Standard Lesson

Blending the Past with Today's Technology: Using Prezi to Prepare for Historical Fiction

6 - 10
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Fifteen 50-minute sessions
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To prepare for reading a historical novel, such as A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck, Countdown by Deborah Wiles, Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, or The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon, students research various aspects of a setting's decade.  Then using the information they have gathered, students communicate their findings via Prezi, a Web-based presentation tool that utilizes one canvas instead of traditional slides. Through the sharing of their Prezis, all students gain an understanding of the historical decades of their selected novels. After all have presented, students will write a paragraph explaining which decade they would have like to have experienced firsthand.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

Schechter and Denmon propose that today’s students, nicknamed digital natives, require a technology-rich classroom in order to create buy-in to the importance of its curriculum. Furthermore, Nolan explains that technology offers a platform for students to build essential proficiencies. Technology generates opportunities for students to practice their reading skills, analyze information, synthesize that information, and then communicate their findings to others.  In order to have students buy-in to the importance of reading historical fiction, this lesson infuses technology through the use of Prezi and develops new literacies.

Further Reading

Nolan, Sara.  “How Technology Fuels Learning.” MindShift Blog, September 16, 2011.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology



This free Website is where students will create zooming presentations to share their information.

Starting with the year 1900, this website provides short descriptions of events in the following categories:  world events, U.S. events, sports, economics, entertainment, and science.

Students can use the American Memory section for their notes and the Prints and Photographs section for finding images for their presentations.  This website is a great source for primary resources.

This website provides a short summary of each decade and then links to a more detailed timeline for each year of the decade.

This website analyzes primary sources from the Library of Congress.  It might be easier for students to find information on this site than on the Library of Congress website.

For students who research the fashion trends, this site will be valuable.

Students can use this website to find information about famous people who influenced life during their target decade of study.

This website will also provide information about influential people of the decades.

Students can use this website to cite their sources using MLA format.

Students can also use this free website to cite their sources in MLA format.

Under the section labeled "Eras," students will find the century divided into nine sections, several of which have links to detailed articles.

This subscription-based database has several useful sections, including World Biography, Shapers of Society, and American History, that provide facts in easy-to-understand language.


  1. Before these sessions, students should have learned notetaking skills.  They can be taught notetaking skills through the mini-lesson Research Building Blocks:  Notes, Quotes, and Fact Fragments as well as learn the importance of citing sources through the standard lesson Research Building Blocks:  “Cite Those Sources.” Furthermore, if this is the students’ first project citing sources, then using Exploring, Plagiarism, Copyright, and Paraphrasing prior to this project would be beneficial.
  2. Prior to this lesson, students should have given presentations of some type or have written essays that require an introduction, conclusion, and transitions.  Therefore, they will only need the printout Presentation Tips to prepare for their oral presentations.
  3. Before this lesson, work with the school librarian so that print materials are available.  The books from the Suggested Print Materials are good starting points for the decades in general, but other books on specific topics during the decade may also be added. Have these books available during the research sessions. Also, discuss with the librarian access to available databases for the students to utilize.
  4. Reserve time in the school’s computer lab or library for approximately five days to research and approximately three days to create Prezis.
  5. If possible, have the research websites and Prezi bookmarked on the computers.  If that is not feasible, sign up for a wiki at Wikispaces or create a class website using Google Sites or Wix where you can post links and later use this site to showcase students’ Prezis.  If that is not possible, make copies of the Decades Websites printout, one per computer.
  6. Make copies for each student of Creating a Prezi and the Decade Rubric.  Make one copy of the Presentation Tips for each group.  Make enough copies of the printout Life in the... so that each student will have one chart for each decade.
  7. Download the Historical Fiction definition to project in Session 1 for students to see.
  8. Familiarize yourself with Prezi by using the website’s tutorial, the printout Creating a Prezi, and the Strategy Guide Teaching with Zooming Slideshows through Prezi.  Because this tutorial is a Youtube video, check that it is not blocked by theschool filter, as you will show it to your students during Session 9.  If it is blocked, use the Prezi Cheat Sheet instead.
  9. Practice the steps of making a Prezi and create a sample or use this abbreviated sample Prezi on "The First Decade of the Twenty-First Century: US Events and Science."
  10. Use the Suggested Literature Circle Novels to decide which novel each decade group will read.  Secure four copies of each novel so that your literature circles will have no more than four students per decade.
  11. If the students are 13 and over, check that all students have e-mail addresses to create Prezi accounts. Those who do not should sign up for accounts at any reputable email provider, so that they can create Prezi accounts.


