Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Nonfiction Wednesday - DK Biography Projects

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:
DK Biography: Helen KellerDK Biography: Nelson MandelaDK Biography: Abraham LincolnDK Biography: GandhiDK Publishing: Amelia Earhart
 DK Biography: Eleanor RooseveltDK Biography: Mother TeresaDK Biography: Harriet TubmanDK Biography: Albert EinsteinDK Biography: Thomas Edison
     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
3-D Models


See why I didn't mind staying late on that Tuesday night?!  Biographies can be fun!





  1. Fascinating project! I love the idea of creating a memorial and learning from other memorial "mentors."

  2. Love the photos that go with your post this week. I too shared a biography today, great minds think alike.

  3. This is wonderful, Holly. I enjoyed the intent of the assignment-so much learning in it- and then the students did so well in the final execution. Love the Gandhi one!

  4. The projects look great! Some kids need the creative outlet to show what they've learned. I love the Polly Pocket Amelia Earhardt!

  5. What a great assignment. I'm glad to know about the DK bio series. I also am happy to hear that you have a unit on Social Responsibility and Leaving a Legacy. I imagine it gets the students really thinking about how people can change the world for the better.

  6. Thanks for sharing this wonderful idea with us Holly. I agree with Michele in that sometimes students need a creative outlet. I liked the way you incorporated problem solving into the assignment as well as having them research already created monuments.

  7. Such great projects. My children just completed a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame project and these were displayed at parent conferences. Kids did posters, prezis or Powerpoint Presentations. Really interesting to see students so interested. Going to show my kids these projects!