I'm excited that Alyson Beecher, at Kid Lit Frenzy, is continuing her Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge for the third year in a row.
My students just finished up reading DK Biographies for the Social Responsibility and Leaving a Legacy unit. They got to choose from many titles. Here were some of their choices:
In the past, whenever I introduced biographies to students, they would moan and groan. Most of them hadn't had great experiences with reading biographies, but this series got very positive feedback! The kids really enjoyed them and learned a lot. I put them in small groups according to their choices, and they filled out reflection sheets for discussion. At the end of the reading, their assignment was to design a monument or memorial for their people (that obviously couldn't be one that had already been designed). They had to incorporate the social injustices their person encountered and how he/she took responsibility to try to change it (them), legacies left behind, obstacles he/she overcame, personality/physical characteristics, symbolism, and mood/tone. I know we have to be careful of what Donalyn Miller calls "Language Arts and Crafts," but every now and then a good, creative project is fun!
We built background knowledge on memorials/monuments by breaking up into small groups, each group researching one Washington, D.C. memorial/monument. They could decide what graphic organizer to use and had to find out about who the designer was and all the above characteristics of the design (symbolism, mood, social injustices/responsibility, legacies, etc.). Not very many of the students had ever seen the national monuments/memorials in person. I don't think they had any idea of the thought and intention behind the designing of a monument.
For their own projects, they could design on paper or a 3-D model, and it had to be accompanied by a paragraph with all the information on their thinking included. I provided them with a rubric so they would know what to incorporate. They were due right before Thanksgiving break, and I decided to get them all graded before I went home. It was not a chore because I thoroughly enjoyed seeing and reading about their creations.
Small Group Research
See why I didn't mind staying late on that Tuesday night?! Biographies can be fun!