Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Great mentor texts for teaching biographies and a sample lesson.....

I am just going to go ahead and admit it...I spend way too much time on social media. Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, even Facebook. But I truly wish we teachers could earn professional development  credits for being on social media because you know that is where we get the inspiration for our greatest lessons. Anytime I see this e-card, it always cracks me up.

Well today I was on Facebook and in my feed was a post from Penguin Books. Anyone that knows me, knows I am a sucker for books. I spend more money on books than I spend on my wardrobe! I just love me some books. Well I saw this.....and it made me just about start dancing and singing...which would have been weird because I was at Panera borrowing their free WiFi and getting some work done. I am pretty sure people would have looked at me sideways!

So it turns out these books are part of series by author Brad Meltzer and illustrator Chris Eliopoulos inspirations #OrdinaryPeopleChangeTheWorld picture book biography series.  Now I love a good biography, especially a picture book biography. So as soon as I saw these, I knew they would be perfect for my lessons in my biography unit.

I teach this genre pretty early in the year as a way to encourage my students to read more non-fiction texts and to expose them to people who have overcome challenges, make significant contributions to the world of literature, politics, sports, etc.  We re-visit biographies again in February when I do a unit on Black History. 

Even though I already have plenty of biographies in my classroom, and I even have biographies about all of these people, even Lucille Ball (she is one of my favorites!), I know my students would devour these books. 

Let me share a little about how I introduce my students to biographies. Typically I start out by asking my students what they know about biographies. There are always a few students that confuse biographies and autobiographies, so we discuss the similarities and differences between the two. I may even throw a Venn Diagram up on the Promethean board and fill it in as they share their ideas. After that, I will read a biography to the whole class. It is usually one from m David A. Adler's picture book biography series. One of my favorites is A Picure Book of Amelia Earhart. I will then introduce them to a graphic organizer so they can gather important information about the person in the biography. 

I found this one on Pinterest. You can get a FREE copy HERE on TpT.  

 I'll model how to find the important information from the book and enter into the graphic organizer. I'll even through in some irrelevant details to see if they can determine if it is important enough to include.   

Once we have done one together, I take them to the section of the class library where I keep my biographies. I have several students help me remove them form the shelf and we return to the carpet where I spread them out. I may even do a quick book talk on a few of them. Then I start "auctioning" them off to students to read and sue for their own biography. Since most are picture books, the students generally have them read that day or the next, then I have them stat completing the graphic organizer. Finally, I have them write a paragraph summarizing the book and the life of the person. 

This year I want to add a craftivity project to this unit. I saw this project on Pinterest and thought my 5th graders would love doing these.


I will definitely post here on my blog after we do this, and let you know how they turned out. 

So how do you teach biographies? I would love to here...leave me a comment. 


  1. Have the kids work on them in school, or do you want a parent project? I have my 5th graders make puppets completely in class. They are amazing. You can see them on my blog.

  2. Thanks Beti. I will probably do them in class. I don't have a lot of luck with at home projects.

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