Here at The Walking Classroom, we’re always looking for a few good . . . resources! We are constantly seeking interesting ideas and supplemental materials to support our many adopters. In this blog series, titled Literary Links, we identify books to incorporate in your teaching of podcast topics. This time, we bring in biographies!
Looking at Leaders in Medicine
Mike Venezia has written and illustrated several series of biographies for kids. They cover the lives of artists, musicians, and other famous figures. These slim 32-page books are well-suited for middle grade or middle school audiences. Interspersed with engaging drawings and comments, they capture the attention of even reluctant readers!
In his “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Inventors & Scientists” series (980L), Venezia shares the stories of a pair of doctors. Introduce your students to Dr. Charles Drew (4-#13, STEM-#43, Complete-#161) in Charles Drew: Doctor Who Got the World Pumped Up to Donate Blood (2009). Meet Dr. Daniel Hale Williams (4-#19, STEM-#41, Complete-#167) in Daniel Hale Williams: Surgeon Who Opened Hearts and Minds (2010).
Similarly, the “Childhood of Famous Americans” series (600L) chronicles the lives of two female figures in medicine, among many other famous Americans. This series of chapter books is appropriate for third through seventh grade audiences. Learn more about Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell (4-#15, STEM-#40, Complete-#155) in Elizabeth Blackwell: Girl Doctor (1996) by Joanne Landers Henry. Read about Clara Barton (4-#13, Complete-#94) in Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross (1986) by Augusta Stevenson.
. . . and Exploring Explorers!
Interested in some of the early explorers, and looking for picture book appeal?
Peruse Demi’s visually captivating Marco Polo (2008) and Columbus (2012). In these to selections, you can learn more about Marco Polo (5-#78, Complete-#53) and Christopher Columbus (5-#79, Complete-#54)! While the image is the focal point in both 64-page books, the historical detail and rigor is definitely not lacking (1070L).
Looking for another take on Columbus, Vasco da Gama (5-#81, Complete-#56), and other explorers of note? Check out Diane Sansevere-Dreher and Ed Renfro’s informative and entertaining 176-page collection, Explorers Who Got Lost (1992). The most recent edition includes a reading and activity guide!
Or, revisit the “Childhood of Famous Americans” series (600L) for a study of American explorers. Dive deeper into Lewis & Clark and Sacajawea (5-#35, Complete-#100). Read Meriwether Lewis: Boy Explorer (1997) by Charlotta Bebenroth and/or Sacajawea: American Pathfinder (1991) by Flora Warren Seymour. You and your students can also explore the lives of frontiersmen Davy Crockett (5-#32, Complete-#98) and Daniel Boone (5-#33). Check out Davy Crockett: Young Rifleman (1998) by Aileen Wells Parks. Daniel Boone: Young Hunter and Tracker (1986) by Augusta Stevenson is equally informative!
Other Options to Investigate . . . Differentiation is Easy!
Many of the famous figures whose lives play out in the podcasts show up in other biography series too! You can investigate an array of alternate options, and find plenty of people’s stories from which to pick. Best of all, you may encounter the same individual chronicled in several of the series, so that you can easily differentiate your instruction. Meet the needs of students with different reading levels by selecting a number of texts to try!
- “Time for Kids Biographies” – magazine style, with interview and timeline, typically 48 pages in length (860L)
- “Who Was?” series – chapter books including timeline and key facts, typically 112 pages in length (910L)
- “DK Biographies” – chapter books with the plentiful pictures for which DK is known, as well as a timeline and bibliography, typically 128 pages in length (970L)
This variety also allows for the opportunity to evaluate several sources and styles of presentation. Let your students play the critic! Better yet, have them create their own biography (of themselves or a famous figure they research) in the style or manner of presentation they choose!
Wait, There’s More!
Interested in something more along the lines of an anthology? Check out one of the books in David Stabler’s “Kid Legends” series (1010L). These 208-page books address the lives of sets of famous figures. You can dig deeper into athletes, artists, authors, and even presidents!
Similarly, Kathleen Krull pairs with Kathryn Hewitt for their “Lives of . . .” series (1120L). These nine 96-page books tell the tales (and share juicy details!) about groups of notable folks, with a chapter dedicated to each person. Each with a specific focus, these books cover the lives of musicians, athletes, artists, writers, explorers, scientists, presidents, pirates, and extraordinary women! They would be a wonderful resource for the school media center!
Finally, looking for a good compendium of biography options for your students? Here’s one list worth checking out!
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