In our busy classrooms, we often find that social studies gets pushed to the side to make room for things that take priority for testing and data collection. It’s not that we don’t want to teach social studies, it’s just sometimes hard to find the time. One great way to incorporate social studies is to use a historical fiction novel study in reading. You get all the work on the high priority reading skills and hit the social studies curriculum at the same time. This method can be very engaging for students and they end up with a deeper impact when history comes to life for them in the story. One great book to use while teaching about the early colonization of America is Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone.
Blood on the River was first published in 2006. It tells the real-life story of Samuel Collier who voyages to the New World along with Captain John Smith to colonize Jamestown in 1607.
Summary of Blood on the River:
*From the book jacket
Twelve-year-old Samuel Collier is a lowly commoner on the streets of London. So when he becomes the page of Captain John Smith and boards the Susan Constant, bound for the New World, he can’t believe his good fortune. He’s heard that gold washes ashore with every tide. But beginning with the stormy journey and his first contact with the native people, he realizes that the New World is nothing like he imagined. The lush Virginia shore where they establish the colony of James Town is both beautiful and forbidding, and it’s hard to know who’s a friend or foe. As he learns the language of the Powhatan Indians and observes Captain Smith’s wise diplomacy, Samuel begins to see that he can be whomever he wants to be in this new land.
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.
Elisa Carbone takes some creative license with the story of Samuel Collier, but the story is rooted in fact and is deeply researched. It gives students a thorough idea of what it must have been like to come to the New World at this time in history. It also chronicles the relationship, both positive and negative, of the colonists with the Powhatan tribe living in the Virginia area. Students learn the real-life story of Pocahontas and how she worked with Captain John Smith towards peace and cooperation with the colonists.
You can also use this novel study alongside my social studies units for 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.
I think you will find that using historical fiction to integrate your social studies and ELA curriculum will broaden your students’ learning to make it more lasting and meaningful.
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!
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