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Thanks everyone you are all so wonderful!  :)

I need some ideas on teaching a Library Lesson on Biographies for 3 - 5


I always include biographies in our genre studies. I

usually book talk or read a short biography.

Shelley, Bound for Legend by San Souci is a good

choice. I used the book near the beginning of the

school year and it has been signed out ever since. I

also point out to my sports fans that many nonfiction

books on sport figures can be found by browsing the

biography section. It doesn't hurt that I put sports

stickers on all the sports biographies' spines.

I have been reading When I Was Nine by James Stevenson to 3-5. They have learned 
about bio, autobio and memoir in the classroom and were able to differentiate 
between the three. (At least some were. We were able to review the concepts) It was 
also a great lesson in other ways. They could not believe he did not have TV as a 
child. We talked about how it was interesting to see how his life was alike and 
different from their lives.

I also read My Great Aunt Arizona to some classes. We talked about how a biography 
is usually about someone famous but sometimes it's just about an ordinary person 
who had an interesting life.

I have third graders interview someone. I can't find my handout file,

but I create 4 questions they have to answer and as a class generate

other questions that could be asked. The students have to pick three of

these questions to ask their interviewee. We write, revise, edit and

then copy our final copy on a silhouette page (see attached). Students

then trace the silhouette of the person they wrote about and the

write-up is glued on the silhouette and displayed in the library.

All of our third graders are required to read a biography, then dress

up as

the character and do their report in front of their parents.

In preparation, I do a lesson I think based on a suggestion from Judy

Freeman.  I made a poster with a big soup/stew pot I drew on chart


with the words Biography Stew (or Soup).  Then I cut out of


paper and laminated the shapes of a variety of "ingredients" (slightly

larger than life-size) that would go into a soup/stew like carrots,


meat, celery, pasta, tomatoes, potatoes, etc. and labeled them with the

"ingredients" of a biography:  Birth, Death (the onion) , Childhood,


for Fame (the "meat"), Occupation (which is sometimes different than


reason they are famous), Family, Anecdote (interesting story-something


might not know), Photo/Likeness, Later Life.

    I bring a big soup pot from home, put the labelled ingredients


put on an apron and tell the kids we're going to be making biography


(or stew.)  We talk about how people make stew--using whatever


they have on hand--and cooking in whatever order they decide.  Then we

compare making soup to an author making a biography--it's their choice


what ingredients to put in and in what order.

     Then I call students up (you decide how you choose them) to pick


ingredient out of the pot.  They have to read their "ingredient" out

loud to

the class (discuss what it means if they're not sure) and they will be

responsible for listening for that "ingredient" as the biography story


read.  (I have two favorites:  Lou Gehrig, Luckiest Man (Adler) and


Abe (Kundhardt) because they seem to have all of the ingredients.)  For

those that don't get chosen, I have them be listening for another

reason--for example--why Lou Gehrig considered himself the luckiest


    After we read the story (trying to catch the eye of the student


part is mentioned/emphasizing the parts of the story where the


fit in), I add a second poster of the stew pot with all of the


scattered around in the pot (to help me remember which ingredients to


for!) and call out each ingredient and have that student come up and


where that ingredient was in the story and put the ingredient back in



    [As an aside--I have reused that pot and it's ingredients as a


when students in 4th and 5th have to read biographies for Explorers,

Colonial history, making their own autobiography, etc.]

    As a follow up lesson, I have them read MY biography (as a world


librarian--don't you know!) as it would appear in an Encyclopedia

(trying to

make it look as realistic as possible--with columns, guidewords, etc.


using a digital camera to insert a captioned photograph--ie. extra

info. in

the caption of the photo.).  I make an overhead of the bio. but also a

hand-out copy to each student since the font on the overhead may not be


enough for those in the back.  Again, they look for those "ingredients"


my biog. and talk about the order, and we start by looking at the


words" at the top of the "encyclopedia" and talk about how names are


in the encyclopedia.

Then, the students have an assignment to research a famous person from


state in the encyclopedia (Mass. is lucky--lots of famous people!),


guide words to find the person, looking for the ingredients, and in


order they are in the article.

In other words, it's a month-long unit that satisfies curricular needs


studying famous people from the state, learning about the biography


and also gets in some location and access skills about using an



Make baseball cards.  The biographies are your resource.  They can pick

anyone they want.  They have to learn to pick important information and

you use your questions (name, date of birth, important accomplishment)


as a guideline.  Templates are easy to find.  They make a nice display,

especially for black history month. You tell the kids they are going to create a 
baseball card about


famous person (not necessary an athlete or baseball player).  Either


or together decide what information is important to include on the card

(picture of the person, birth date, birth place, etc.).  Then use the

biography to "Find" the information.  Do one as a demo and explain to


kids how to use index, contents, etc. to answer the question.  What


be the best way to find place of birth...I found this really makes a

connection with the kids.  My biography circulation went way up after


Cindy Lund Moreno, Elementary Librarian
Loretto Academy Elementary
El Paso, Texas

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