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Great Sites for Teaching About ... Biographies

Education World's Great Sites for Teaching About ... pages highlight Web sites to help educators work timely themes into their lessons. Internet educator Walter McKenzie selected this week's sites, which are among the best on the Web for teaching about biographies.


  1. Academy of Achievement
    This hall of fame highlights important figures of history and the contributions they made to society in a true multimedia format. The site includes a Gallery of Achievers, containing interviews with individuals in the arts, public service, sports, business, and science; Achievement TV, an electronic forum featuring text, video, and audio highlights of Achievement TV broadcasts; the Library, in which visitors explore the books that influenced some of the world's great achievers; and the Achievers' Club, a subscription-only area, in which members can chat with Academy of Achievement inductees and other club members. Although some of the areas are slow to load, they're all well worth the wait!
  2. Biography
    The A&E television network maintains this site containing a database of more than 25,000 biographies. The site is totally searchable by name or birth date. The Classroom section includes tips for using the site, related links, and a Biography of the Year contest. You might want to screen the biographies before using the site with students, however, because many of the featured bios are graphically candid.
  3. Great People of the 20th Century
    This ThinkQuest entry provides brief biographies of the 20th century's major personalities, as well as a discussion of the era's most important themes. The site includes many interactive activities that engage students in learning about such historical figures as Vladimir Lenin, Nelson Mandela, Walt Disney, Adolf Hitler, Albert Einstein, and Joseph Pulitzer and about the contexts in which they became known.
  4. Biographical Dictionary
    This searchable database contains more than 28,000 biographies of major figures from world history. Although search results produce only the basic facts about each personality, the information can be helpful for beginning research or for corroborating facts found in other sources. The site also includes ideas for using the resource in the classroom and the Master Biographer challenge, a very tough biography-based quiz.
  5. Their Stamp on History
    This creative site combines philately and biographies by highlighting famous people who have been featured on postage stamps. Listed alphabetically by category, from activists to writers, each person has a write-up that includes a review of his or her life, the image of the stamp(s), plus links to additional information.
  6. Who Is That?
    This Funbrain game asks visitors to identify famous individuals in two categories, United States Presidents or Famous Scientists and Mathematicians, from pictures and historical clues. Simply select a category and a level of difficulty, then choose from among four possible answers. What a great review for students!
  7. Island of Freedom
    This collection of biographies focuses on the world's poets, philosophers, artists, and theologians. Visitors choose a name from the pull-down menu to find a synopsis of that person's accomplishments, as well as images and links for further reading. Individuals run the alphabetical gamut, from Dante Alighieri to Ulrich Zwingli.
  8. American Biography
    These American biographies, written by students at Gotha Middle School in Windermere, Florida, are intended for use by other middle school students. Listed alphabetically, from John Adams to Steve Young, the biographies are well written and informative and should serve as models for students researching and writing their own biographies.
  9. Living Legacy Awards
    The Living Legacy Awards are given annually to recognize those who make important contributions to society. This site lists the award recipients, linking many of the names to their online biographies. Because all the recipients have been honored since 1984, the biographies often provide information not yet available in books.

Walter McKenzie is a former classroom teacher, a consultant, and editor of the Innovative Teaching newsletter.

Walter McKenzie
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