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Books for Teaching Biographies

By Genia Connell

Grades

3–5

From Unit Plan: Biographies: Beyond Book Reports

 

Early in your school year, plan the time of year that would be best for your class to explore the biography genre. Think about choosing months that highlight special events such as Black History Month, Women's History Month, or Hispanic Heritage Month.

Because I have numerous biographies in my personal collection I have not listed those titles in the books I am using this month. Use titles you already own, plan to purchase or have borrowed from your school and public library. When choosing titles, remember to include books that will meet varying interests — athletics, business, literature, the arts, public service, science, and exploration. The more variety you can offer, the more students you will be able to hook on this very valuable type of non-fiction.

I love the resources listed below because they have given me so many ideas on how to actively engage students as they read different genres throughout the year.

10 Ready-to-Go Book Report Projects by Rebekah Elmore & Michael Gravois
Liven up any reading program with this teacher resource book of ten meaningful, creative, book report projects.

Classroom Tip: Last year my daughter's teacher assigned a fantastic project. When I discovered it came from this book, I had to have it immediately. You will love all ten of the comprehensive projects. Each project includes great student directions, rubrics, and illustrations.

30 Biography Book Reports by Debbie Rovin-Murphy
Help kids get more out of the biographies they read as they create their own book reports in a variety of formats such as diary entries, newspaper articles, scrapbooks, and more.

Classroom Tip: This is the absolute best resource for sparking ideas on how to make biographies fun and engaging for the students. This one truly is a must-have on my list.

30 Nonfiction Book Reports by Debbie Rovin-Murphy
These fun activities build students' reading comprehension as they create their own artifacts, travel brochures, documentaries, peek-through posters, and much more. You'll also find teaching strategies, reproducible templates, and a bibliography of children's nonfiction.

Classroom Tip: You can use this book all year long for fun activities that help students understand nonfiction.

Better Than Book Reports: More than 40 Creative Responses to Literature by Christine Boardman Moen
Looking for creative alternatives to the traditional book report? This resource offers all sorts of original ideas, such as culture kits, tangram tales, story trees, press conferences, and 35 more.

Classroom Tip: These are wonderful short activities perfect for use with small reading groups.

Beyond Book Reports: 50 Totally Terrific Literature Response Activities that Develop Great Readers and Writers by Michelle O'Brien-Palmer
This collection of creative "read and respond" activities goes way beyond book reports to cultivate students' critical-thinking skills and broaden their story comprehension. Students can predict outcomes, retell their favorite stories, and share their personal responses to a story through paper genre pizzas, character report cards, 3-D setting maps, and more. Simple step-by-step directions, student samples, and ready-to-go, reproducible graphic organizers accompany each activity.

Classroom Tip: I have found this versatile resource works well with any book and with students of every learning style and strength.

Building Skills in Writing: Report Writing by Karen Kellaher
Includes mini-lessons to help you teach students how to write to inform using various report formats, take effective notes, identify and develop a topic of appropriate scope, exclude extraneous information, use checklists to evaluate their work, and more.

Classroom Tip: You will want to use the checklist to evaluate student work again and again.

Instant Personal Poster Sets: Biography Report
Doing biography reports are easy and fun with this class set of fill-in posters that invite kids to research, write, and draw about any person -- past or present.

Classroom Tip: Use the easy prompt-based format to guide your students through the research process. These posters look fantastic as a classroom or hallway display.

Internet Activities: Famous American Series (3 books)
Here are all the Web resources you and your students need to learn all about three historic Americans: Lewis and Clark, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Harriet Tubman. Inside, you'll find background information, an Internet scavenger hunt, reproducible worksheet, and more Web-based activities.

Classroom Tip: Stand these three sturdy folders up next to your classroom computers. The activities are designed to help your students develop critical-thinking skills and build their Internet-research skills. Ideal for independent learning centers.

Read, Sing, and Learn Mini-Books: Famous Americans by Agnes Dunn & Marie Crocco
Introduce kids to 20 famous Americans with these adorable biography mini-books. Each eight-page mini-book features a piggyback song that invites kids to sing along and remember important facts about a historical figure. Includes an easy-to-read biography, fun facts, an interactive puzzle, a writing prompt, and more.

Classroom Tip: Mini-books are a great way to introduce students to several different famous people while teaching them the structure of the biography genre.

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Susan Cheyney

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