Social studies is a subject that often suffers from a reputation for being dull and dry. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. One powerful tool for bringing history to life and making social studies more engaging is through the use of historical fiction. Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone is a perfect example of a novel that can revitalize your social studies curriculum.


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Historical fiction has the ability to transport students to a different time and place, immersing them in the world of the past. Blood on the River tells the real-life story of Samuel Collier who voyages to the New World along with Captain John Smith to colonize Jamestown in 1607, during the early years of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia. By reading this novel, students can step into the shoes of the young characters and experience the challenges and adventures of that era.

Benefits of Using Blood on the River in Your Classroom:

  • Provides Historical Accuracy: Blood on the River is a meticulously researched historical novel that transports readers to the early days of the Jamestown colony. Elisa Carbone takes students on a vivid journey through the eyes of Samuel Collier, a young boy who experiences the hardships and triumphs of the Jamestown settlement. By integrating historical accuracy into a captivating narrative, the book provides a reliable and immersive way to introduce students to the early history of the United States.

    Using this novel in your classroom, you can spark interest in history and encourage students to explore the roots of the nation, fostering a deeper understanding of the challenges and struggles faced by early settlers.

  • Opens Cross-Curriular Opportunites: Blood on the River offers opportunities for interdisciplinary learning. You can incorporate history, geography, and even science lessons into the study of this novel, making it a versatile addition to your curriculum. Connecting the themes and events in the book to other subjects fosters a holistic understanding of the historical period.
  • Fosters Empathy: Empathy is an essential skill for students to develop, and Blood on the River offers a unique opportunity to nurture this trait. By following the life of Samuel Collier and his relationships with other settlers, students are exposed to the emotional and social aspects of the Jamestown colony’s early days.

    The characters in the novel face hardships, dilemmas, and moral decisions. Readers can put themselves in the character’s shoes and learn to appreciate the challenges people faced in the past. Through this narrative, students can build empathy and develop a better understanding of the human experience, which extends to the present day.

  • Encourages Critical Thinking: The novel is an excellent platform for fostering critical thinking and analysis skills. It provides a rich tapestry of themes and situations that encourage students to reflect on complex issues such as leadership, survival, justice, and ethics. Engaging with the text can lead to stimulating class discussions, helping students refine their analytical and interpretive abilities.
  • Brings Cultural Awareness: Blood on the River delves into the interactions between Indigenous Peoples and the English settlers. This aspect of the novel can serve as a starting point for discussions about the cultural exchange and conflicts that characterized early American history. Understanding the differing perspectives of the Indigenous Peoples and the English settlers can expand students’ cultural awareness and encourage them to think more deeply about the impact of colonization.
  • Fosters Ethical Discussions: The novel provides a platform for discussing ethical dilemmas, such as the treatment of Indigenous Peoples and the morality of colonization. These discussions enable students to explore their own values and ethical standpoints, encouraging them to become more informed and compassionate individuals.
  • Offers Opportunities for Language and Literary Analysis: The book’s rich language and literary style provide an excellent opportunity for language arts and literary analysis. Students can explore the use of figurative language, symbolism, and the development of character and plot. This novel can be a great addition to your English and Social Studies curriculum, offering an engaging text for literary analysis.

Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone is a versatile and valuable resource that can significantly enhance the educational experience in your classroom. It offers historical accuracy, encourages empathy, fosters critical thinking, raises cultural awareness, and provides opportunities for language and literary analysis.

By incorporating this novel into your curriculum, you can provide your students with a multi-faceted learning experience that extends beyond the pages of a book. Blood on the River is an exceptional tool for educators looking to inspire a deeper understanding of history and a greater capacity for empathy and critical thinking in their students.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Blood on the River for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.


See what people are saying about the Blood on the River Novel Study by The Teaching Bank!



Try a free sample of the novel study for Blood on the River 


You can purchase this novel study at the following locations:

You can also use this novel study alongside my social studies units for the Eastern Woodlands Region US History Unit to learn about the Powhatan Empire and learn about the colonization of the Virginia Colonies, including Jamestown.

You can buy these units bundled with the Blood on the River Novel Study, at a discount.

Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

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