Focus On Biography: Share What You Know (Day 4 of 5)

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SWBAT introduce a historical figure to the class and state their opinion about why that person was important.

Big Idea

Teaching others deepens personal understanding; answering questions solidifies learning.

Get Ready

10 minutes

This lesson is both an assessment piece and a pre-teaching piece in my biography unit. The main objective of this lesson is the Speaking and Listening goal. The CCSS anchor standards stress the importance of both collaborative discussions and the opportunity to take part in structured conversations about texts.  The assessment piece is listening to whether the students can communicate cogent information gleaned from the reading they did on historical figures. Another important focus of the CCSS is integrated teaching of reading, writing and speaking skills. The pre-teaching piece is verbally prewriting an opinion piece about the historical figure studied in the text.

One pre-requistite to teaching this lesson is that you have taught students about opinion writing. I reference "OREO questions" below because I taught a lesson previously on this method of opinion writing. Please visit that lesson in my course for a more detailed explanation of how to teach opinion writing with OREO.

I gather students to the rug.  I explain our next task. Each team has worked with a different civil rights leader, but the class as a whole has not heard of all the civil rights leaders being studied. 

·        Boys and girls, you have become experts on a variety of American Heroes. You know a lot about these people whose biographies you’ve read. But we don’t all know everybody, so today your job is to tell the class what you think about the American you read about, and let us all know why that person is famous. Here is your task. …

·        Talk with your team about your American Leader. 

·        Decide how to answer the OREO questions with your group.

·        Present your leader to our class. You might want to have one person in your group be the "expert" for each part of the OREO form. One person can tell the class your group's opinion about the leader, one person can tell the reasons you all think that, and one person can give examples, and the last person to speak can restate your opinion about the person you are teaching us about. 

I show the task list on the IWB. I could print it, but big is better – I want the students to be able to refer to it from all over the room. I also show the Oreo Opinion Writing doc on the white board as I model their task. I review the OREO components with the students. Again, they are familiar to this because they have previously used the format to write an opinion piece. 



Get Set

5 minutes

I model a speech to the class about Martin Luther King, Jr. using the OREO chart to guide the structure of my speech. As I deliver the following, I point to each part of the OREO form as I say the part of the speech that applies to it.


O - Martin Luther King was a great man who changed our country. He was great and brave and peaceful.

R - He is great because he was a very good speaker who told people that injustice was wrong.  He is brave because he was often in danger and kept on speaking. He was peaceful because he wouldn’t be violent.

E - One thing he did was organize people to demand changes.  One time he organized a boycott of busses until Black people were treated equally on the bus. Another time he organized a march to Washington, DC of over 200,000 people. He gave speeches that are still listened to today.   

O - Martin Luther King was brave and made our country a better place.


Go to Work

15 minutes

I remind the class that our job is to teach each other about the leader we read about. I send the students to their groups with the same copies of the biography pages they used to study text features and a copy of their completed questionnaire, and ask them discuss why they think their person was important.  Then they are to practice a speech about their figure, using the OREO model of opinion writing.  They will not be required to write on the form, but it will be a handy reference.

I suggest that when the group presents to the class, each student in the group speak about one part of the form. One student can introduce the figure and state what the group thinks about him/her; the next can give supporting reasons; the next examples and the final student can restate the group’s opinion.

I also remind students to ask if there are questions, and I direct the class to listen carefully and ask questions to really “get to know” another important person in our country’s history. 



Speak and Teach; Listen and Learn

30 minutes

Each group presents to the class. If a group “gets stuck” they may sit down, watch and listen to different group, and have another go. Speaking in front of a class with prepared subject matter is a new skill for my students, and some are sure to have a few false starts. I will ask a leading question if they falter. If it is clear that they really aren't prepared, I will ask them to sit down and watch other groups. Then I will meet with them for a "dress rehearsal" using the OREO form and have each student repeat his or her part, and then have them have another go in front of the class. Usually it is stage fright rather than lack of knowledge that derails the presenter! I always point out to them what they do know - and nudge them to share that. 

I also have a tablet and pencil ready to write down questions the audience may ask that the presenters don’t have the answer. Further research may be needed.

I remind students to ask if there are questions, and I direct the class to listen carefully and ask questions to really “get to know” another important person in our country’s history.