School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 8

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

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text

Indicator 8. Read critically to evaluate literary texts

Objective c. Analyze and evaluate the relationship between a literary text and its historical, social, and/or political context


The teacher should provide students with a series of pages from an historical fiction text where elements of historical setting/details have been underlined. Students should read the text and note the identified areas. Depending upon the number of students in the class, the teacher will assign an identified detail to a single student or a pair of students. Using research texts, internet, etc…students will research the detail to determine the accuracy of its use. After research is complete, students will share their findings with other class members and discuss whether the details were helpful in understanding the text.


After students have read a piece of historical fiction, the teacher should divide the class into small groups and indicate a section of the text for each group to review. Ideally, two small groups will focus on the same section of text, one group reviewing character details while the other group reviews setting details. Those students reviewing character will list details of how characters dressed, spoke and acted. Those students reviewing setting will list details of housing, transportation, and jobs. Once details have been organized, students, using classroom and media resources, will decide how accurate they are to the time period of the historical fiction. Once the small group work is finished, each group will report their information to the rest of the class. Finally, the teacher and students will discuss how important the historical details are to the understanding of the text being specific about what the details help a reader learn.


Prior to this activity the teacher should ensure that students understand that looking at characters in a social context requires knowledge of the historical period and then looking at social issues of that time: gender, race, socio-economic status etc…The teacher should select certain sections of the text where the focus is on character and/or character interaction. Although many such texts are available, some suggested ones include Theodore Taylor's The Cay, Mildred Taylor's Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Laurence Yep's Dragonwings, and Judie Angell's One Way to Ansonia. To begin, the teacher and students should read the identified sections of text and take notes of the characters' actions, reactions, and interactions with other characters. Once the section of text has been reviewed, each character detail should be analyzed to determine whether that action, reaction, or interaction was a reflection of the social context of the times. Finally, the teacher and students should discuss whether the social context in the text helps establish and develop the characters.


Prior to this activity, the teacher should carefully read a piece of historical fiction and record universal situations, problems, ideas, etc…that exist in that text. A novel or short story like Irene Hunt's Across Five Aprils works well with this activity. The teacher should provide each student with a list of these universal situations, problems, ideas etc…and discuss with them a specific instance in the novel/short story that reflects that situation. Once a text example has been found for each universal situation, the teacher and students should discuss whether that text example is evidence of an historical, social, or political issue and whether understanding those issues helps a reader better understand literary elements in the text.


After reading a literary text that reflects one or more of the following: historical setting, social issues, or political climate, the teacher and students should discuss those ideas. Next, the teacher should select three panels of students to discuss those ideas within the confines of the text. As each panel of students talks about the historical setting, social issues, or political climate in the novel, all other students attend to the discussion and note the important ideas that come from each panel. After all discussions are complete, the teacher should place students in small groups and assign a character from the text to each group. The group must decide the implications of historical setting, social issues, and political climate on each character and then share their findings with the rest of the class.

Resources for Objective 3.A.8.c:
LESSON SEEDS | Sample Assessments | Advanced/G-T |