For starters, the kids could not believe how different the real Pocahontas looked from the way Disney portrayed her. One of the little boys shouted, "Disney lied to us!" It took just about everything inside of me to keep from laughing. At this point, we discussed the difference between the genres of the texts we would be reading. The Disney version is historical fiction, therefore it is based on some facts, but mostly is a work of fiction. The biography is nonfiction, and therefore all facts.
We began with the biography. First, we looked through the pictures and identified the major text features.
This book is loaded with a lot of great information. In order to keep students' thinking organized, we kept a "FQR" in our reader's notebooks. (FQR stands for Facts - Questions - Response)
After finishing the biography, we began reading the Disney story. I found a copy of the story in the Disney Princess Collection (Disney Storybook Collections). I checked the book out from the school library and was told to return it as soon as possible. Apparently, the book is one of the library's most popular items! Let's just say I received some interesting looks carrying a hot pink book with silver page edges covered in glitter down the hallway. I copied the Pocahontas story and returned the book immediately.
Students read the story independently. As they read, they highlighted similarities to the biography and underlined differences. When students finished, we went over what students marked together, adding when necessary.
Then, we completed a venn diagram together comparing and contrasting the two stories. Students recorded this venn diagram in their reader's notebooks. One of the boys just couldn't understand why Disney would put a "talking tree" in the story. He said Pocahontas clearly did not talk to a tree. Again, we talked about how the Disney version is fiction. I think many of them originally thought the Disney story was true and had a really hard time coming to terms with this.
The students also thought it was very strange that Disney focused so much on creating a relationship between Pocahontas and John Smith, when she actually married John Rolfe. I have to agree with them on that one. If you would like a copy of a venn diagram to compare the two stories and an answer key, click here.
Were (are) any of you big Disney princess fans?