The key elements that we will be building upon involve students’ prior knowledge of narratives (story grammar) to connect the known to the unknown. This idea of a biography’s “setting” through the time period/era in which their famous person lived. Going on to linking “behavioral traits” with evidence drawing from a famous person’s life: cause and effect including problem/solution, goals/achievements, key people/life direction, achievements and lessons learned. Our plan includes teaching students how to think like writers who use text features to inform the readers, how young writers can teach others through the use of: timelines, powerful quotes, pictures and photographs.
The thinking here was to introduce biography through story. As students research famous authors they are learning the structure of a written biography. This process is complemented through writing as students select famous people to research and eventually to present to their grade level peers. The purpose of reading a biography is to not only learn facts but to be inspired by remarkable people. We want to show children how their “famous person” may have lived an ordinary life can spark powerful stories. Cause and effect is easily transferred by students because it is the choices that people make that influence the kind of life that is lived or the work that is generated. These people are real examples as to how students can aspire to something great.
On Friday night we had our annual Snuggle Up & Read event. This is an open house where teachers come together in costumes and our PTA beautifully decorates our classrooms to set the stage for reading stories to children and their parents. We decided to read John Rocco’s Blizzard. This is a snapshot of Rocco’s life during the Blizzard of 1978.
Our thinking was to give parents a glimpse into what is happening in the classroom. As part of our introduction we had John Rocco tell the inspiration for his story – http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com/kid-lit-frenzy/2014/11/6/blizzard-blog-tour-and-interview-with-authorillustrator-john-rocco
As we took turns reading the book, acting out the scenes, and making sound effects complete with sprinkling “snow” on the audience we saw parents’ faces transform to memories of
that time in history. Many had shared experiences that revealed wonder and reminiscence to those long lost days. We are constantly reminded and moved deeply by the power of story. Years may pass but shared experiences don’t really seem to fade.
Sharing stories means having value and we wanted to set the stage for children to share too; so we sent them off with hot cocoa and a mission: make a map of your snow adventures. We promised to take a picture and tweet them to John Rocco to show him how his story sparked those in the very young as well as the young at heart.