Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Other Ways to Work with Biographies

By Nina Kendall

            In the post assessment period of my year, I decided to try a new plan to engage my students. In the past, I have done scrapbook projects based on decades, create your own songs, themed PowerPoint activities, and children's books.  This year I decided to work with biographies. Students would read and interact with the different books. The primary question was what did I want students to do. This year I tried several new activities. Here are some of the choices offered to students:

 Resumes: This is a format many will have to work with in the future. I gave them a resume worksheet to take notes on as they read. There are a variety of resume worksheets available. This activity lead students to ask a huge number of questions about resumes and people. It was interesting to hear them discover new things about people they thought they knew.

Facebook Profiles: This activity has become a more standard fare in classrooms today, but it was new for my students.  Many of them do not use Facebook. I gave them a page that combined biographical data and the opportunity for post.

Pinterest Page: This was a format unfamiliar to many students as well. Further, it challenged them to think about what the subject of the biography would have valued instead of what we value about the subject.

Text Message Conversation: They were to have the subject of their work text a historical peer. These conversations can be generated online. It was interesting to see them seek out and identify the social relationships related to the subject of their work.

 Tombstones: Students could also write and design tombstones for their historical figure. They were to look at how the life and accomplishment of one person could be expressed in a short verse. I was particularly fond of the Oregon Trail Tombstone generator.

Word Clouds: This was an option for students to consider the key words in an individual life.  I used Wordle to create an example but there are many options. What words dominated their life? What words were less important?

Students turned in their work in as booklets after an allotted period of time. There work varied in quality but I was pleased by the conversations they had as they worked through the activities. Most of the work was done on paper as access to technology was limited. My students were just as comfortable with generating work with technology as coloring. ReadWriteThink has as number of student interactives that could be used to create products. In the end, we all knew a little more.


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