We began class by discussing fiction and non-fiction literature. Students were clear about the differences – fiction (untrue stories) and non-fiction (fact-based literature). We continued to discuss various genres that could be consider non-fiction literature – biographies, autobiographies, memoires, how-to books.
I explained that each quarter, students were required to read a book independently – meaning outside of the class. This quarter their assignment was to read a biography, autobiography, or memoire. We then discussed the differences:
Biography – a book written by another person about a particular person
Autobiography – a book written by oneself about oneself
Memoire – a book written about a time period within one’s life
I explained that there are three parts to this assignment (1) selecting and reading the book (2) responding to three relevant questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the selected person (3) taking part in a biography panel as the selected persona. The time frame is four weeks.
The biography panel is similar to a TV talk show. Four personalities will be at the front of the class. Each person will have their selected questions written on an index card to distribute to the other personalities on the panel. One-by-one the guests on the panel will ask a question from the index card.
The “Guest Personality” will first introduce himself/herself and then respond to each of the questions asked. This is so the class (audience) will get to know and understand the famous person. I make sure there is no duplicate biography, since it is more interesting to learn about a variety of personalities.
I passed out “Biography Panel – Independent Reading Project” which provides an overall view of the project.
Next, I distributed “Biography Panel – Student Rubric”. This provides the guide for responses that each of the eight questions should address. Students only need to choose three questions from this list, but responses should demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the personality’s life. I remind students that they cannot have note cards – they need to speak as if they were that person.
In some cases, students will need to research more information if their biographies provided limited information.
In addition, students need to dress as the persona and will receive a speaking grade. I explain that it is imperative that students practice. The more they practice, the more comfortable they will appear on the day of presentations.
For grading, I just used the Student Rubric. As students present, it is very easy to evaluate and make notes next to the questions selected.