What Will I Tell?

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SWBAT create a list of general information authors include in biographies and a list of other information that may be explored.

Big Idea

Biographers have a particular job; telling others about an individual. What do they tell?

Get Ready

10 minutes

I gather to the rug. I almost always teach on the rug.  Check out the video of the class coming to the rug.

I display a tub of biographiesTo do this, I collected my classroom bios and checked as many grade level biographies from our library as I could. I also checked books out from our community library.

Our class is going to write biographies about the staff at school. People coming into our school often don’t know anything about the people who work here with you. When we complete the biographies about the adults in our school, we will display them in the entrance. Today our task is to look at published biographers and notice what information they seek out and include in their work. The Governors' List (*) says that readers "stayed tuned" so to speak, to always be asking as they read, "What questions is the author asking and answering?"

(*)Early in the year I explained the CCSS to my students, telling them that the govenors of every state got together to decide what second graders should be able to do. For quickness, I just call it the "Govenors' List."  I spend a smidge of time referring to our state Govenor by name. 

Because this is a unit about biography, the students will be reading for information identifying what questions the author is answering in a selection of biographies.



Get Set

15 minutes

I show biographies previously read. I have already read A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David Adler, and Happy Birthday Martin Luther by Jean Marzollo. Any biographies you’ve read would suffice, and if you haven’t read one or two, now is the time. Learners need models, and attempting to create something without a picture of the goal is unnecessarily difficult! I also show the anthologies of biographies the children have explored in Focus on Biography: Text Features Help Answer Close Reading Questions. 

I ask the students to turn to nearby neighbor and tell them three facts they remember the author telling us about in each of the biographies.

*Quick vocabulary strategy: I use the term biography as many times as I can squeeze it in; studies suggest that to increase vocabulary, learners need to hear and say the word from between 18 to 30 times. With the CCSS's emphasis on academic vocab, I am fine with “overusing” a word to solidify its meaning in my students.

Boys and girls, be prepared to tell me what your neighbors told you the biographers wrote about the person.

I ask students to paraphrase what other kids say for three reasons: 1) it forces attention by the listener; 2) it brushes up on the SL CCSS of speaking collaboratively and discussing a text read aloud, and 3) it often jogs the memory of other students. After I call on a number of students to report out, I start categorizing the kind of information I am hearing …

So biographers tell readers what important things the person did? What else do they tell us? When they are born, where they lived, when they died. Do they tell us why they did something? Do you notice the question words you are using? The five w’s! Biographies tend to answer when and where and what questions the most. Keep that in mind when you complete the next step of our job today which is to look at published biographers and notice what information they seek out and include in their work.  Here’s how we are going to do that:

  • I demonstrate doing a picture walk on previously unseen (by the students) texts. I page through rather quickly looking at the cover, title, and end pages, pictures, captions, any titles and subtitles. I look for lists of dates and bulleted items. Always I am "talking my thinking," giving students a glimpse into the information I am collecting.  

"Oh here's a timeline. It tells me when this person lived." Or "ah, here is a list of important dates in this person's life." "This caption says this person was .... "

  • I page through a second time reading bits of texts, commenting as I do so, that I am not reading every word right now, because I am only looking to see WHAT the author included – somewhat like looking down one of the grocery store aisles to see what is there.  I’m noticing what kind of information the author is including.

"Oh the author is telling us about this person's childhood and who helped him grow up. And here is some information about the famous people who he admired and studied. Hum, here's a page about his first jobs...." 

  •  I write some questions the author answered on the board. This will be a place for students to collect their information. (Where this person was born?  When this person was born? What interesting or special thing this person accomplished?)


Go to Work

20 minutes

The students will take one or two biographies back to their tables. They do not need to read each one, they should do a picture walk and a text walk (skimming) as I did, to notice what the author answered. If they find answers that match the ones I posted, they may come put the page number and their initials by the appropriate phrase on the board.

When they find out a new question, they may write in up with their initials. (Where and when the person died, for instance.)

I send the students off to work. I want the students to work individually today. I will circulate and monitor my lower skilled readers with extra support, but I want all students to “dig into the genre!” In about 20 minutes I ask the students to return the biographies to the tub and come back to the rug.

All of this work is aligned to RI 2.1. -asking and answering questions and understanding key details in a text.




10 minutes

What was our task today? Today our task was to look at published biographers and notice what information they seek out and include in their work. Did we do that? Let’s look at our list of questions biographers answered. I see almost all of you found birthdate and date of death references.

Here is where I will add any missing questions.  Since I know that our goal is staff biographies, I will add the question “When did you start working at Ocean Park School?”  I will ask the students if there are other questions we would like to know about our staff that aren’t on the list. When we’ve added to the list, I add a title: Questions Biographer Answer for Readers. I ask the students to choral read the questions.  I ask them if we completed our task for today.