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Monday Morning Ready05.10.2019
Jumpstart Your Week!

Forty years ago, Ernie Colón was drawing Casper the Friendly Ghost and Sid Jacobson was his editor at Harvey Comics. They worked together again at Marvel Comics after Jacobson was named executive editor in 1987. Over time, they came to enjoy a close friendship and creative rapport while adhering to a fairly simple modus operandi.... < read more >
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
Grade 3-4

Think about your favorite biography. Who is it about? What is the most interesting thing you learned about this person?

Grade 5-6

Would you be more or less likely to read biographies and books about other serious topics if they were written as graphic novels rather than regular books? Why?

Grade 7-8

What do you think would be the biggest challenge in writing a biography about someone as well-known and as "much mythologized" as Anne Frank? Why?

Grade 9-10

Why do you think Anne Frank's story has inspired and fascinated people around the world for so long? How do you think her biography has influenced people's ideas about the Holocaust?

LESSON PLAN
Write a Biography

PROCESS:

  1. Prior to conducting this activity, gather several age-appropriate biographies to share with the class. If necessary, ask your school librarian for help in selecting books.
  2. As a class, discuss the difference between an autobiography and a biography. Guide students to understand that an autobiography is a chronological story that someone writes about his or her own life. A biography is much the same, but the author writes about someone else.
  3. Invite students to examine the books you collected in small groups. Rejoin as a class to identify additional characteristics of a biography. For example, the information in a biography is based on fact. Whenever possible, events and dialogue are based on reliable first-person accounts. Most biographies follow chronological order. Biographies describe the time, place and other people in the subject's life accurately. And, a biography avoids stereotypes. Through description and examples, the story tells readers how the subject was unique.
  4. Divide the class into pairs or have students choose partners. Inform students that they will each write a biography about their partner.
  5. Instruct students to interview their partners. You may also wish to have them interview their partner's friends and family members to gather additional information. Then give students time to write their biographies. Encourage students to share photographs to help illustrate their stories.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to share their biographies with the class. Encourage classmates to identify anecdotes or facts that taught them something new about the subject of each biography.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
Assign partners. Instruct partners to identify a memorable moment in each of their lives. Then have them interview each other about those topics. Encourage students to write a brief, chronological biography about this moment in their partner's life.
Grades 5-6:
Assign partners. Instruct partners to identify a key event in each of their lives. Then have them interview each other about those topics. If any classmates were present when this event unfolded, instruct students to interview them, too. Give students time to write a detailed, chronological biography about this event in their partner's life.
Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs or allow students to select their own partners. Instruct students to compile a list of questions they would like to ask their partners about their childhood. Give them time to interview each other. Encourage students to interview other people in the subject's life or, if relevant, search newspaper clippings to gather more information. Give students time to write their biographies.
Grades 9-10:
Divide the class into pairs or allow students to select their own partners. Instruct students to compile a list of questions and then interview their subject and key people in his or her life. Have students visit locations that are important to their subjects, such as their homes, favorite hangouts or places where key moments in their lives took place. Encourage students to study news clippings or conduct other research to gain a better understanding of the time, events and people that influenced their subject's life. Then have students compose a timeline. Using that timeline as a guide, challenge students to write a detailed biography about their partner.
SMITHSONIAN RESOURCES
Spotlight: Biography
Try out the links on this Smithsonian site to learn more about the lives and accomplishments of exceptional Americans. The biographies include images and information from across the Smithsonian about men and women who have shaped our history and culture.

Joseph Henry: A Life in Science
Use this website from the Smithsonian Institution Archives to introduce students to the scientific research of Joseph Henry (1797-1878), the first Smithsonian Secretary and renowned physicist and how he helped set the Institution on its course.

Biographical Resources—Researching Your Art
If you have an artist’s name, a biographical dictionary can help you learn more basic but important facts about the artist’s life. Read this article from the Smithsonian American Art Museum to learn more.

Wright Brothers Biography: An Illustrated Timeline
In this lesson from the Smithsonian National air and Space Museum, students working independently online will study primary source materials from the Wright Brothers exhibition and use what they learn to create a brief biography of Wilbur or Orville Wright. The class then combines individual student work to create a biography in the form of an illustrated timeline.

Object Portraits
In this “getting to know you” activity from the Smithsonian’s History Explorer, students get to show who they are by composing a portrait made of their objects. The lesson also introduces or reinforces an idea central to historical research, that objects hold stories about the people who own them and when they lived. The activity can be paired with the National Museum of American History exhibition Pushing Boundaries: Portraits by Robert Weingarten.

The Extraordinary Life of Nikola Tesla
Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn about the eccentric inventor and modern Prometheus who died 76 years ago, after leading a rags-to-riches to rags life.

Socialite Who Became a Leading Arctic Explorer
In the early 20th century, Louise Arner Boyd lived as a philanthropist in the United States and a hero on the high seas. Read this Smithsonian magazine article to learn about her amazing life.
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