Teach students to write historical fiction: Review of Family Fiction

Review of "Family Fiction," a workbook that helps you teach students to write historical fiction loosely based on your family tree.

Did you know historical fiction is growing on your family tree? Wouldn’t it be fun to imagine what life was like for some of those interesting, often quirky relatives?

Family Fiction, a reusable workbook from BrimWood Press, teaches students 10 and older how to make discoveries about their ancestors, embellish facts with relevant fictional details, and write stories that are sure to become treasured family heirlooms.

Your Heritage

Review of "Family Fiction," a workbook that helps you teach students to write historical fiction loosely based on your family tree.Perhaps you know very little about your ancestors. Or maybe you’ve heard a million family stories and own stacks of vintage photographs.

Either way, author Jennifer Johnson Garrity provides your children with all the tools they need to craft a realistic, historically accurate story based closely (or loosely, as the case may be!) on your personal family tree.

Quotation MarksA story based on the life of an ancestor
not only has personal relevance, it fosters close family relationships because of the communication necessary to begin the research process. It produces a quality of work that the average writing assignment fails to inspire.

-Jennifer Johnson Garrity, author of Family Fiction

Historical fiction is a combination of true facts and made-up details. Even if you know little to nothing about the actual ancestor, your kids will learn to research the time period and make up realistic stories about their distant relatives.

My own great-grandfather Nachman was born in Russia or Poland around 1849. He immigrated to New York in 1901, where he earned a living as a peddler. It might seem impossible to write a story about someone like Nachman, but Family Fiction shows how to research period details such as clothing and transportation so a child can make up a historically accurate story about a day in the life of “Nachman the Peddler”—no matter how few factual details exist!

The Workbook

Presented in three phases—Research, Writing, and Editing—Family Fiction is an easy-to-use workbook. Its pages are filled with interesting photos and engaging exercises.

Clear, well-organized instructions guide your student through the process of gathering historical information, weaving together fact and fiction to create a plot, and then refining both content and style to fashion a unique and exciting work of fiction. Stories can be short or long, according to attention span and interest in the topic.

Chapters include General Research, Specific Research, Writing Your Story, and Editing Your Story. As they progress through the workbook, students learn how to:

  • Distinguish between a story and a report
  • Conduct interviews
  • Blend fact and fiction
  • Use historical research and photos
  • Understand and avoid anachronisms
  • Create a roadmap of the story
  • Add interesting sentence structure and vocabulary

Target Audience

The guide is self-directed for high school students or gifted writers, but there’s also an instructor’s guide and detailed schedule with lesson plans, extra tips, and suggestions for homeschoolers working with reluctant writers and children as young as 8.

Review of "Family Fiction," a workbook that helps you teach students to write historical fiction loosely based on your family tree.

Supplementing Other Writing Programs

Family Fiction makes the perfect supplement to any writing program, though Garrity worked closely with us to make her material compatible with WriteShop I and II. She has incorporated a number of WriteShop skills into both the lessons on writing style and the checklist itself. Take a peek at the Family Fiction samples to view the checklist.

Review of "Family Fiction," a workbook that helps you teach students to write historical fiction loosely based on your family tree.The workbook is non-consumable. Purchasing families are free to make copies for multiple children and for multiple projects. There’s an abundance of family tales just waiting for pen and ink! Together, your children can build a treasured collection of family stories by reusing the curriculum as often as you like.

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Images: Public domain
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