Revolutionary War Book Clubs

In Michigan our fifth graders study American History from the first Native Americans up through the Constitution. Even though I do not teach social studies, I try to integrate history into our reading and writing blocks as much as possible.  One way I do that is through historical fiction literature that connects to the time periods my students are studying. 

For this post, I'd like to share with you how I integrate the Revolutionary War time period into Reading Workshop time. There are so many great historical fiction texts that focus on The Revolutionary War and American life during the 1700s.  If you're not already using some of these stories in your fifth grade classroom, maybe this post will inspire you to try a few out next year!

To incorporate social studies into our reading time, the first mini-lesson I do is on the elements of historical fiction. I draw a large venn diagram on an anchor chart during this lesson and have students identify the elements of nonfiction on one side of the venn diagram (facts; real events/people/animals; text features; compare/contrast or causes/effects organizational structure; photographs; etc.) and elements of fiction on the other side of the venn diagram (made up characters, events, settings; story elements; conflict; theme; etc.).  In the middle of the venn diagram I write historical fiction and then we discuss how you find elements of both nonfiction and fiction in historical fiction (true facts/characters/events/settings but with additional made up characters/events/settings along with conflicts (often true) and themes.)

After this mini lesson, I begin to expose my students to some historical fiction texts through picture books set in the time periods they have studied in social studies class. The time period I chose was "America" during the 1700s.  I discuss with students that authors of historical fiction texts give many clues about the setting so readers can infer the tone of that time period.  The two picture books we used to analyze the setting/time period clues were Katie's Trunk by Ann Turner and Redcoats and Petticoats by Katherine Kirkpatrick. In both books we focused on paying careful attention to the author's clues that set up the tone of the 1700s in "America."


Next, I explain to students that they will continue to investigate the tone of the 1700s in America through analyzing further historical fiction literature in books clubs with their peers.  We do book clubs a lot in our classroom so my students are familiar with the procedures and expectations.  I use the lesson plans found in my Complete Guide to Book Clubs in the Upper Elementary and Middle School Classroom in the beginning of the year to set this groundwork. 

By this time, my students are really excited to see which book club books they'll get to choose from.  Here are the selections we used this year, plus a few more of my favorite Revolutionary War books.  I chose books at a variety of reading levels to target all of my readers.



Are you thinking of trying this out?  If so, here's a quick run down on how we do book clubs in our classroom:

After the students choose their books, using the Top 3 Choices sheet from my Complete Guide to Book Clubs for the Upper Elementary and Middle School Classroom, I place them into their groups.


During their first meeting, they create a Book Club Constitution and set up their nightly reading/response schedule.  They can't wait to start!  Yes, you read that correctly, they can't wait to start reading about history!! Score!!

Throughout book clubs you can cover so many ELA common core standards with your students while reviewing social content as well.

Even the Speaking and Listening standards are covered with book clubs. Students will learn what good book club discussions look and sound like through watching "fish bowl" discussions.  I pull a random stick and that group conducts their meeting in front of the class while we watch and "grade" their discussion. We look for good listening skills, preparedness, taking turns, clearing up confusions, piggy-backing off each other's ideas, deep thinking about the texts and citing evidence for support. You will find a "fish bowl" grading sheet in my Book Club product above. After the "fish bowl" group is finished we discuss what went well and what could be improved. Then the rest of the clubs meet and model their discussions off what they just witnessed.

Team captains start off the discussion and keep the groups on task.  I number all my book club books and team captains are simply the member who has the number book that I spin. The team captains keep track of who is contributing to the discussion and who is not prepared or off task during the meeting.  At the end of club meetings I collect team captain recording sheets (found in the Complete Guide to Book Clubs) so I can assess student behavior.

Throughout a round of books clubs, I give 3-4 comprehension quizzes (found in the Complete Guide to Book Clubs).  I model the skills on each quiz (story elements, citing evidence, predicting, wondering, theme, character change, etc.) through our classroom read aloud and encourage students to talk about the skills during club meetings before they take each quiz.

When book clubs are all over, which is always a sad day in our classroom, I further assess student understanding of the deeper meaning of the book through a written response.  Students can choose to create a book recommendation of their book or write a summary (Both are included in the Complete Guide to Book Clubs, along with rubrics).

And that's that.  Loads of ELA standards covered, and social studies content too.  Students leave book clubs with an understanding of a time period in history that's deeper than any textbook can offer, and they've authentically used ELA skills and strategies in a real life situation. I try to do a round of book clubs between each major reading unit.  But for some of my kids who struggle with choosing just right independent reading books and finishing books, I keep them in book clubs most of the year. They read SOOO many books this way because they have the accountability of their group of peers,

Have you ever tried book clubs before?  Are you integrating you social studies concepts into your reading block?  I'd love to hear how you're fitting it all in too!!


  1. Hi. I also teach 5th graders in Michigan. I'll pass your ideas on to my Language Arts teaching partner to use next year. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow! I love studying the revolutionary war period, but have been getting weighed down with all the different components and issues that led to this period in our history. I am definitely going to try using your bookclubs method.

    I hope you don't mind, but I would like to repost your blog. I think every 5th grade teacher would want to read this.

    1. Hi Kelly, thank you for the kind comments about my post. Do you have a blog? If so I'd love to check it out.

  3. I was just talking on my blog a few weeks ago about trying to find revolutionary war historical novels for my 5th graders this year! I'm a part of a 5th grade collaboration group, and they also very interested in this topic! Thanks for making this fabulous post!!! I'm wild about it!

    The Whimsical Teacher

  4. My kids also enjoyed The Keeping Room by Anna Myers!

  5. I have just added you Book Club Guide to my TpT cart! I am so excited to get started. I've also added your close reading resources. I have just one worry... How do I fit it all in? I get the mini lessons/ book club time as reading workshop, but how do you fit everything else into the reading block? Could you share a typical daily schedule? Maybe even weekly?


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