School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 5

Reading/ELA | Informational | Literary | Writing | Language | Listening | Speaking

Advanced/Gifted and Talented: An advanced/gifted and talented tool is an idea for a complex, multi-step instructional task that requires students to apply knowledge and skills of multiple objectives that support one indicator. Tasks require students to interpret, analyze, and evaluate text at an appropriate level of complexity and embed a variety of differentiation strategies to challenge advanced readers. Many of these strategies and activities can be adapted for use with all students.

Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text

Indicator 8. Read critically to evaluate literary texts

Objective c. Identify and explain the relationship between a literary text and its historical context

Other Objectives Addressed

a.Determine and explain the plausibility of the characters' actions and the plot
b.Identify and explain questions left unanswered by the text

Instructional Task

The students will read critically to evaluate the authenticity of the historical context created in a literary text. The students will gather and present evidence to argue how plausibly the author has used literary elements that enable the reader to make real-world connections to historical, social, and/or political issues. Students will present their evidence and conclusions in a mock trial or debate (auditory learning style).

Development of Task

  1. Before reading, the teacher will introduce the concept of authenticity with the essential question, “How do you know if something you read is true?”
  2. The teacher will explain that writers attempt to convince readers that the text is authentic (genuine, true, correct, real) using plausible or believable characters, settings, and events. However, the writer’s only obligation to the reader is to create verisimilitude, which is an appearance of truth not supported by evidence.
  3. The teacher will introduce the task of “putting the text on trial” with the question, “Can an author use literary elements to create an appearance of authenticity that actually deceives readers and causes them to draw inaccurate conclusions?”
  4. The teacher will provide students with a literary text of appropriate complexity set in an historical context such as The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi or Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes.
  5. During reading, students will collect textual evidence that attempts to convince the reader that the characters’ actions and the plot are plausible or authentic for the historical setting (objective a).
  6. The students will use primary and secondary sources to verify or disprove details which develop the historical context of the story.
  7. After reading, students will prepare for either a mock trial or debate by using the following questions to create arguments for their position (objectives b, c):
    • Are the characters and events true to their historical context? Do they give the reader a full picture of the given time period?
    • Does the author plausibly address the social roles of characters of the given time period?
    • Does the theme reflect prevailing social and political standards of that time period? Can the reader make comparisons to contemporary issues?
    • What historical or social characteristics of the time period have been omitted? How does this missing information affect the authenticity of the text?
  8. The teacher will prepare for the mock trial by assigning the trial roles:

    • The Prosecution will convince the jurors that the author is guilty of deceiving the reader, using details from their research to prove that the reader has not been given a plausible re-creation of the time period and cannot fully understand the historical and social issues. For example, in the True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Charlotte is a young girl in the 1800’s traveling unchaperoned on a ship with all men, she stages a mutiny against the cruel captain, and she takes leadership of the crew.
    • The Defense will prove that the author is innocent of deception and focus on verifying details which develop an authentic re-creation of that time period, For example, in The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, one could ask, “Why was Charlotte unwilling tell her family what had happened to her?” This question addresses the gender issues of the 1800s. Charlotte knew that her parents would probably blame her because it was expected that she, as a proper girl from an upper-class family, would obey the Captain’s authority.
  9. Other trial roles include the witnesses who supply facts for the prosecution and the defense, the bailiff who brings in the witnesses, the clerk who swears them in, the judge who keeps the rules of law, and the jurors who hear the evidence and deliver a verdict (kinesthetic/tactile learning style).
  10. For more information about how to conduct a mock trial, a guide for educators, Putting on Mock Trials produced by the American Bar Association, may downloaded at
Resources for Objective 3.A.8.c:
Lesson Seeds | ADVANCED/G-T |