The biography project begins with the 3rd graders “meeting” all of the possible people that interest them. The children visit the library and peruse the collection of biographies from which to choose. Some students pick someone that they see had a direct influence on their life. Other children select a person with whom they can easily identify. If a child recognizes an individual who has talent they aspire to, the biography is of interest.

Next the children begin reading. As they make their way through these biographies, they mark important dates, events, and facts with sticky notes and add all of this valuable information to their biography study packets. Once the students have collected and recorded this information, they begin making sense and organizing it with computer software like Kidspiration, Timeliner, and Microsoft Word.

The children keep track of important dates and events that are turned into time lines with TimeLiner, software designed for this purpose.

Facts about their subject’s family, education, and profession, hardships they overcome are added to a concept map using Kidspiration, a software organizational tool. Even when this program is new for children, it does not seem to phase them, because of the ease of the program and the support provided by their teachers.
Every child draws a portrait of their subject and scans it on the computer. These illustrations provide the cover of their individual portfolios that are displayed on the front page of this biography project.

Interesting vocabulary words and significant quotes are also collected as children read their biographies. When enough information has been gathered, students begin writing descriptive poems that they word process using Microsoft Word. The children learn to search for images on the web. They find jpeg images of their subjects to add to their poems.

There is obviously a lot of typing and computer use that goes into this project. Most of the children do not mind doing so much of their work on the computer. They have developed facility with the keyboard, because they have been using Type to Learn, a typing program designed for children, throughout the year. Some students even prefer typing to writing at this point. By the end of this study, the children have become skilled at using all of these programs and even add their own colors and images to jazz up their portfolios.

All of the hard work pays off when these projects are printed out and pasted onto tri-fold boards. Concept maps, time lines, poems, vocabulary lists, quotes, and illustrations form the core of these attractive posters. However, each child also finds additional ways to make his/her board unique.

While computer work has been taking place, the children have also been creating scripts that are written in the first person, as though they are the people from their biographies. Each script has to be engaging, and to the point. It has to incorporate material the students have uncovered, as they were reading and doing research. Students have commented that it is challenging to write an interesting speech that keeps a listeners’ attention not to mention how much time it takes to memorize it! While writing his speech, a student stated, “I tried to think about what I would like to hear if I was listening to a wax figure.”

Once these scripts have been memorized, props collected, and costumes assembled, students are ready to transform themselves in to wax figures. In one month our third graders have completed all the elements of the biography study are ready for our culminating event, the Third Grade Wax Museum.

On an evening in April, parents and friends spend an hour touring our wax museum. They listen to and learn from these famous figures that strongly resembled children they know. As one 3rd grader stated: “The projects were fun and not that difficult, because they took time but the time paid off!”

Please examine the elements that make up this biography study, as well as the individual student portfolios that each child has developed from their biography research by clicking on the icons at right.

Project Elements:

description of
Biography Unit


Wax Museum

Portfolio Index


Concept Map


MS Word

Significant Quotes

Text contributed by Jen Rotzell and Micki Vieille
Web Site by Micki Vieille, Andrea Owens and Carol Siwiniski

Germantown Academy
Ft. Washington, PA. 19034
(215) 646-3300

Sondra Bennett (ext. 407) , Cara Herold (ext. 423), Micki Vieille ext. 466), Kurt Wetzel (ext. 567)