  12. If students are under 13, this lesson can also be done by using Microsoft PowerPoint.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • practice the necessary technology skills for assembling Prezis.
  • create a correctly formatted bibliography for information and images.
  • demonstrate understanding of past events, people, and trends that have affected the world.
  • communicate their findings by sharing their Prezis with their classmates.
  • apply what they have learned about each decade to determine which decade they would have enjoyed experiencing.

Session One: Introducing the Project

  1. Begin with a class discussion about historical fiction.
    • Pose the question “To what genre do books that take place in the past belong?”
    • Ask the students what historical literature they have read previously.
    • Project the Historical Fiction printout to review the definition of this genre.
  2. Introduce the novels that have been chosen for the class, and randomly select students to choose which books they would like to read, with four students being the maximum number to read the same novel.
  3. Return to the Historical Fiction printout and revisit the importance of setting.  Explain to the students that because of the setting’s significance, they will research the decade in which their novels take place before they read their novels.  For example, those reading A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck will find information about the 1930s while those who have selected The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon will research the 1960s.
  4. Give each student a copy of the Introduction Sheet printout. 
    • Read through the Introduction Sheet together.  Emphasize that they will find a total of 20 events for their decade.  10 of the events will be about one of their topics while the other 10will be about a second topic.  For example, a student might cover "US News Events" and "Fashion"; therefore, he/she will find 10 news events that happened in the United States and 10 events in fashion.
    • Show the Prezi that you have created or use the abbreviated sample for 2000-2009.  Present the information for one of the events.  If the sample is used, the Decade Event Notes can be used for the model.  Remind the students this is an abbreviated example and that they will actually find 10 events for each of their topics.
  5. Explain that in the next session, students will meet in their groups to select what topics they will research from the Introduction Sheet.  Ask students to be prepared to share in their groups their top four choices in the next session.

Session Two: Dividing the Work

  1. To begin the session, have students get in their decade groups.  Give each student a copy of the Decade Rubric and discuss, show the Prezi sample again, and have students grade that Prezi as a group.  Discuss how the group’s graded the sample.
  2. In their groups, have students decide what topics each person will present from the Introduction Sheet.  If a group has problems deciding which topics each member will research, help those students make decisions.
  3. Give each student the Decade Event Notes printout. 
    • Discuss that this printout shows the students what they will be looking for in books and Websites once they have found their 20 events.
    • Alert students that they might not find a specific date for an event.  It might be a month and year or even just a year that they use to complete this section.
    • Also, mention that the column labeled How it Affected America might require the students to draw conclusions, rather than finding answers in books or on Websites.
    • Explain that sometimes an event might fit more than one topic, so as a group they need to decide who reports on the event, rather than having it discussed twice in their group presentation.  For example, if they were researching 2000-2009, the event 9/11 could be under either "US news events" or a "World news event."
  4. Clarify that these notes will be turned into their presentation.
  5. Explain each of their ten events require a completed Decade Event Notes.
  6. Lead the students in a discussion on why they will need to cite their sources for this project.  Model for the students how to cite a book and a website so that they are ready for the next session.  For information about how to cite sources see the Purdue Online Writing Lab.
  7. Have books from the Suggested Print Materials printout available to the students so that they can start looking for their twenty events.  Remind them to cite their print materials as they take notes.

Sessions Three through Seven: Researching

  1. Before students begin taking notes, remind them to cite their books and websites.  Because of the numerous sources they will probably use, students are to write their citations as they research.  This could be on paper or on a word processing document, or if students have email accounts, they establish accounts at and create bibliographies as they research each day.
  2. Give students time to find 20 events for their particular aspect of the decade using the Suggested Print Materials and Websites
    • Because of the sheer number of events during a decade, tell students they are to look for the most important events.  Guide students in making their selections by evaluating which events had greater impact.  For example, in 2005 Hurricane Katrina was more damaging than Hurricane Dennis, Emily, or Rita.  During the 1950s several films debuted, but they should investigate ones that are still shown today, such as The Ten Commandments and The Diary of Anne Frank.
    • If a particular event is extremely important in the historical novels with which students are working, guide students to select those events.  For example, if students will be reading Countdown by Deborah Wiles, then students definitely need to research the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  3. Check during each session that students are completing four events per day so that all 20 will be completed by that last day of this group.  Assign students to work on their research daily and remind them during the last session all notes on their 20 events will be needed to create their Prezis during the next session.
  4. Monitor the students as they research, noting time on task and their ability to work effectively as a group as both are categories on the rubric.
  5. Check for any inaccuracies on their note taking sheets and encourage students to provide detailed information for each event so that they will be able to fully cover their topics.

