Notable Narratives 1: Reading Biographical Texts Closely

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SWBAT read a text closely to determine what the text says explicitly and cite specific textual evidence when speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Big Idea

In this lesson, students will gain an understanding of what makes a person “notable” by reading a biographical narrative closely and asking and answering questions about the notable person based on the text.

Enroll Students Into Learning

5 minutes

Today, I meet with my students on the rug and ask “Do any of you have a favorite famous person?”  Instantly, hands go up and chatter begins!  My students so badly want to share with someone who their “favorite” famous person is clearly!  So, I ask the students to turn and talk with their neighbor about who their favorite famous person might be!  I let the students discuss for about two minute, and then call our class back together by using the “If you can hear my voice…” Strategy!  (Check this out in my “Strategies Folder”!)  I ask the student to take turns sharing a few of their favorite famous people.

 As the students share their favorite people, I ask, “What makes this person famous? Why did you, or other people, notice them?”  This is a really fun part of the lesson as my students explain why their “famous” people are famous.  I get all sorts of answers, such as, “Well, my famous person is famous because they have an amazing singing voice!”, or “Her outfits are super sparkly!”  This conversation alone reminds me how much fun teaching really is!  But, I say to the students, “You know, you’re right!  All of these things make each of your famous people worth noticing, or “notable”!  I flip to the anchor chart I’ve created for my class that says “What  makes a person notable?” in the center and ask my students, “What other things do you think could make a person notable?”   My students try to give many answers, so I tell the students that I’d like for them to jot down a post-it note what they think makes a person notable.  As each student comes over, I give them a post-it and send them back to their seats to make their note.  Once all students are back to their seats and have made their notes, I ask the students to share some of their ideas.  Some students say you have a special talent, and another students says that you do something for the first time that no one else has ever seen or done.  All of these are great reasons why someone would be considered “notable”, so I have my two paper collectors go around to collect  the students’ post-its and then post them on our anchor chart.

Experience Learning

5 minutes

Now, I pull up our essential question notebook file that contains our essential question for the unit.  I tell the students that this week, we’re going to read some texts that are about other notable people, but specifically people that were notable around the late 1800s to early 1900s, a time period that is often referred to as the “turn of the century”.  To do this, we’re going to read some texts that fit into the biography genre.  I discuss with the students that a biography is a text written about a real person, but it’s written by someone else.  I tell the students that when we read biographical texts, we can learn a lot about the people the texts are about!  In fact, if we read closely and ask questions while reading, we can get the answers we're wondering about!   We can use question stems, or questions words, such as: Who?, What?, Where?, When?, Why?, and How? to help us formulate questions about the text and then locate the answers!

Label New Learning

5 minutes

To label the learning the students are doing today, I tell the class that today, we’re going to do just that: read a text closely to see exactly what it says about the notable person, and while we’re reading closely, we’re going to ask and answer questions to see what specific evidence we can find about the person in the text.  

Demonstrate Skills

10 minutes

Now, it’s time to introduce the text we’re going to share today.  Today, we’re going to focus on Booker T. Washington, a very notable person from the turn of the century time period.  In order to learn about him, we’re going to read the text More Than Anything Else, written by Marie Bradby.  I first ask the students to take a picture walk through the text to preview what this book may be about.  Then I ask the students to give me a list of questions they’re wondering about this text or about Booker T. Washington.  As the students offer questions, such as “Why is Booker T. Washington notable?” or “Where did Booker T. Washington live?”, I make a note of these on the SmartBoard.  I tell the students that as we’re reading today, if we find an answer to any of these questions, I’d like the students to raise their hands immediately so we can see exactly what the text says to answer these questions.  I also add that if we come up with other questions too, please raise your hand so we can add these additional questions as well! 

I share some vocabulary with the students that I feel will support my readers before we begin, and then, we start reading.  Depending on the ability of your readers, you may want to read this text in a variety of ways (i.e.: independently, buddy reading, listening to an oral recording, etc.), but today, my class shares this text aloud together as a group.  As we read, we stop to discuss any questions we can answer.  We also discuss any additional questions we have that we want to add.


5 minutes

After we are finished reading, we return to our SmartBoard list of questions and see if there are any unanswered questions that we are still wondering about.  We discuss what we could do to find the answers to these questions (i.e.: read other books on Booker T. Washington, watch something about him on the Biography channel, etc.). 

I stop for a moment and ask the students a question.  I ask, “Boys and girls, could I get the answer to this question by reading this text:  What color was the shirt Booker had on when he went to work in the salt mines?”  The kids say yes, that  I could get the answer.  Then I ask, “Do you think this is an important question to ask if I’m trying to learn about why Booker T. Washington is a notable person?”  Students shake their heads no.  I ask, “Why not? Tell me about your thinking!”  Students share that if we were going to learn about Booker T. Washington and what makes him notable, it’s not the color of his shirt that made him worth noting.  Instead, it was his goals and dreams that made him notable.  This is exactly what I want to hear!  My students are distinguishing relevant information from irrelevant information and already are able to determine how to sift these apart when asking and answering questions from a text.  I tell the class they’ve done a great job reading closely and asking and answering questions today, and tomorrow, we’ll do even more practice with this skill!


15 minutes

As you’ll find in most of my lessons, I do not usually include a “Homework” section.  Usually, homework in my classroom consists of a routine list of tasks, including practicing spelling words, math facts, reading a book that is just right for the readers, and sometimes other small tasks.  However, with this week being focused on “notable” people, my teaming partner Nici and I couldn’t resist coming up with an extra special homework assignment for each day of this week.  So, throughout all of these “notable people” lessons, you’ll find our special homework assignment for each day!

For homework, we’ve taken a Kids Discover Magazine all about The Wright Brothers and created a mini workbook where students can practice a variety of CCSS related to informational text!  Each day, students read a portion of the biographical magazine at home and then complete a portion of their mini workbook, which we’ve entitled the “Fantastic Flying Facts and Figures Book”!  We’ve also created an introductory video to go with each day’s assignment that the students watch before their reading and completing their work for the evening!   Check out the special parent letter we sent home, Day 1’s video, and the “Fantastic Flying Facts and Figures Book” in the resources section here!