There is so much power in teaching our students about history using biographies. We can all learn from the success and failures of others. But biographies often get a bad rap of being dry and boring. It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, through this genre, our students can practice many different reading skills and strategies. That’s why I use graphic organizers that will allow my students to recall information from the biographies in creative ways. I am excited to share these 3 creative ideas for teaching biographies using fun and exciting graphic organizers I know your students will love!
Teaching Biographies can be Exciting
When teaching biographies in my classroom I like to immerse my students into the lives of the person they are learning about. From decorating the classroom to dressing up like the person we are studying, the possibilities are endless. This really helps to “bring the person to life” and make the learning more engaging and realistic for our students.
No matter what biography you are focusing on, these 3 creative ideas for teaching biographies are going to be so fun your kids will be begging for more!
1. EXTRA! EXTRA!
Read all about it in this year’s edition of the 3rd grade Daily Times. And that’s the hook! One of my favorite ways to immerse my students into learning is to turn them all into little reporters. At the end of our biography unit, we create a newspaper. It includes articles about each of the people of influence we focused on. I can’t tell you how excited my students get when they hear they will be writing and “publishing” a newspaper!
I like to put students in groups of 3 or 4. Then, give each one a person they will be focusing on. As a group, they must choose graphic organizers to will help them record information about their person. They can read an article that I provide, get information from a book, or research the person on a safe search site.
After reading the information about their person, they use the graphic organizers they chose to record important information about the person. This is the “interview” for the article.
Pulling it all Together
Next, it’s time to put the information from the graphic organizers all together. They will write all of the information in one article that will be included in our newspaper. The newspaper can be tangible if you want your students to assemble it and include their own drawings. But, it can also be digital with each group focusing on specific slides. This can then be projected on a whiteboard or viewed on a tablet or computer.
Not only is it a great way for students to learn from informative text, but it also gives you a fun and easy way to assess their learning. Sharing the newspaper in the school library is sure to be a hit. Teachers or librarians can read the newspaper articles to classes when they visit the library. So cool!
This really is such a great way for me to teach biographies in an easy way my students love!
2. The Life and Times…
This is a fun timeline activity that begs to be interactive! When teaching biographies, I love to use timelines because it gives students a concrete visual of when key events took place. This helps students better able to identify with the life of the person they are studying.
For example, if we are focusing on Amelia Earheart, I create a huge timeline that goes around my classroom. We start at the beginning and focus each day on an aspect of her life. We add information to the timeline as we go, and this is where those awesome graphic organizers come into play.
With a cause and effect graphic organizer, I can ask my students to think critically about events in the life of Amelia Earheart. Then we can discuss how those events shaped her future. As we learn about other things that are happening in the world, we can add those to the timeline as well.
I can’t tell you how awesome it is to get those “lightbulb” moments! I love when students make connections between world events and the person they are studying.
The end of our timeline activity concludes with a flipbook with all the information we have learned about Amelia Earheart. My kids really love this activity because they are allowed to get up and walk around. They take their clipboards to make notes from the timeline to help them complete the information for the flipbook. It’s a great way for them to show off their learning when they take it home.
3. Pick a Person
This is a really fun way to build excitement when teaching biographies. I put the names of all the people I want my students to choose from when working on their biographies. Then, after arranging my class into 4 or 5 groups, it’s time for the choosing ceremony. Each team gets to reach inside a basket and draw the name of a person. This will be the person they will be responsible for reporting on at the end of the unit.
Next, each group has to do some research on the person of influence they will be focusing on. This could mean a special trip to the library for the group to check out a book, some safe search research on the computer, or even a look through our biographies section of our class book boxes. I think this is a great way to give your students a little independence and responsibility they will be overjoyed to get.
Graphic organizers are so great for biographies because there is so much information available out there. It can feel overwhelming for kids to try to organize their thoughts and recall important facts and details about the lives of the people we are studying. They are a great way to get our students to really focus on what’s important and what they want to include in their presentations.
Now, it’s time for the really fun part! I give my students some time to think about how they could present their information to the class. Some groups like to use technology and create a video slideshow, a recorded skit, or even a self-made news clip featuring their famous person. Other groups may want to get creative and make a poster with visual images representing the information they learned about the person they are focusing on.
If a free choice scenario isn’t your cup of tea, consider making a list of presentation options you would be comfortable with. By giving students some choice in their final presentation you really get to see them tap into strengths and creativity. No matter how you choose to have your students present the information, chances are they will have a blast doing it!
Grab Your Free Biography Graphic Organizers
I have put together my favorite graphic organizers to use when teaching biographies and you can grab them for free! Just join the Keep ’em Thinking community to get access to the Free Resource Library. You can find these biography graphic organizers and lots more!
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Teaching Biographies is a Breeze
Teaching biographies really is a breeze! With customizable graphic organizers to help your students, they will not only focus on the information they are learning but recall it.
Be sure to save these creative ways for teaching biographies ideas to your favorite Pinterest teacher board so you can come back any time for even more fun and exciting biography activities!