The power of personal stories cannot be denied. Reading biographies helps to provide a human face and a context to ideas, history and concepts outside of students' personal experience. Unfortunately, biographies are a rarely used resource in the classroom except when introduced as part of genre studies. The variety of biography styles available including popular, historical, children's, literary, reference, fictional, and even graphic editions also make the genre perfect for multiple learning styles and reading preferences.
Three Ways To Use Biographies In The Classroom
Use in STEM lessons to supplement textbooks
Use biographies to lend context to the history of ideas, concepts and advancements in subjects that are more traditionally taught from textbooks. STEM subjects are a perfect example. Biographies about scientists, mathematicians or those that work in technological fields can help students that are not engaged or struggling in these subjects find a new access point to the subjects. For students who are doing well, reading biographical accounts add important historical and intellectual context to the lesson and even act as further inspiration. Biographies help students find themselves represented in the context of a subject in a way textbooks do not. This is especially true of students of color and those from underrepresented backgrounds and cultures.
ISBN:9781614802723 In this title, examine the life of imaginative biotechnology inventor and health care pioneer Hayat Sindi. Readers will enjoy digging into Sindi's personal story, beginning with her childhood in Saudi Arabia and her innocent lie to leave and study science and medicine in London. Students can trace Sindi's success, from her education at King's College to her innovations at Cambridge University, Harvard University, and Diagnostics for All. Engaging text and photos offer insight on topics such as how biotechnology can be used for environmental and health care applications. While a timeline, glossary, and index supplement the text, an entertaining science activity allows readers their own hands-on experience based on the science that inspired this woman's groundbreaking career.
Stephanie Macceca ISBN: 9780743905909 George Washington Carver was born a slave, but he became an important scientist and teacher. He experimented with soil and became famous for his work as a botanist. He used peanuts and other plants to make new products. Before Carver's research, plants were only used for food and clothing. His creative approach to agriculture taught people that plants could be used to make many products, like rubber, ink, fuel, and paper, to name a few.
Bring History To Life
"Biography and autobiography provide initial entry to the study of periods of time and of places with which there may be little familiarity.... Students also like them because they are more readable, less like work, and more pleasurable to learn history from than by textbooks alone. Biographies bring life to history." Yale National Initiative to Strengthen Public Schools
Especially when taught from a textbook, the role of history in influencing and shaping the present is not an easy concept for many students. Without ways to connect the past to a student's life many of the lessons from history are lost and social studies turns into nothing more than a memorization of rote facts that have no bearing or relation to today. Biographies again are the perfect solution. Biographies let students read about and experience the past in a very personal way; helping them to connect the past more easily with the present.
Have a look at the earlier Big Universe blog post, Making a Connection to History for a President's Day lesson plan that uses the biographies of past presidents.
Stories to Tell: Student Autobiographies as writing exercises and tools of expression
Have students write their own biographies. This works really well at the beginning of the year. Having children write short biographies is not only a good way to gauge their level of writing skills but the stories they share allow the teacher a glimpse into the personal history of the students. Biographies also help the students learn about each other and can expose children to cultures, ideas and families that are different from their own.
With older students who already have practice writing sequential and traditional narrative pieces, try using technology like Big Universe's writing platform to create personal stories, Incorporating a digital component into the writing exercise will also have students using information in a new ways and help teachers incorporate multiple common core standards into one lesson.
Bobbie Aloian (author)
I can write a book about my life
In this book, children will learn how to write an autobiography, a biography of a family member who has influenced their lives, a memoir of an event or special occasion, or even a creative journal on their possible future lives. Children will learn how to interview people and write and recite narratives. They will learn more about themselves through their wonderful stories.
Biographies are an amazing genre of literature that is valuable resource in teaching. No matter the topic, biographies about the major thinkers, scholars and participants involved help to give the subject a human face. These personal stories provide another access point to the theories, numbers, statistics and facts in whatever subject is being taught and help students gain additional levels of understanding to the material. Whether teaching children about the past, introducing new ideas and concepts in the STEM curriculum or helping students discover themselves; biographies are an amazing resource for the classroom.
Common Core Connections
Compare and contrast one author's presentation of events with that of another (e.g., a memoir written by and a biography on the same person). (Reading)
With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers. (Writing)
Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe actions, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure (Writing)
eThemes- Writing: Biographies
Biography Reading & Writing Unit Grade 5: 40 Detailed Lessons with CCSS
Yale University Inspire, Reach and Teach through Biography
Writer's Workshop: The Biographical Sketch