While most students will read fiction, whether in short story or novel format, biographies do not seem to have the same appeal. However, by using a few engaging projects as opposed to the traditional book report, upper elementary students will usually find that reading about real people has as much, if not more, appeal than fiction.
Ask students to create a timeline showing the most important events of a person's life This can be done using computers to create a spreadsheet or by drawing on large white sheets of paper. If everyone in class read the same biography, divide the class into groups with one in charge of detailing the person's youth, another group his early adult years, another his late adult years and so on. Another group can create a timeline for historical events happening in the subject's country or the world during his lifespan, also.
Ask students to create a newspaper covering their subject. Not only can the newspaper contain articles over the main events of the subject's life, it can also contain comics showing key events and perhaps even advertisements for products of the time period or items associated with the subject. Ask students to create these newspapers individually or in small groups. The newspaper can include articles about several subjects from the same time period if desired.
If students read different biographies, ask students to come to class as the person they read about. This means students would be totally familiar with their subject and even create costumes for their personas. Students can be grouped together by time period for small group discussions or the whole class can take part in one dinner party discussion. Student should stay in character for the whole activity and present comments and views of their character only.
Television Talk Show
Select one student to be the moderator for a Meet the Press-type broadcast. The moderator can interview the other students about key incidents or events of their life or solicit their opinions about key events of their time period. Students can create costumes for their personas. If video equipment is available, film these interviews to present at an open house or during parent-teacher conferences.
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