Third Grade Biographers
What do Lionel Messi, Ruby Bridges, and Jane Goodall have in common? They have all captured the interest of Fay’s third grade students, who are writing biographies of historical figures and cultural icons that they admire this month.
The biography project combines an exploration of the nonfiction genre with foundational research skills. After brainstorming a few people that they might be interested in writing about, students worked with homeroom teachers Katie Buteau and Nadia Sari-Sarraf to select one person to focus on for their biography. As the research process began, books quickly piled up in the third grade classrooms. Fay Librarian Haimin Luo helped students find resources within Fay’s two libraries and order books from other libraries for some lesser-known biography candidates.
Third graders drew on their experience with the guided reading of informational texts in Social Studies to identify and highlight the essential information in their research. “The research process can be challenging,” admits Nadia, “because sometimes it is difficult to determine what is important when you have so much information in front of you.” Katie and Nadia supported students in the process by giving them note-taking information packets to fill out that would guide them through the process of gleaning the most important details about their person. That graphic organizer helped them prioritize basic information like the person’s birthday, their character traits, what they are known for, awards they may have won, and any well-known quotes that exemplify their personality or their achievements. There is also a place for some “fun facts,” where students could share the interesting tidbits of information that they uncovered during the research process.
The project’s final step was compiling all the research into a colorful hand-drawn brochure complete with flaps that open up to display all the information they have gathered about their chosen person. Students have been proudly showing off their completed biography brochures. Hailey L. ’27 decided to research the life and work of William Shakespeare for her project because she loves Romeo and Juliet. While she discovered lots of interesting information about Shakespeare, she was amazed to find out that he was the oldest of eight siblings! Some students chose people that they particularly admire. Aurelia P. ’27 and Rory M. ’27 decided to write about Ruby Bridges because they were impressed by what she did and how brave she was. Some students already knew a little bit about the person they chose, like Alessandra L. ’27, who selected aviator Amelia Earhart because “I know she was a famous female pilot, but I wanted to learn more.”
“My favorite part of this project is that the students are taking ownership in what they are writing about,” says Nadia. “I love that they get to decide the topic for themselves because they really get into it and have so much fun learning about the person they have chosen to study.”