Session Eight: Saving Images

  1. If you can not project in the lab or library, complete this first step in the classroom.  Again, show the students the Prezi you created, or the sample.  Tell them they will cite the sources for their images, and ask why this is important.  Prompt their answers by comparing citing a book or website to citing an image.  Because students are not the photographers of the images, just like they are not the authors of the written materials, credit must be given for the source of the image.
  2. Model for students how to correctly save an image and cite that image.
  3. Instruct students to find at least 20 images, at least one for each event they have researched, and to cite all images.
  4. Ask students to create a chronological list for the events of each of their topics for next session.  Explain that the list will become the order in their Prezis.

Sessions Nine and Ten: Creating the Prezi

  1. If you cannot project in the library or lab, complete this first step in the classroom.  Show the students the online tutorial or the Cheat Sheet.  Hand out Creating a Prezi and model the steps for the students.  Show the sample again and allow students to ask questions about its creation.
  2. Allow students time to work on their Prezis.  While students work, check on their accuracy of information.  Question students about which pictures they have selected and why these pictures represent their events.  Offer feedback on their layout and choices for their Prezis as they work.
  3. Encourage students to work on their Prezis from any computer (home or public library, for example) since this is an Internet-based program.
  4. During the last session, remind students they will practice with their groups during the next session; therefore, this is the last day to work in class on their Prezis; encourage them to work outside of class.
  5. Once students have completed their Prezis, have students e-mail you the links for their  Prezis.  From the tab labeled Your Prezis, students click the Share button and then the envelope to send the link to your email address.
  6. If you have established a class wiki, either you or the students can post these links to the wiki.  This will make viewing of the Prezis much more convenient.

Session Eleven: Practing the Presentations

  1. Remind students that all presentations begin with an introduction and end with a conclusion.  As a group, they need an introduction to their decade and a conclusion as well as transition between their presentations.  Give each group the printout Presentation Tips and discuss.
  2. Allow each group to develop their introduction, conclusion, and transitions.
  3. Have each group member present his/her presentation to the group while others use the Decade Rubric to evaluate the presentation.
  4. After presenting to the group, allow time for students to make corrections to their Prezis.
  5. Encourage students to practice their presentations outside of the class.

Sessions Twelve through Fifteen: Sharing the Prezis

  1. Before presentations begin, hand out the printout Life in the .... Explain to students that for each decade, they will write what they would have like and disliked about living in this decade.  Have the students complete the title of the printout to reflect each decade. They will not complete this form for their presentation. Also, explain to the students that they do not have to completely fill each side of the chart as they might find more than ten ideas they like or dislike. Likewise, they might not hear ten events they would have wanted to experience.
  2. Have each group share their Prezis, allowing students to ask questions at the end of each presentation.  Plan on approximately two presentations per class session.
  3. After each session’s presentations, allow time for students to answer reflection questions included in the assessment section.
  4. When all groups have presented, ask students to examine their Life in the... charts.  Tell them to decide which decade they would have enjoyed experiencing based on what they heard in the presentations.  Instruct students to write paragraphs that express their opinions.
  5. When all presentations have been completed, hand out the chosen literature circle novels and have students begin their literature circles. If students have not participated in literature circles before, you might want to use the website Literature Circles Resources and/or the lesson Literature Circles: Getting Started to lead the students.


Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Review students’ completed Decade Event Notes.
  • During the class periods, observe and note the students’ time on task and cooperation as a group as these are categories on the rubric.
  • Using the Decade Rubric, evaluate each student’s completed Prezi.
  • Allow class time for students present their Prezis to the class.  Question students about their choices of images.  Allow classmates to pose questions to each presenter.
  • After all the Prezis have been presented, ask students to reflect on the learning experience by having them complete one or more of the following prompts.  Explain that their answers can include information they learned from each other’s presentations.

o    Because of this project, I learned ____________ about these decades.

o    Because of this project, I learned ____________ about technology.

o    The most important ideas I learned from this project was____________.

o    I want to know more about _____________.

Mirela Tanc
K-12 Teacher
Thank you very much for the ideas and resources you share with us! They will be used in Romania, in Oradea, at the Secondary School ”Oltea Doamna”.
Mirela Tanc
K-12 Teacher
Thank you very much for the ideas and resources you share with us! They will be used in Romania, in Oradea, at the Secondary School ”Oltea Doamna”.
Mirela Tanc
K-12 Teacher
Thank you very much for the ideas and resources you share with us! They will be used in Romania, in Oradea, at the Secondary School ”Oltea Doamna”.

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