Biography Research: Collaboration Day! (Day 7 of 11)

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SWBAT use research notes to collaborate with others, creating a rough draft of a slide show about a biographical subject they researched.

Big Idea

Collaborating together with others who read the same biography, researchers will create a rough draft of a Google slide presentation. They'll decide who is responsible for which slides when presenting, and discuss all researcher's question stem notes.

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!

What is Collaboration?

5 minutes

Define Collaboration:  The success of our slide show presentations is very reliant on student collaboration, so it's important that I teach my researchers about this important word.  I begin by asking students what they think "collaboration" means.  They are pretty off base, so I begin to define the meaning of the word collaboration.

My principal happened to walk in at this time and provided the perfect teachable moment.  I explained to the class that Mrs. Gravel and I have to collaborate on many things we do at JCB (James C. Bush Elementary School).  For example, we had to collaborate together when choosing the materials for this biography research unit.  The students were then quick to identify that collaboration means working together.  I further define for them that ALL members of a group have important things to share, and when we collaborate, everyone helps.  I refer to the saying "Two heads are better than one".  I ask the students if any of them have two heads...of course they don't and the point is made!  We establish that they'll work together, give their best ideas, and value the work of others.  We add collaboration to our group of Unit 3 academic vocabulary.  

Presentation Rough Draft Lesson and Expectations

15 minutes

We are completing a ten-slide Google presentation containing a title slide, one slide for each of the question stems who - when - where - what - why - how, open-ended question, timeline, and bibliography.  Today, and tomorrow, my class is working on a rough draft of the presentation.

Modeling:  I put up a copy of a finished slide show rough draft, my teacher sample, about Louis Armstrong. I walk the students through each slide, explaining the directions.  Here are the directions I gave my students for completing their rough drafts which I displayed on my white board:

  • Title page:  Subject of biography, first and last name; All student names in group
  • Question stem slides:  Two or more sentences including the most relevant information; combine multiple ideas into one sentence
  • Open-ended question:  Create one open-ended question - all students will answer during presentation
  • Timeline:  Day, Month Date, Year (if possible); Event as a phrase
  • Bibliography:  Title of Book; Author  


Explain Which Slides to Write on for Rough Draft:  I tell the students they'll need to begin by deciding who is presenting which slide during our presentations on Friday.  Although all students in the group collaborate on every slide, I've asked the students to write on only the the slides that they'll be responsible for typing in the information and presenting.  Each student has about two to three slides they are responsible for depending on the number of students in a particular biography group.  (See Resource File:  Biography Presentation Rough Draft ~ This document is meant to be in landscape format.)

Expectations:  We open up our biography research packets and look at the rubric category "Group Presentation Rough Draft".  We review expectations for speaking and listening - collaboration, being prepared, explaining ideas clearly, and recording facts and details accurately on the rough draft.  The biography research packet was included as a resource on days 2-6 of this set of lessons.  Although, here is a copy of just the rubric. I've also included a copy of our SL3.1 poster that we refer to often when we are addressing that standard. (See Resource Files:  Biography Research Rubric and Engage in Discussion Poster CCSSSL3.1)

I pass out blank copies of the slide presentation rough draft to each student.

**If your students have computers, Chromebooks, etc. you may be able to skip the written rough draft and go right to your digital slide presentation!  We aren't a 1:1 district yet, and our computer lab time is limited, so for now, we are completing a paper copy of our rough draft. 

Group Work: Researchers Collaborate on Presentation Rough Drafts!

25 minutes

Group Collaboration:  First, the students decide together who will be presenting which slide in the presentation.  I let the students figure this out on their own, and they did very well!  The students work collaboratively  together in their small groups, as I visit with groups a few minutes at a time.  I make sure the students are interacting, and participating in speaking or listening with their group.  I take notes by placing a check mark (participating), or a minus (not participating) next to students names on a class log.  I'll use this information later when I fill out student rubrics for assessment.  I did try to shoot some quick video so you could see my researchers in action, but I did have to help, and take notes on speaking and listening skills, too, so there are just a few short clips for you to watch.  (See Resource Files:  Research Video Rough Drafts 1-5)

Review and Status of the Class

5 minutes

Review:  I ask the class to finish writing their sentence/event/date, etc. if they are in the middle of writing something.  Then, I review the rough draft directions on the white board.  I often have students "ping-pong" things back to me, and while reviewing today, they repeat each step after I read them off of the white board.  I let the students know we'll continue tomorrow with the goal of getting our rough drafts finished up!

Status of the Class:  At the end of class, I take a quick thumbs up thumbs down pole of where students are in the drafting process.  I ask students to hold their fist right next to their body and give me a thumbs up for "yes" and a thumbs down for "no".  I go through each slide in order and ask if the groups have it completed.  This is a quick way to see how much time the groups need tomorrow to complete their rough drafts.  I have one group almost finished, and all other groups are almost done with their question stems (first six slides).

My researchers and I will continue our rough drafts tomorrow.

Lesson Extras!

I'm always trying to continue to reinforce Common Core standards we're working on, or standards I've covered in previous lessons.  Below are some additional documents I've created to support some of the standards covered within this unit.  I hope you find these resources helpful when planning future instruction, literacy centers, home activities, content area lessons, digital articles, etc.

Question Stem Flip Book:  This is a question stem flip book that my students completed earlier in this unit.  Fold the paper in half (hot dog style - the long way) and cut along the dotted lines to create tabs.  I found it helpful to have students write the question below the question stem word on the front flap when they were first learning how to accomplish this standard, and then flip open the flap to write the answer to their question in a complete sentence.  It took us a few weeks to get to the point of taking multiple notes beneath one questions stem, like we did in the Biography Research Unit (See Resource File:  Biography Flip book)

Question Stem Ask and Answer:  This is an activity that can work with almost any kind of informational material to practice using question stems to ask and answer questions about relevant information.   My class used it in our computer lab after reading an article on the Wright Brothers on (  Practicing reading shorter informational articles and responding to questions is similar to the types of sample tasks they have on the Smarter Balanced and PARCC websites.  I'm trying to integrate more digital literature with written response.  (See Resource File:  Question Stem Ask and Answer)

Biography Note Taking Sheet:  As I mentioned in one of my videos las week, the students have been practicing taking notes with question stems throughout this unit.  We completed other shared and independent reading about turn-of-the-century people.  This is a sheet the students used as we were learning how to take notes using the question stems.  (See Resource File:  Biography Note Taking Sheet)

Literature Analysis:  We also read the literature selection More Than Anything Else.  This is a sheet I created to help students with standardized questioning.  I try to have them complete these kinds of activities weekly to prepare for our PARCC testing.  (See Resource File:  More Than Anything Else Literature Analysis)

My Name is Georgia:  Another shared reading selection we complete is about turn-of-the-century artist, Georgia O'Keeffe.  After reading, my students completed this paper.  You'll notice how I was integrating our question stem focus standard within this assignment.  (See Resource File:  My Name is Georgia Questions)

Balloons Over Broadway:  The students also read the book Balloons Over Broadway which also follows our unit theme of creative, inventive, and notable people of the turn-of-the-century.  This is an assignment they completed, again to practice question stems.  (See Resource File:  Balloons Over Broadway Question Stem Assignment)