Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fact vs. Fiction in Clues to a Culture literacy unit

Continuing with our Clues to a Culture unit, we are now exploring the premise that fiction and nonfiction are NOT mutually exclusive and should be read together. Along with our overarching essential question, "How does literature provide insight into a culture," our new topical essential question is, "In what ways do readers learn about a culture from fiction and nonfiction?"

Once students finished reading their novels, they embarked upon a research task. They again used the four chalk talk questions:

1) How do different cultures use the Earth’s resources (plants, trees, water, oil, soil)?
2) How do different cultures view animals? (pets, food, work)?
3) In what ways does religion play a part in a culture’s beliefs and customs?
4) How are a culture’s customs and beliefs shown in their stories, art and music?

Students identified the main culture in their novels and research answers to the four chalk talk questions. They recorded their information in two-column notes.  The main cultures researched were the pioneers, the Inuit, the Penobscot, the Ojibwe, and the Nicoleno.

Once students recorded facts found in response to each of the four questions, they gathered with their novel groups to discuss what each had found. Groups then charted two-column notes, with the left column including the fact found during research, and the right column included quotes from the text providing evidence of the fact.

After students completed their book club discussions, finding examples from the novel that matched the facts about their culture, they used these notes to create a Google presentation slideshow explaining how insight to a culture can be gained through fiction AND nonfiction.  Students wrote a brief summary of their novel, displayed their fiction/nonfiction information in a table, and then wrote a response to the essential question, "How does literature provide insight into a culture?"

This is one student's slideshow with a book summary, fact vs. fiction synopsis, and response to the essential question, "How does literature provide insight to a culture?"


  1. I love the way you intertwined fact and fiction. Even with my little ones, I want them to see the intersection between fact and fiction. I think you did a great job with it. The use of the presentation was a great way for the students to show their understanding and prove that they had truly synthesized the information nonfiction and could apply the knowledge to the fiction.

  2. Barb,
    very impressive! The essential questions and the enduring learning that your students have gained will serve them well, in school and in their lives.

  3. Wow! I love how organized this was! I was able to insert myself into this unit, and think you set it up beautifully so that all kids would be able to access each step, building upon their background knowledge and synthesizing all of the new information they were able to record using two column notes- it is a wonderful way to connect fiction and non-fiction in the context of culture. I love, once again, that the students were able to use technology in their final presentation of their learning.