Use biography writing assignments in conjunction with current events, a literature unit, a research paper, or a history project. Use the following ideas to get you started:
- Short Story Unit: Write a magazine article describing a meeting with a character from any story you've read this semester. Be sure your article portrays the character consistently with the character in the story. Create a name for the magazine and a title for the article. The audience should be the type of person who would read the magazine you created.
- Novel Unit: Do the above assignment. Choose a character from the novel to write the article on.
- History Class: Write a magazine article chronicling an encounter with any famous historical figure. Identify whether or not the person became famous before or after the meeting. Create a name for the magazine and a title for the article. The audience should be the type of person who would read the magazine you created.
- Research Paper: Write a biography on a famous writer. Research biographical information and his or her works.
- Current Events: Follow the same steps as the short story unit biography. Instead of a literary character, make a person in the news the subject of your article.
From Theory to Practice
Set the stage for high-interest reading with a purpose through a biography project. Students work together to generate questions they would like to answer about several well-known people, then each student chooses one of these and finds information by reading a biography from the library and doing Internet research. Students create a graphic organizer (a web) to organize the facts they have found and share what they have learned about their subjects through oral presentations. Students evaluate themselves and their classmates by using a rubric during the research and graphic organizer-creation process and by giving written feedback on one another's presentations.
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Bio-Cube: This planning tool can help students organize their research; use it as an extension to the lesson and have them outline the lives they' researched before writing their own biographies.
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FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE
International Reading Association. (2001). Comprehension, Part II: Text Comprehension. International Reading Association's Summary of the (U.S.) National Reading Panel Report "Teaching Children to Read." Retrieved October 1, 2003, from http://www.reading.org/General/CurrentResearch/Reports/NationalReadingPanelReport.aspx.
- By using graphic organizers, students write or draw meanings and relationships of underlying ideas. This has been shown to improve students' ability to recall content.
- By summarizing information, students improve in including ideas related to the main idea, generalizing, and removing redundancy.
- By working in cooperative groups, students may increase their learning of reading strategies through peer discussion. They may also lead to better comprehension.
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