Biography Research: Kick Off Day! (Day 2 of 11)

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SWBAT read a biography, take relevant notes, and sort them into who, what, when, where, why, and how question stem categories.

Big Idea

It's kick off day! Your researchers are introduced to their unit materials, and begin reading, researching, and taking notes. Go team!

Welcome to My Lesson

Welcome to a series of lessons I've created to accomplish Common Core Standards relating to reading biographies, taking relevant notes, and publishing a collaborative technology slide presentation.  This is a culminating project to finish up the last two weeks of a six week unit on creative, inventive, and notable people of the turn-of-the-century.  This set of lessons could be easily adapted to meet the needs of other biographical subjects in a different time period, or used with other types of informational text.  

I chose to use the Who Was? series of books for my researchers.  This series worked very well into the upper range of our Lexile band, provided text feature support, had many biographical subjects of the time period we are studying, and were just the right length to read in a week.  One advantage of choosing to use books within the same series is the text structure.  This made it easy when completing my daily lessons on reading and note taking. 

Please watch this short introduction video to hear more about this lesson.  Thank you!


Pass Out Materials and Give an Overview of the Unit

10 minutes

My students are excited to see which biography they'll be researching over the next two weeks.  I pass out their writing folders containing their research packet, biography, bookmark, and choice sheet.  I have some super parent helpers who helped copy materials and stuff folders!

Biography Packet:  We read through the biography packet beginning with the overview of days 1-10.  I answer any questions the students have.  Giving the students the "big picture" of what we're accomplishing over the next two weeks will help them understand this larger unit.  I also go through the rubric page with them, so they know how they'll be assessed within this unit.  We revisit the rubric page every day, reading through the section(s) we are completing.  Today, we read the part of the rubric called "Reading Informational Text" and "Research Note Taking".  I find that revisiting my objectives frequently helps the students know what is expected.  The students quickly notice that there are five note taking pages with days one through five at the top.  I tell them that each of these pages represents a day of research for this week, Monday through Friday.  (See Resource File:  Biography Research Report and Presentation)

Bookmarks:  Another resource I've created for my students is a bookmark with the chapters listed that they'll be reading each day.  Some of my students have completed novel work in small groups and can make their own schedule, but others need support with pacing out the right amount of pages to be finished by the end of the week.  Our shared reading materials are kept on a tight schedule, as they are rotated to other classrooms, so it's important that my students know exactly which chapters they need to read and take notes on for each day.  (See Resource File:  Who Was Student Bookmarks)

Biographies:  Of course, within their folder are their Who Was? books.  I give the students all the time in the world, about one minute, to browse the book and tell me what they notice about the text structure.  We've been covering text structure for many weeks, so students quickly come up with many ideas, including chapters with titles, page numbers, text features, bolded words, italicized words, illustrations, and timelines.

Choice Sheet:  I've also included the students' choice sheets within their materials.  This is a reminder that they were able to choose their biography.

Biography Note Taking with Question Stems Day One

15 minutes

Throughout this unit, we have been working on reading biographies and taking notes pertaining to who, when, where, why, what, and how question stem words, to cover Common Core informational reading and writing standards.  This has been a work in progress!  My students have had a lot of practice with this, as we are in the fourth week of our unit, but if your students are new to this skill, they'll need a lot of direct instruction, modeling, and guided practice before trying to read and take notes next to question stems on their own. 

I ask students to set their materials on the upper part of their desk, and to have all hands on deck for today's close reading and note taking lesson.

Model Chapters:  I show the students how I have the chapters for today's reading listed at the top of my notes page.  I remind them that they should capitalize words in chapters, similar to how we capitalize titles, and to copy carefully from their book.  Also, I remind them about using quotation marks around the chapter titles.

Read Closely:  I'm using the book, Who Was Louis Armstrong? as my sample.  I chose this book because it is part of the same series of the student books, and all of the books are similar in text structure.  Also, the students are familiar with Louis Armstrong from a read-aloud we did during our creative week.   I read the first few pages aloud from the chapters "Who Was Louis Armstrong" and "A Rough and Tumble Start", displaying it on my document camera for the students to see on my SMART Board.  I model reading closely, identifying my purpose for reading, asking questions and citing evidence as I read.  (See Resource Files:  Read Closely Poster and Informational Text and Features Poster)

Model Note Taking:  With the students' help, we identify some relevant notes to take on the "Biography Notes Day 1" note taking page of my sample research packet.  Next to the "Who?" question stem I add the notes "Louis Armstrong" and "poor African American boy".  Next to the "When?" question stem I add "1901 born", and next to the "Where" question stem I add "grew up in New Orleans", and "born in Storyville, New Orleans".   I ask the students if they feel these are important, relevant notes.  They agree, and are ready to read their own biographies and give it a try! I remind students that they'll be taking at least six notes today, and by the end of the week they should have at least three notes for every question stem.  (See Resource File:  Teacher Sample Notes Day One)

Revisit Objectives:  I have students turn to the rubric page in their research packet, and we read the "I" statements beneath the "Reading Informational Text" and "Research Note Taking" categories.  We'll do this daily, in different ways, to set students up for success in meeting the standards.   


Students Read Closely, Research, and Record Notes

30 minutes

Read, Research, Take Notes:  The students read closely, research, take notes, and sort them next to the who, when, where, why, what, and how question stems in their research packet.  They read and take notes on all of the pages noted on their bookmarks.  Some of my students are listening to their biography as an accommodation to their reading needs.  I've prerecorded these, nice and slow, so they can share in this biography unit with the rest of the class. You'll see a short video clip of my students researching, taking notes, and having quiet conversations about their biography.  (See Resource File:  Research Sample Day One and Biography Research Video Clip)

What is the Teacher Doing?:  Even though my students have had practice with this skill, I've asked them to raise their hands after they take their first two notes.  This will allow me to do a quick check to make sure they're on the right track.  I continue to monitor students' progress by stopping and listening to them read, as well as check in on additional notes they're taking.  I assist students who have raised their hands, or seem stuck.  I also take anecdotal notes of things I'm noticing to add to my instruction for tomorrow. Here are things I'll be focusing on for day two:

  • Make sure students are writing enough information to identify the meaning of their fact
  • Model and discuss organizing information within the note taking boxes; talk about what happens when they run out of space


What if They Don't Finish?:  It's important to tell you that I have a few researchers who need extra time.  My shared reading block backs up to my literacy centers and guided reading time.  I asked students to finish their biography work for the day, and then go on to their literacy centers.  This way, students can be caught up for tomorrow.

Share, Review, and Celebrate!

5 minutes

I take a few minutes at the end of our reading block every day to review, reinforce, and celebrate all of our hard work for the day.  We meet together in the back of our room, beneath our literacy tree, in the carpet area.

Quote of the Day:  Each day, I give the students two quotes, and have them try to guess which of their biography subjects said them.  They are excited to hear the quotes and guess, so they arrive at the carpet quickly and quietly.  (See Resource File:  Quotes to Share with Students Each Day)

Share:  Today, I ask students to turn and share something that surprised them about their biographical subject.

Review:  I review the skills we're working on this week, highlighting examples from our lesson earlier.  

Celebrate:  I let my researchers know they had a great first day, and I look forward to all of the great facts they'll be sharing tomorrow!