Workshop Wednesday: Writing Biographies

I am so excited for this post! It’s going to be so jam-packed with information, you will definitely want to pin, pin, pin!! 😛

(not that you didn’t know that already)

Today’s Workshop Wednesday will be all about biographies… mainly writing biographies, but of course, you can’t teach kids to write them without reading them, too!

So first, here are some ways to get in some good biographies in READING:

Courtney from Ramona Recommends got us started off this week when she so graciously did a fabulous guest post for me about her favorite biographies! Check her post out here!

Then, JACKPOT! On Monday, thanks to Manic Monday at Classroom Freebies, I came across these AWESOME freebies!

It truly is a wonderful resource with NINE lessons! Very cool.

Now onto biographies in WRITING:

To write a good biography, of course, research should occur. I was able to incorporate this fun unit from Free to Teach:

It had a great article about Harriet Tubman (one of the women we are learning about), but also has a fun organizer to use for research! We used it to collect information for the biographies:

Informational pieces are so hard for my kiddos to write… mostly because they are soooooo borrrrring. They just want to rewrite all of the facts they learned, not putting in any voice or style! Which then makes me an unhappy teacher when I have to grade all those borrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring papers.

One of the best ways to get the kids to make a biography more interesting is to teach them to use a strong lead. **I cannot take ANY credit for the activity you are about to read about!! My awesome literacy coach at my old school did (and gave me) this lesson for my class and I have used it every year since. It’s AWESOME! But because I didn’t make it, I won’t be sharing the document… but you could easily make your own for your class!** Mentor texts can be used for SO many things in the classroom across all contents. I think the best way to teach kids to become better writers is to point out good writing (hence, the reason for mentor sentences). Why not point out awesome leads in the stories we read? My coach compiled a powerpoint with a plethora of leads from a variety of genres of books. I taught different kinds of leads earlier in the year, so we pulled out that list.

The leads I teach are:
Author Talks to Reader Lead
Tell When Lead (Create an Era, Time Period)
Dialogue Lead (Conversation)
Fascinating Fact Lead
Question Lead
Setting a Scene Lead
Startling Lead
Tug at Your Heart Lead
What If…Lead (Imagine If…)
Using your Five Senses Lead

We also pulled out our handy-dandy expo markers for some desk writing!

I displayed a few of the leads that were compiled in the powerpoint and the students tried to guess what leads were used with their dry erase markers. The cool thing they find out is that often, authors use multiple kinds of leads at one time.

One of our favorite books about one of the women we learn about in 4th grade is Elizabeth Leads the Way, (Elizabeth Cady Stanton). 
Tanya Lee Stone has an AWESOME lead in this book!
“What would you do
if someone told you
you can’t be what you want to be
because you’re a girl?
What would you do
if someone told you
your vote doesn’t count,
your voice doesn’t matter
because you’re a girl?
Would you ask why?
Would you talk back?
Would you fight…
for your rights?
Elizabeth did.”
The kids identified the leads in this one:
(What If Lead, Author Talks to Reader Lead, and Questions Lead)
They decided these leads were their favorites, so they had to try them out in their own biographies!

Pretty good right? Definitely more interesting than, “Sojourner Truth was born in 1797 and died in 1883,” or worse, “I’m going to tell you about Harriet Tubman.”
So now it’s your turn! I can’t wait to see your ideas! 

An InLinkz Link-up

Come back next week to share your test-taking tips: how do you teach students test-taking strategies, or what are some things you do to prepare for the “BIG” tests?