I have done body biographies since I started teaching; it's a technique that I learned in grad school, and I really love it. Basically, the concept is that the students create portraits of a person or character, using words and pictures. It works best at the end of a unit or book, because students have a more comprehensive understanding of their subjects than they would if it were a "during reading" activity. You can find lots of resources for body biographies online, and they are all a little different. I like to use big chart paper to do mine. (Note: I used this for Jack London, but this is also a really cool strategy for foils or protagonist/antagonist studies -- in those assignments, you can actually split the body in half, right down the middle.)
I asked the students to bring old magazines and glue sticks to class. While I knew that many would forget, I figured that we would have enough to work with...and we did.
When the students came in, I introduced the assignment using a three slide presentation Biography.
Then, I had the students send the smallest member of the group (the one to be traced) to me for paper.
After I introduced the activity and the students got the chart paper, I talked to the students about making decisions, dividing up work and really shooting for a multimedia project. Then, I shared the magazines that I brought from home and distributed scissors.
It took the students about ten minutes to settle into the activity, but once they did, it was really fun and productive. I saw groups who had everyone in a different role: one finding quotes in the book, one working with the novel, one cutting out, one gluing down, and one writing and drawing directly on the paper. [Note: I made sure that each group had boys and girls, artsy and not so artsy and a mix of achievement levels. I didn't do this in any really formal way. Because the desks were put into tables, I just directed kids around the room. I really only had to move four or five kids and it worked out fine.]
Note: Because of our testing schedule, I did this activity over two days. The advantage of doing it for two class periods is that the students can bring in additional items from home that they want to add to the body, which makes for a better project. The disadvantage is that it's twice the cleanup :)
On the second day, students will put finishing touches on their projects and fill out the self evaluation.