Friday, April 20, 2012

Thursday Reading - Biographies

Yes, I know it's called Thursday Reading, and it's being posted on Friday. I have houseguests this week, and it has thrown my schedule off a bit...In my defense, I started to write this on Thursday. :-)

This term, we are studying biographies in our reader's workshop, and we're tying it into our social studies unit on key historical figures and the abolition and suffragist movements.  At the beginning of every unit, we do a lot of read alouds and shared reading to try to determine the characteristics of a genre. As we do that, we build an anchor chart that will ultimately be used as a checklist for my students' final writing piece. This is what we've noticed so far about the biographies we're reading about Harriet Tubman:

Since we're chunking so much reading, writing, and social studies work right now, I thought it might be fun to study a related genre as well, so we're reading memoirs by people unrelated to our unit, and comparing and contrasting memoirs with biographies and autobiographies. It's definitely a fine line between the genres, but my students have been doing a good job so far of figuring out some differences.

Their big project this term will be researching and writing a biography of someone we studied this year, but I'm thinking I might try to have them write a short memoir as well to convey some aspect of their time in 4th grade.

I really like working with closely with 1-2 genres to help students see some of the nuances of that genre reoccur in several books. I think it helps students understand the concept better, and it builds their inquiry skills as they read to find the answer to the question "What are the characteristics of biography?" or "What makes a biography different from a memoir?"

Do you study biographies in your classroom? What are some of the resources or activities that have helped you in this process?


  1. Great idea to work with the two genres at the same time! Thanks for sharing the idea :)

    Teaching in Room 6

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