Writing Historical Fiction

Grades 5-7, 120-240min

In the Writing Historical Fiction project, students interview an adult family member or neighbor about their experience with a significant historical tragedy as a child or young adult. Students research the event and combine facts with their interview responses to craft a historical fiction narrative told from the perspective of their interview subject. This project closely aligns with Christopher Paul Curtis’ “The Watsons Go to Birmingham”, but can be adapted to fit other historical fiction novels as well.

Topics addressed:

  • Writing historical fiction
  • Interviewing someone about a moment in their life
  • Researching a historic event
  • Soliciting and integrating feedback
  • Primary CT concept: abstraction. Students learn a lot of the factual details about the tragedy they’re writing about, but their goal is to portray the event through the eyes of their interview subject, forcing them to abstract away many of the finer details and focus instead on emotion and reaction.

Students will be able to:

  • Write a historical fiction narrative based on an interview and research
  • Write and ask interview questions to establish details for their story
  • Research a historic event to find key details that fit into their story
  • Collect meaningful feedback and integrate it into their story


  • PowerPoint presentation: powerpointpdf
  • Student work packet: word pdf
  • Letter to interview subject: word pdf


  • The materials provided for this lesson assume your students are currently reading “The Watsons Go To Birmingham”. If this is not the case, these materials will need to be tweaked.

Suggested lesson breakdown:

This project can be spaced out over a few days or over a few weeks.

Day one

  • 15min – introduce project using PowerPoint presentation, assign interview as homework

Day two

  • 30min – students research the event their interview subject selected. history.com is a wonderful resource for many of the events suggested in the work packet.

Day three

  • 30-60min – students write the first draft of their narrative. Assign collecting feedback from their interview subject as homework.

Day four

  • 30-90min – students incorporate the feedback they received into a final draft. Students can share their stories with the class as time allows.

Common Core standards:

    Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
    Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and introducing a narrator and/or characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
    With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
    Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate.