A Dickens of a List

Another recent acquisition from Junior Library Guild, and the timing is perfect.  This is the time of year that I love to share biographies (and other books that feature famous people) with students.  Things get rolling with Martin Luther King Day, and by February we’re highlighting presidents and famous black Americans and then it’s on to the women in March!   Here’s a list (in no particular order) of twenty-one of my favorite biographies and not-exactly-biographies about people of note.  Click here for more suggestions and activities in my article at TeachersFirst.

Gerstein, Sparrow Jack

Klise,  Stand Straight, Ella Kate

Adler, Wilma Unlimited, Lou Gehrig: the Luckiest Man, America’s Champion Swimmer

Hopkinson, Fanny in the Kitchen, Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek, A Boy Called Dickens

Winter, Biblioburro, The Watcher:  Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps

Burleigh, Tiger of the Snows  (Tenzing Norgay)

Lindbergh, Nobody Owns the Sky (Bessie Coleman)

Stauffacher, Tillie the Terrible Swede

Ryan, When Marian Sang

Brown, Uncommon Traveler, Dolley Madison Saves George Washington

Martin,  Snowflake Bentley

McCarthy,   Strong Man: the story of Charles Atlas

Chandra,  George Washington’s Teeth

Winters,  Abe Lincoln:  the boy who Loved Books

Yolen,  All Star:  Honus Wagner and the most Famous Baseball Card Ever

I’d love to hear about some of your favorites for elementary readers.  Please leave a comment!


“I” Poems

Benjamin Franklinphoto © 2008 Cliff | more info (via: Wylio)
“I” poems are a great way to extend thinking about a particular topic. February is the perfect month to work on the genre of biographies, what with Presidents Day, Black History Month, and Women’s History Month. After reading a fabulous picture book biography or two of a noteworthy personality, use this I Poem format to build a poem as a class. It’s one  way of assessing students’ understanding of the “big ideas” of the biography. With so many excellent picture book biographies about Abe Lincoln he’s a logical choice, but at my fingertips  I have a  poem about Ben Franklin here and one about Tenzing Norgay here.

These poems can be tweaked for writing about animals as well. First graders at my school are typically asked to do some research and write an animal report. While this can be a challenge for them, I’ve had success with having them create poems that incorporate the facts they learned. Creating podcasts or a Voicethread with images of the animal as the poem is being read might be a great way to take this even one step further.