Exploring the American Revolution from Multiple Perspectives through Critical Literacy Discussions in a Fifth-Grade Classroom

Janelle Roberts


The Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks require that the American Revolution be taught in fifth-grade classrooms. Unfortunately, many teachers must resort to utilizing textbooks that are unappealing to students and that share history from just one point of view. Incorporating quality children’s literature into the social studies curriculum can provide a more well-rounded view of historical events. Furthermore, critical literacy discussions encourage children to question what might be missing from the text, and understand content from multiple perspectives. This naturalistic, descriptive study conducted in a fifth-grade classroom in a multicultural, suburban school in southeastern Massachusetts, examined how reading children’s literature about the American Revolution influenced students’ understanding of historical events.. Students were guided by their teacher to read their textbook critically, explore the educational website BrainPOP, and read quality children’s literature about various groups that participated in the Revolutionary War.  Findings suggest that reading and reviewing various sources versus a single history textbook led students to develop a better understanding of the American Revolution. Students’ initial beliefs that only white males were involved in the Revolution gave way to new understanding of the important roles of white women, male and female African slaves, Native Americans, and children. This study shows positive outcomes of integrating critical literacy in social studies instruction, helping students develop a more comprehensive understanding of historical events.


Critical Literacy, American Revolution, Children’s Literature

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