world that your character lives in.

Week 7  The Problem!

Students should by now have a strong grounding in both the period and their character. This week their lives will hit a great snag.  An authentic event in the history of the area will deeply affect their characters personal needs or goals.  How they will cope with and resolve the situation is the stuff that stories are made of.

Prior to this session the teachers and I will have collected the time lines and chosen an appropriate event for each character to work through.  This session will be mainly dedicated to guided imagery work during which the student will be called upon to imagine the situation completely and begin towards its resolution.

Homework for session 7:  Explore the problem.  I want you to explore the problem you are facing in two ways.  First there are words to describe what is happening.  After you have written down what you saw from the guided imagery I want to experiment with it in another form.  Express the problem that your character is facing in another form:  Music, Movement, Visual Art (I will model this before they go off)

Week 8   Honing the Tale

During this session we will conduct one last guided imagery.  Our objective is to resolve the problem that emerged in our last session.  Students will find a unique and individual resolution that is based on their character and environment.  Once a resolution is discovered we will find a conclusion to our stories by repainting the opening but reflecting in it what has changed.

Homework for session 8:  Each student is to create a picture board of their story.  This is a large board divided into frames.  In each frame is a picture or visual symbol that represents each consecutive scene of their story.  A word or two can be used in addition.  The objective is to visualize your story scene by scene, and then use this board as an aid for your telling.

Team Telling and Coaching

Students will complete a number of exercises in teams during which they will tell their story in a variety of ways, forcing them to explore the range of their telling skills and helping them to clarify character, situation, motivation, etc.

Homework for session 8: Tell your stories, using suggestions and new ideas obtained during this session.  Practice Practice Practice

Week 9  Storytelling Festival

We can work the final details of this out at a later point, but I would like them to have a final day during which they share their stories with other classes and we celebrate with a little something special.  (A Pizza Lunch?)

For a full listing of Judith’s history stories.

To Purchase Stories

Take a storytelling class.