Biography Activities

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.

Student Activities for Biographies

Essential Questions for Biographies

  1. Where and when was this person born?
  2. What was this person’s childhood like?
  3. What kind of education did this person have?
  4. What is/was this person’s family life like?
  5. What are/were this person’s accomplishments?
  6. What positive contributions has this person made to the world?
  7. Why did I choose this person?

Why Create Biographies?

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:

  • Sometimes life is tough and it takes strength to keep going.
  • Believe in yourself and others will believe in you.
  • No matter how many times you fail, never give up.
  • The most difficult times in life can inspire others.
  • Always have hope and stay positive.
  • Know your worth: don’t let anyone drag you down.

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:

  • Date and place of birth (and death, if applicable)
  • Childhood
  • Educational background
  • Family life, either past, current, or both
  • Adult life: job and current location, if applicable
  • Major accomplishments

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!

How To Teach Biographies in an Elementary School


Explore Life Events in the Story

Start by talking about the key life events in the biography with students. Consider birth date, family life, education, jobs, and personal events. Guide students through the key life events in chronological order.


Talk About Themes

After they understand the event’s in a person’s life, you can lead them to discuss themes, or what they learn about life from the biographical story. Common themes include making a difference, overcoming obstacles, and always have hope.


Connect to Student's Life

Have students use a Venn Diagram to connect with the person in the biography. They can share things they have in common in the middle of the circles, and things that are different about each of them on the outside.


Draw it Out

Let students draw a body biography in order to understand the person more fully. Have them fill in body parts, such as putting what the character loves in the heart area, and drawing what the person thinks about up in the head.

Frequently Asked Questions about Biographies

How do biographies help students understand how individual people relate to the world around them?

When we read a story about how one person lived their life, we can better understand the power within ourselves and see how our lives matter. Every person influences the world around them.

What are some common themes that run through biographies?

Many biographies teach lessons such as how to overcome obstacles, believing in yourself, and making the most of what you have.

What universal elements are found in almost all biographies?

Most biographies explain a person’s birth and death dates (if they have died), what their childhood was like, their education, their work accomplishments and their personal or familial accomplishments.

Why should we read biographies?

When we read about other people's struggles and triumphs, we see what we have in common and are able to see the importance of our own life.

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