Here you will find a collection of graphic organizers designed to help you in a study of biographies. These graphic organizers are designed to be used along with a workshop approach. It is important for you to model and give clear expectations before students are expected to complete each organizer. These lessons are written so that you can use all of them, or just the lessons that fit the needs of your classroom.
Before beginning a unit studying biographies, we suggest collecting a group of mentor texts. These mentor texts should be good, clear examples of biographies. Include your favorites and be sure to include books that will interest your students as well. It’s also a good idea to gather a stack of nonfiction books that fall under that category of narrative nonfiction. Throughout the unit, you might want to refer to these as nonexamples of biographies.
Throughout these lessons and graphic organizers, the subject in the biography is referred to as the character.
Lesson 1 Begin by helping students understand that there is a different between expository nonfiction and narrative nonfiction. Biographies fall under the category of narrative nonfiction and tell a story. Narrative nonfiction may also tell about an event. Expository nonfiction provides an explanation or directions.
This first lesson is designed to help students develop an understanding of the difference between a biography (which is narrative nonfiction) and expository nonfiction. Share the stack of mentor texts along with the nonexamples of biographies (which should be expository nonfiction.) Allow students time to look through these books and “notice” differences. Encourage them to make notes on post-its and mark the spots in the text. These differences will help students begin to develop an understanding of the differences. When students have completed their noticings, pull them together as a class and give them time to share what they found. Create an anchor chart for students to refer to that is titled “Noticings” and contains the student observations. Observations for biographies might include: tells a story, tells about a person’s life, includes dates, has bold words, has a table of contents, includes a glossary, has an index. Observations for expository nonfiction might include: gives directions, tells all about an object or animal, explains something, includes dates, has bold words, has a table of contents, includes a glossary, has an index.
Noticings Exit Ticket To check student understanding, have students complete this exit ticket. Students find a biography and an example of expository nonfiction. They then include their choices and reasoning on their exit ticket.
Lesson 2 Biography Story Map A biography can be similar to a fiction book which tells a story. It includes a main character, setting, time and often problems. Have students choose a biography to read and complete this story map. You might choose to model this lesson by reading aloud a biography one day and completing the story map together. The next day, students will use their silent reading time to read a different biography on their level and then complete the story map.
Lesson 3 Character Traits Just like when reading fiction, students reading biographies should be trying to determine the character traits of the subject of the biography. It is important for students to understand that character traits are different from what the person looks like. These resources can be used to help students develop an understanding of the difference: Character Traits. We suggest using a biography that can be shared during class in order to model the differences for students. Once students have developed an understanding, they can complete their own graphic organizer after reading a just right book during silent reading time.
Lesson 4 Influences Every person has others who influence his or her life. These people have positive and negative effects on the character in a book. For this lesson, focus on how other people in the biography have had an impact on the person. Students will identify what influence the person had and if the influence was positive, negative or both. It will be necessary for you to model this with the class in order for students to understand the expectations. Once a model has been completed with the class, you can have students complete their own graphic organizer during independent reading time.
Lesson 5 Taking Notes While Reading When reading a biography, it is sometimes important for the reader to take notes so that he or she remembers the important facts. This organizer can be used for a tool that helps students record the facts in the book.
Lesson 6 Reflections An important part of reading is thinking about what is being read. Use these exit tickets to encourage students to think about the person they are reading about. You may choose to give every student the same exit ticket or give an assortment. Students should complete their exit ticket during independent reading and then you can share the thoughts as a class at the end of reading.
Lesson 7 Asking & Answering Questions Readers ask and answer questions in their heads as they read to help them create meaning. This graphic organizer gives students practice with this skill while asking them to record their thoughts. You may choose to have students answer their own questions or to trade with a peer who is reading the same book.
Lesson 8 Cause & Effect This is a concept which will take a great deal of modeling. Students must understand that events in a person’s life lead to outcomes. As you read a biography, work with the class to find important events in a person’s life and the impact those events had on the person. As part of this work, emphasize where the answers in the text are found. When students practice this skill independently, you might choose to have them use a post-it note to mark the evidence found in the text.
Lesson 9 Life Lessons Often times reading a biography might teach us lessons we can apply to our own lives. Encourage students to look at the book they are reading and determine what they can learn from their character. These lessons might be positive or negative.
What biographies will you be using with these organizers in your classroom? We would love to hear your favorites!
CCSS Standards Addressed: