Want an area of inquiry & discovery that’s sure to advance (Language & Content) Teaching & Learning while evoking curiosity, enthusiasm, & impetus to achieve? Then Biographies—accounts of people’s and character’s lives as Stories with Main Ideas & supporting Detail—are the way to go (back, around, & forward). Adapted from one of several articles on the subject, here are a few pedagogical reasons to "feast on" (delve into and expound upon) this rich source of palatable content:
- Instruction in Written Language (Skills)
There’s lots of variety of writing styles (wording / phrasing, organization, level of comprehensibility) in Biographies. They’re ideally motivating & engaging vehicles for practice in Reading Skills & Strategies—including Getting Main Ideas & Important Supporting Detail, Skimming & Scanning for Facts, Summarizing, & Researching. And for composing, short Biographies (of well-known vs. “ordinary” individuals) make great mentor texts. They serve as models when getting students to write their own—and one another’s—Life Stories So Far or to narrate their own significant biographical moments.
- “Life Coaching” as a Benefit of Language & Content Lessons
Learning about the accomplishments of others can inspire. When participants in Biographies instruction see the great things that people (or even [fictional] characters or personifications) have accomplished, they begin to open their mind to possibilities that might feel new to them. Insights into written or oral Life Histories can elicit understanding of feasible (or exceptional) ways of structuring one’s life, providing a connected picture of practicalities, limitations, & potentialities. Bios help teachers / learners to see that when they work through their struggles and challenges, good things can happen.
- Openness to a Diverse Array of Life Areas
Biographies open educators’ & students’ minds & hearts to the world well beyond the classroom, providing stimulating references to World Cultures & History; the (Physical & Social) Sciences (Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geography, Astronomy; Anthropology, Sociology, Political Science, Economics, Psychology); the Humanities (Languages & Literature, the [Performing, Visual] Arts, Music); Technology & Future Studies; and many other areas of human endeavor, achievement, and/or conflict. They entice readers, writers, speakers, & listeners to keep on teaching / learning, exploring, realizing, probing & reaching out, and more.
(enhanced from https://www.2peasandadog.com/2019/04/why-teach-biographies.html, https://www.technokids.com/blog/technology-integration/top-3-reasons-write-biography, and other sites)
- Rich Source Material as Content for “Games of Knowledge”
Biographies that are Brief Narratives with a Point comprise a well-supplied spread of material that can serve as Content or Subject Matter for highly energetic contests of (proto)typical design. Some examples are Name-Pronunciation & Inquiry Chains; Oral Item- & Response Exchanges, Grid- & Path-Board + Card-Deck Games, Classification (Categorizing) Competitions, and whatever else emerges from these abundant stores or outlays of input. The retrieval & retention of information, the curiosity & interest, the discovery & enthusiasm, and the (self) coaching & learning need never end.
Here are examples of the kinds of Infographics + Images that come up when you search for (Reasons to) Teach / Learn (Language, Content) with Biographies:
So the Subject Matter of Biographies written up as Famous Figures’ Life Stories with a Point is an abundant store of meaningful content, laid out as a “multi-ingredient (component) feast” of pedagogical explanation, directives, reading substance, comprehension aids, stimuli, ideas, (fun, engaging, motivating) activities, and more.
Want “just the main courses” of Biographies with compact instructions for what to do & how to do it? From its “Product Page,” here’s a Write-Up of a reduced-sized summarizing Resource based on a much wider spread. (To get at it, just click on its title or the sample pages that follow.)
H-01.01 = Creative, Motivating, Multi-Level, Multi-Skills Language Activities Based on Biographies: Short, Short Stories Based on “Messages of People’s Lives” in a 44 (5.5” x 8.5”)-Page “Starter Book” (ISBN 978-1-891077-08-1)
For Teachers & Learners of Any Age or Ability Wanting Compact Guidelines + Practice in Language & Content Instruction Based on Biographical Material:
Or perhaps you’d prefer a colorfully diverse array of components that strive to be a comprehensive (re)source of whatever you need or want to consume (or savor) in regard to Life Stories. The full 152-page Teaching / Learning Resource Biographies: Short, Short Stories Based on “Messages” of People’s Lives seems so complete and all-encompassing that it might fit the definition of “the Whole Enchilada,” which means “every part of a multi-faceted thing or situation taken together as a whole.”
Here’s the entirety, a banquet of fare that starts with enticing appetizers (Intros & Instructions), is filled with three multi-layered “courses” of Biographies—the “meat” + other main-dishes of the banquet, and ends with platters of sides (one-of-a-kind Activities & Games) to take in and stretch out to appeal to everyone. Depending on your appetite or tastes, you may perceive such “dishes” as (much) too much—or (more than / just) enough for those hungry for the flavors of knowledge & know-how. To “have a seat at the table” (its “Product Page”), just click on its underlined title or the symbolic images below.
H-01 = Creative, Motivating, Multi-Level, Multi-Skills Language Activities Based on Biographies: Short, Short Stories Based on “Messages of People’s Lives” in a 152 (11” x 8.5”)-Page, Complete, “How-to Teaching & Learning Resource” (ISBN 978-1-934637-34-0)
Too much (heavy / bulky / rich / plentiful) “food for thought” all at one “meal”? Then here are some “a la Carte Main Dishes & Sides”— Parts & Pieces that make up an extraordinary array of intake, lettered / numbered H-01.02 to H-01.06. Though each contains much more than a mouthful, perhaps they are more easily digestible in smaller bites than the “Whole Enchilada(s).” Here are “appetizers.”
H-01.02 Get an Overview of Creative, Motivating, Multi-Level, Multi-Skills Language Activities Based on Biographies: Short, Short Stories Based on “Messages of People’s Lives” in 19 (8.5” x 11”) Pages
Teachers / Learners who appreciate Life Stories of Famous Figures with meaningful impact on the course of history in major fields of endeavor might want to (re-)start out with 14 lead-in pages. These include the book’s Cover, Publishing Data, a 3-page illustrated Table of Contents, an Introduction—plus Articles on “Sources of Biographical Material,” “Adapting Biographical Reading Material” (“Conveying Main Ideas,” “Organizing Important Supporting Info,” “Modifying Material in Other Ways”), “The Subjects of Biographies for Language & Content Learning,” and “How-to Instructions for 30 Beginning, 30 Intermediate, & 20 Advanced-Level Biographies & Biographical Articles on pages 1-14.
On attached pages 77-81 (excerpted from the middle of the book) are explanation + directives for “Generic Learner-Centered Reading Activities.“ Learn or review what’s useful to know and apply about “Reading-Card Kits” (“Skimming / Scanning Practice,” “Regular Use,” “Taking Notes of Readings”); “The Expert Game” (“Small-Group Vs. Whole-Class Vs. Mixer Versions,” Identifying Subjects,” “Telling Main Ideas)”; “Testing Mastery of Reading Skills & Learning” (“True/False Statements,” “Multiple-Choice Questions,” “Wh-Questions,” “Items to Sequence / Classify”). Mastery of Reading Skills & Learning” (“True/False Statements,” “Multiple-Choice Questions,” “Wh-Questions,” “Items to Sequence / Classify”).
And to appeal to three levels of “appetite” (ability to consume), here are separate servings of “meat” (Subject Matter) to help yourselves to. Each is followed by descriptive explanation + images of sample pages.
Pages 12 & 15-40 = Instructions, 12 Two-Sided Basic-Beginning Readings 1-12 + 18 Two-Sided High-Beginning Readings 13-30 Teachers, English learners, new readers, & other beginners ready to get into Biographies may want to start at simplified Levels. First comes a page of explanation for 30 Beginning-Level Biographies 1-12 & 13-30 + Exercises on text pages 15 to 24 & 25 to 38. These are Famous Figures that are probably known to people from every culture—such as Abraham, Adam & Eve, Albert Einstein, Ann Frank, Barack Obama, the Beatles, Harry Potter, Jesus Christ, Michael Jackson, Mickey Mouse, Mohammed, Mohammed Ali, Pablo Picasso, Oprah Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth II. Three to a page—designed to be dealt with separately on screen or cut apart when printed out on card stock, each Selection has “Learning Aids” on its reverse side. These address central Vocabulary as well as Answers to Questions like “For what is this person most famous?” and “What was important about his life?” After participants have understood the material, they can complete the pages 24-25 & 37-38 Mastery Tests on screen or paper -- cooperatively, independently, or competitively. Answers are on pages 39-40.
Pages 13 & 41-76 = Instructions, 12 Two-Sided Low-Intermediate Readings 31-42 + 18 Two-Sided High-Intermediate Readings 43-60.
After absorbing the Basics, you / your leaners may want to enhance your examination & enjoyment of Famous-Figures’ Life Stories by interpreting their significance in the Evolution of Today’s World. At persevering levels of reading about world history, the (social) sciences, and human development, you’ll / they’ll want to know not only about those Famous Figures that almost everybody recognizes but also about the people / characters that should be acknowledged as a part of “Cultural Literacy.” At Low– to High-Intermediate Levels, here are 30 Selections, two-to-a-page, each with Vocabulary, Main-Point & Important Information, & Interpretation Exercises on their reverse sides. There are two two-page “Mastery Quizzes” + corresponding Answer Keys.
Pages 14, 82, & 83-126 = Explanatory Instructions, 20 Advanced-Level “Bonus” Biographical Articles 61-80
Are you / your students building proficiency or expertise in Biographical Subject Matter? Then you / they may want to explore Areas of Human Endeavor in World History in greater depth or breadth than is feasible when focusing on individual Bios. The 20 Advanced-Level Bonus Articles 61-80 in Biographies: Short, Short Stories Based on “Messages of People’s Lives,” differ in format, organization, and purpose from Selections 1-60—each of which centers on one or a few “life stories.” Alternatively, each Article is built around a different Field of Interest. It’s bursting with an impressive amount of “Name-Dropping”—mentions of Famous Figures (People, Characters, & Groups) that have had significant impact on the world. Participants can use these unique Overviews to expand their horizons, knowledge, & understanding of historical trends, cultural norms, and major events—in which (famous / “regular”) people gained significance by acting, reacting, and interacting. It’s likely that you or your learners are (about to be) doing some of these things yourselves.
Excerpted from an earlier section, page 14 is titled “20 Advanced-Level Biographical Articles 61-80.” It’s followed by suggestions on “Getting It Together with Biographical Articles.” Read both pages for ideas for utilizing the material—including its sections on Vocabulary Building, The Context of Chronology or Categorization, the elicitation of Famous Names, and the opportunity to Tell Your Views. Note that Article Titles are Topics such as Actors & Acting, Business, Crime & Criminals, Dictators, Explorers & Discoverers, Famous Families, (Influential) Groups, Heroes, Inventors, Judges & Law, Lovers, Mothers, Naturalists, Real Vs. Imaginary Personalities, Sports Legends, Thinkers, Writers, and the like. The culminating Biographical Article 80 on pages 121-122 is an attempt to entice readers (researchers / debaters) into a compilation of “The Most Significant Figures in Human History.” A four-page Answer Key ends the H-01.05 Download.
Pages 127-128 & 129-152.
Whether or not you make full use of Beginning / Intermediate Biographies 1-30 & 31-60 and/or Advanced Biographical Articles 61-80, you may want to take full advantage of features of (Famous Figures’) Biographies in Oral & Written Language & Content (Cooperative, Competitive, & Individualized) (Instructional) Activities & Games. Are you teaching / studying English, Language Skills & Strategies, Critical Thinking, and/or Subject Matter such as History, Geography, Citizenship, (Social) Science, & Culture? Then you (your students) might be good at and/or enjoy handling elaborately-designed (and therefore engaging) How-to Instructions for Way-Beyond-the-Text Methodologies, Modalities, or Approaches.
On pages 127-128, see how instructional practice in Pronunciation (especially Syllable-Stress Patterns) can happen with (Parts of) Names in Culture, History, & the Present. Get and deliver Memory Practice. On pages 129-131, begin employing “(Biography-Based) Knowledge Items that Do Work.” Learn how to utilize three Kinds of Questions (Yes/No, Multiple-Choice, Short-Answer) along with Task-Instructions starting with Tell, Name, Give; Choose, Eliminate, Sequence; and the like. Make the most out of these kinds of Item & Response Activities: Just Answer the Question, Collect Knowledge Quickly, Recycle Questions & Answers, Write It Down, Who Am I? (Circulation Game), Play Twenty Questions, Identify Mystery People.
From pages 132-135, get satisfied by the variety of activity that can arise when playing (illustrated & textual) Grid-Board Games: 1-2-3 in Sequence, Tic-Tac-Toe, educational Lotto / Bingo involving (Famous) Names, Matching, Main-Idea Statements & Questions, and more. Pages 136-137 offer Path-Board Games, including The Game of Knowledge: Biographies. Next, (Sample) Playing-Cards with Portraits (Drawings) on their faces & Names & Notes on their backs are part of Instructions for (creation of +) game play with Biography Decks on pages 138-141. After those come suggestions for Classification Activities that get learners to Arrange from General to Specific, Organize, Engage in Games, & Play “Categories.”