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
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.
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.
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!”
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