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Building on Biographies: Bringing Real-Life Stories Into Your Curriculum!

Who can dispute the value of a good story? Though students may initially view them as dull, biographies are the stuff that great classroom activities are made of -- history, honesty, and heroism. With the help of the Internet, every teacher can bring biographies into their classrooms! Included: Ten activities that begin with biographies!

It seems that biographies are not the first choice of reading material among many young readers. As a matter of fact, boring is a word students often associate with biographies. How can you fight that misconception and introduce your students to the rich and engaging biographical tales your library has to offer?


Do you need a clever way to incorporate biographies into classroom activities? We have ten!

Make biography boxes. Who can wait to find out the name of the next sports figure who will appear on a box of Wheaties? Isn't it about time that people of other vocations get into the act? Your students will enjoy perusing the 25,000 biographies contained online at to find the perfect person to grace a food box. Should the person's image be placed on a box of Wheaties, another known cereal, or a newly imagined food creation? You be the judge! Have your students include facts about the character's life, illustrations, and a motto that makes clear why they have chosen the figure.

Build a biography. If you are looking for a simple way to integrate biography writing into a classroom activity, no resource could be of greater use to you than The Biography Maker. By following the instructions, your students can create excellent biographies that address key questions and hold the attention of readers. The site walks students through the steps of choosing a topic, researching the answers to probing questions, pulling together resources, and creating an engaging story. The site offers a template that can help you turn the biographies into Web pages that can be published on a classroom Web site.

Write people poems. Poetry writing may seem dull to some students but not when it is combined with a biography! Have your class visit InfoPlease: People and search its 30,000 online biographies. Ask them to select one individual and write a poem about the person. The poem should feature qualities that make the person unique, facts relating to the person's life, and other details. You may choose to have each student include the name of the individual or to have the student share his or her writing and have others guess the identity.

Create a birth date biography. How many days have you been alive? What was the moon like on the day you were born? What was in the news, and what songs were people listening to? Those are questions participants in The Day I Was Born Online Project are answering. This ongoing project is the perfect endeavor for your class too! Students use online resources to answer specific questions about their dates of birth, and teachers collaborate with other classes by sharing their findings. If you prefer, have your students use the handout and links to perform the research -- then create "newspapers" that reveal facts about the days that they were born. They may then share the publications with others.

Imagine a celebrity guest. Invite your students to imagine that each is going to have a celebrity visitor to the school. Each student selects a person who would make an excellent speaker by examining the biographies of The Biographical Dictionary. When he or she has made a choice, the student should write an introduction for this figure and tell about his or her accomplishments and what he or she will be discussing during the visit.

Identify people of the century. In Time magazine's The Most Influential People of the 20th Century, the names of 100 influential people are organized into groups and ranked in order of their importance. Who do your students view as the top ten leaders and revolutionaries, artists and entertainers, builders and titans, and heroes and icons? After they have compiled a list of their picks and voted on them, have the students read the Time lists and compare the results. Do they agree with the findings of the readers of Time?

Work on One thing the Web still lacks is a good biographical dictionary with the stories of kids. How many amazing kids do your students know? Have your students use our teaching master to interview or gather information about a special student who is newsworthy. Compile the reports into a biographical dictionary in print or online so that all students may share the stories they have created.

Biography study guides. Anyone who has watched a segment of a biographical program from the A & E channel knows how interesting and enlightening those stories can be. Students can benefit from them as well when they are used in the classroom, and now it is even easier to make them a part of your curriculum. With Spark Notes Classroom Study Guides, you may choose from an index of programs and find summaries, vocabulary words, thought-provoking discussion questions, extension activities, and the next air time of specific shows. For an interesting twist, have your students watch a Biography program and create a study guide for it. Be sure to tell them to include an answer sheet!


Distinguished Women of Past and Present
Women are the focus of this site that provides links to the biographies of distinguished female astronomers, biologists, musicians, and more.

Famous Mathematicians
Do you know your mathematicians? Meet them online through the PowerPoint presentations at this site. Archimedes, Fibonacci, and Pythagoras are just a handful of the great minds students can learn about here.

4000 Years of Women in Science
This site has brief descriptions of the accomplishments of many women who have excelled in the field of science.