Students need to read and learn about many different types of informational texts, including biographies. A biography research project can combine many important skills besides just learning about the life of an important person, such as:
- summarizing and paraphrasing information
- evaluating information
- finding the best sources for information
- organizing information
- the importance of citing your sources
- practice writing informational text
Basics of a Biography
Teach students the call number
When I teach about biographies in the library, I start by showing students the biography section and pointing out the call number for biographies. I always give my biographies the call number of 92; however, each library is different.
What’s the difference between a biography and an autobiography?
I then like to discuss the difference between a biography and an autobiography. A biography usually provides facts about a person from their childhood through adulthood and is written by someone else. It will discuss the challenges the subject faced in their life, as well as many of their accomplishments. It always states true facts about that person.
An autobiography is a book or piece of writing about a person’s life written from that person’s point of view about themselves.
Common Features to Nonfiction Text
Next, I like to discuss some of the common features that most biographies have and how they are similar to other types of nonfiction text. Timelines are important to show the important dates in the person’s life. They are usually organized in chronological order. There will often be quotes from the person. I will explain what a quote is and how it can be found in quotation marks.
Setting Up the Biography Research Project
Once I teach the basics of what a biography is, I usually pull many of the biographies from the bookshelf and put them on the library tables for students to view and look through. One thing to remember is that students will usually want to check out the books.
During the next library class, I will introduce the biography research project. The biography research project can be printed or assigned digitally to students. I have used both versions and sometimes I like to assign my older students (4th and 5th graders) the digital Google Slides version and keep the printable version for 2nd and 3rd graders. It really depends on your students, however.
Ideally, I will have students complete this project after I have taught them the basics of using different sources (books and online resources) and about how to take notes and summarize/paraphrase information. That way I don’t have to teach these concepts at the same time. Overall teaching about these things below and biographies can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks and then we start the biography research project after that.
Here is what I use to teach those different concepts:
- Summarizing and Paraphrasing Activities
- Summarizing and Paraphrasing Activities for Google Slides
- Evaluating Websites PowerPoint and Activities.
Assigning the Biography Research Project
- Have students choose about a person they want to write about. I like to give a list to choose from but if they come up with someone outside of the list, that is fine too as long as they will be able to find enough information about them.
- Students will create a biography research project using graphic organizers and worksheets in the Biography Report Template.
- Students will be able to choose the person they want to write about.
- They can use a library book or look up a person on a research database like World Book Online or Pebble Go. I usually allow students to do both.
- It helps to have a completed project to show students as an example.
What’s Included in the Biography Research Project?
- Printable version available in black/white and color
- Digital version (google slides)
- Graphic Organizer for Personal Information
- KWL Chart
- Graphic Organizer for timeline of important dates
- Page for Photos
- Page for quotes
- Question page about the early years of the person’s life
- Question page about the adult years of the person’s life
- Question page about their accomplishments
- Question page about their struggles
- Interesting Facts page
- Works Cited
Do you teach about biographies in the library?