Sunday, June 1, 2014

Looking at Craft and Structure as a Way of Investigating History Books

If we are ever going to convince students that history is about constructing an interpretation from evidence left behind, then we need to show some different kinds of construction sites.

The Common Core asks us to look closely at how information is presented. The following standard for reading history gets are the heart of this issue:

RH.6-8.5. Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).

A good place to start thinking how a text presents information is a book I just finished reading—Ali: An American Champion by Barry Denenberg. This book, which is due out in September, has a unique construction that the author explains to readers. In an Author’s Note that begins the book, Denenberg tells us the book is designed to give readers a sense of immediacy, so that we feel events unfolding. To do this, he created “various fictional publications” such as articles in newspapers, magazines, and black periodicals; interviews; letters to the editor; and breaking news announcements. The result is a collage of different pieces.

But how do other authors construct Ali’s story. What craft ideas do they use? Here are a few books to check out and compare:

·      Muhammad Ali: Champion of the World by Jonah Winter
·      I Shook Up the World: The Incredible Life of Muhammad Ali by Maryum “Maymay” Ali (Ali’s daughter)
·      Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali by Charles R. Smith and Brian Collier
·      The Greatest: Muhammad Ali by Walter Dean Myers

Many people have said this before, but I think it's an idea worth repeating: Comparing books on the same subject provides us with insight into the nature of nonfiction.

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