March 27, 2023

Fourth grade students at WRS have read more than 200 biographies since December 2015!

Fourth grade students at WRS have read more than 200 biographies since December 2015!

The 4th grade biography project starts with the class reading a biography together and noticing how similar the story elements (character, setting, problems, characters “heart's desire”) are to fiction. The teacher calls special attention to the time that the person “discovered” their lifelong calling.

From there students start to read biographies from the library.Through a brainstorming activity, they identify categories the people they are reading about are famous for: political/military leader, scientist, inventor, explorer/pioneer, author, activist, sports figure, performing artist, and visual artist. Over several weeks students read at least one book from each category. They recommend books to each other and make lots of trips to the library.

Betty-Ann Heistad, an Everybody Wins reader, is in our school weekly reading with a 3rd grade student. They both enjoy the “Who was…” series. Ms. Heistad has donated more than a dozen of these biographies to our library. They are hard to keep on the shelf!

While the 4th grader students are reading biographies on their own the class starts to read a biography together. They read and re-read the book 4-5 times and brainstorm a list of characteristics that made the person successful. They find examples in the text that show these characteristics. The teacher models a thesis: “ This person was a successful ________ because they were _______ and _________.” naming the two characteristics that best explains that person’s success. The class continues to work together to connect these examples to the given thesis. Students must find examples from the book that show the characteristics and explain why these examples SHOW the characteristic.

Students fill out a biography datasheet: born, early/family life, schooling, jobs, special interest, when did they discover their calling, later life, and death.

The data sheet is used to write the introduction. The class works together and in smaller groups to summarize the important events in the subject’s life and develop a “hook” to make the reader want to keep reading.