We recently finished a jam packed unit on biographies. I incorporated a study of time lines, character traits and famous Americans to maximize my time. Whew...I get tired just thinking of it all. But I do find the teaching of character trait words fits in beautifully with a study of Famous Americans and biographies.
I had certain character trait words in mind that I wanted to teach my students. Knowledge of words like honest, dependable, curious, intelligent, etc. are necessary when analyzing characters and go a long way in helping expand a student's vocabulary. These words are easy to teach through people like Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. My sequence was to read aloud a biography of one of the Famous Americans third graders are required to know about and then teach the character trait vocabulary through the book. There is no shortage of great biographies to read. The problem becomes which to choose. I left many biographies out as recommended reading for students to choose during readers workshop time.
I found books besides biographies on some of these characters too. Here is a cute one called, Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek. This was a good one to identify character traits through.
After reading a biography, we created bubble maps that described the American's character traits and then identified the proof. Students explained what the character did or said that proves the trait.
Here is an example of a bubble map we created that identified Franklin's character traits and the evidence from the book. I made a large sized class poster of this as my students created it for their journals.
Along with biographies we covered a study of timelines. We glued an explanation note sheet into our reading journals and found many examples of time lines in the biographies we were reading.
My students need to know a series of Famous Americans and what they are known for.
I created famous American picture cards and most important point cards. Using a piece of yarn for a time line, my students practiced matching the person with the important facts.
This became great daily practice for in school and at home.
They started asking me to time them to see how quickly they could get the cards arranged.
I put into practice another engagement "hook" from Teach Like a Pirate by David Burgess. His suggestion is to use props whenever possible. Lucky for me our school library has a set of famous American dolls that we can check out. My students loved these and I used them for review and for encouraging good behavior. Students loved "hosting" a Famous American at their desk for the day.
The catch was that these Famous Americans only wanted to visit students who were respectful, responsible and productive.
We must remember that although we expect a lot from our third graders they are still kids and
KIDS JUST WANTA HAVE FUN!
Check out my TPT page for resources to help you teach biographies, famous Americans, character traits and time lines.