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Biography Assignments For Middle School

Character(s) in History – A Biographical Investigation

Brentwood Middle School

Overview

Lesson Objectives

Students will be able to define the literary terms of biography and autobiography
Students will be able to define key terminology associated with newspapers
Students will be able to distinguish between first and third person writing and the traits that accompany both styles of writing
Students will be able to identify and define school’s core values
Students will research lives of influential people throughout history and modern day
Students will use research to make connections between school’s core values and how their chosen figure displayed the core values in their lives
Students will create a visual digital presentation or poster-board displaying these findings
Students will write five well constructed paragraphs reporting how each of the core values was demonstrated by their researched individual and make connections to their own lives
Students will demonstrate oral communications skills by giving a presentation to the class showcasing their work

Materials Needed

Teacher-selected biographical and autobiographical works.
Student access to library and computer labs.
Newspapers
Handouts

Procedures

Teacher should present the class with an excerpt from a biography.
Teacher should showcase how the selected excerpt displays an individual that embodies one of the core values.
Teacher will educate students on the various parts of a newspaper: Articles, Obituary, Epitaph, Commemorative Stamp, Photos, Captions, "Dear Reader" Letters, etc…
Teacher will provide students with samples of newspaper articles. Preferably, articles that display individuals displaying connections to school core values to provide solid foundation of how articles should be written.
Teacher will demonstrate how biographical information is written: Third person writing, interesting information about the individual, key events from the person’s life.
Teacher will provide sample individuals to begin the researching element of the lesson. (Teacher can select any famous individual for students to quickly research)
Students will provide five facts about the individual’s lives and share out their findings. Teacher will reinforce proper researching techniques displayed, so students have a solid researching foundation.
Students will begin to choose their specific individual to research.
Teacher will provide proper time and resources for students to research their individual.
Each day, class will focus on a key element of a newspaper. (Day 1 – Article/ Day 2 – Obituary/ etc…)
Students will focus on events in their individual’s lives that display the core character values.
Students will visually display their findings with either a digital storyboard or traditional poster board displaying all the elements of the project.
Students will prepare an oral presentation of their findings.

Assessment

Each segment of the assignment can be graded individually. Students are graded on their well-written articles, obituaries, epitaphs, and captions. Grades are also given for student’s abilities to correctly research biographical information and make connections between individual’s lives and school’s core values. Grades are also received for visual displays and oral presentations.

This lesson enhances a common lesson about biographies and autobiographies by infusing it with connections to character education through the key elements of a newspaper.

Students will select a famous historical figure (Ben Franklin, George Washington, etc.) or more modern-day figure (Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr.) and research the lives of those individuals. Students will view teacher-selected samples of both biographical and autobiographical writing, and will identify the traits that accompany each type of writing. Students will be required to research and read various types of biographical and autobiographical material written about their individual. They will then create a visual digital/poster board that showcases their findings in a newspaper format. Students will be given an outline for what must be included in the creation of their findings. Included in this outline will be key elements of a newspaper: Article, Epitaph, Obituary, Commemorative Stamp, photos, and captions.

Students with learning disabilities can have modified assignments that may shorten the amount of information needed or have pre-selected individuals to research. It will be crucial for students to choose individuals that truly embody the values represented by the school. Teacher discretion on choices will be imperative.

Related Links and Resources

Parts of a Newspaper

Credit

John McCabe, 6th Grade Communication Arts Teachers


Overview

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

 

OVERVIEW

Set the stage for high-interest reading with a purpose through a biography project. Students work together to generate questions they would like to answer about several well-known people, then each student chooses one of these and finds information by reading a biography from the library and doing Internet research. Students create a graphic organizer (a web) to organize the facts they have found and share what they have learned about their subjects through oral presentations. Students evaluate themselves and their classmates by using a rubric during the research and graphic organizer-creation process and by giving written feedback on one another's presentations.

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FEATURED RESOURCES

Bio-Cube: This planning tool can help students organize their research; use it as an extension to the lesson and have them outline the lives they' researched before writing their own biographies.

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FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE

International Reading Association. (2001). Comprehension, Part II: Text Comprehension. International Reading Association's Summary of the (U.S.) National Reading Panel Report "Teaching Children to Read." Retrieved October 1, 2003, from http://www.reading.org/General/CurrentResearch/Reports/NationalReadingPanelReport.aspx.

  • By using graphic organizers, students write or draw meanings and relationships of underlying ideas. This has been shown to improve students' ability to recall content.

  • By summarizing information, students improve in including ideas related to the main idea, generalizing, and removing redundancy.

  • By working in cooperative groups, students may increase their learning of reading strategies through peer discussion. They may also lead to better comprehension.

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