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Home  >  Reading Workbooks  >  Elementary School
Biography Exercise
By Alice Knapp

Alice Knapp, Librarian
As part of a unit on the Civil Rights Movement, I divided third and fourth grade students into pairs. Each pair read a biography about a famous Black American. After reading the book, I asked them to write a paragraph focusing on the ways this great person made a difference. I was not looking for a traditional book report, but rather, I really wanted the students to get to the essence of the contribution made by the American. In the process, I focused on the concepts of writing effective paragraphs -- including the creation of a topic sentence and how each following sentence in a paragraph should relate back to the idea expressed by that first sentence.

I started them off by creating an example for them on the contributions of Rosa Parks. We discussed Rosa Parks and her experiences during the Civil Rights Movement. I then wrote up a paragraph for students to use as a model.

The biographies read by these students were:

Wilma Rudolph, by Victoria Sherrow
Keep on Singing: A Ballad of Marian Anderson, by Myra Cohn Livingston
Jackie Robinson: He Was the First, by David A. Adler
A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr., by David A. Adler
Barbara Jordan, by Diane Patrick-Wexler
Faith Ringgold, by Robyn Montana Turner

Student Examples:

About the Author: Alice Knapp is a Librarian at Chugach Optional Elementary School.

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