A biography is an account of someone’s life that is told by someone else. It can be about a famous person or about an ordinary person who has done interesting things. Biographies usually center around a person’s life and positive ways that they have contributed to the world. They are a great way for kids to learn about elements of nonfiction, organization, research, and expository writing. It is also fun to learn about someone who has made a difference! The following activities will provide students with many different ways to organize information and show what they have learned.
When someone has a biography written about them, it is because they have done something in their life that others consider to be quite important--important enough to learn and write about! Usually the person has done something positive and admirable and is an inspiration to others.
In order to create a biography, students will learn about the person’s early life, childhood, education, family, and accomplishments. It is also important for the student to be able to express why they chose this person, and the impact this person has made on the world or the student’s life in particular. For example, students can ask: what can I learn from this person? What mistakes has this person made that I can relate to and grow from? How has this person inspired me?
When reading about and researching a person, students will encounter at least one theme, or recurring main idea, in a biography. The following is a list of potential themes:
Students should pay attention to what they think the theme is and be able to explain how they can learn from the person they are researching. Themes also make it much easier for students to present their chosen person's life as a narrative rather than a collection of facts.
Along with being able to identify the theme, there are certain elements of the biography genre that always need to be included in research if the information can be found. These elements are:
Other information like fun facts, quotes by or about the person, and photographs may also be included in the biography.
While researching an influential person, students will learn not only about the individual, but about many ways one person can change or contribute to the world. Learning about others helps us find the positive power within ourselves, and motivates us to be the best people that we can be. It is important for the student to fully be interested in learning about the person, so it is best if students choose on their own. Teachers may want to provide a list to help narrow down the choices by focusing on categories such as sports figures, entertainers, inventors, political figures, historical figures, change-makers, or someone the student knows personally. This way, they can make the biographies relevant to the unit they're teaching or the time of year!