Friday, August 12, 2011

LANGUAGE ARTS LESSON

Grades K-2, 3-5
Brief Description
Put that pile of Beanie Babies to good use in your classroom as students create and write original biographies for a favorite stuffed animal.
Objectives
  • recognize specific purposes/characteristics of biographies.
  • participate in telling and writing a fictionalized biography (whole-class activity).
  • include in their stories a sequence of events that makes sense.
  • include good supporting details in their stories/biographies.
  • apply the writing process to a character sketch or biography.
Materials Needed

  • Beanie Babies (or similar stuffed animals), ideally one per child. Students might be willing to bring in one of their own from home.
Before the Lesson
For this lesson, you will need a collection of Beanie Baby animals/characters (or other stuffed animals/characters can be substituted). One stuffed animal per student is ideal, but you might offer a smaller selection and allow more than one student to work on a bio story for the same character.
Choose one Beanie Baby to use in modeling how to write a "Beanie Baby Bio." Set the others aside for selection by students later in the lesson.

The Lesson
Choose one Beanie Baby to share with the class. Tell students that this Beanie Baby is a very famous one.
Engage students in brainstorming "information" about the Beanie Baby. Ask: If you were to read a story (biography) of this Beanie Baby's life, what kinds of information might be included? Students' responses might answer some of the following questions:
  • What is his name?
  • Where and when was she born?
  • How many siblings did he have?
  • What was her mother and/or father like?
  • What were his hobbies and other favorite things?
  • What kind of "person" was she? (What personality characteristics did she possess?)
  • What did he do to become famous?
Encourage students to think outside the box. The funnier the better! As students share ideas, list those ideas on the board, chart paper, or an overhead-projector transparency.

After the class has generated a bunch of ideas, take a look at the ideas. Group together some ideas and talk about how those elements might be developed into a story. Identify beginning, middle, and ending ideas/events that might be included in a story. Write a story together.

Once you have a draft of a Beanie Baby bio story, read aloud the story to the class. Ask students if they think you have all the details in the right order. Talk about where more detail might be needed. Discuss why it's important to have events ordered correctly and well developed.

Next, it's the students' turn.
  • Allow students time to brainstorm additional ideas for their own Beanie Baby stories/bios. They might do this as a class, in small groups, with a partner, or on their own.
  • You might provide a story web or a graphic organizer for students to use as they brainstorm new ideas.
  • After students have brainstormed a list of possible ideas, have them circle similar or best ideas. At this point students are "thinking" and starting to put together ideas that might form an interesting story.
  • After students have had a chance to share ideas, talk about what kinds of information make a good biography. What information should be included? What should be left out? Why do people like to read biographies? Why are details important in telling a biography?
  • Give students time to work out their story ideas and to share them orally with a partner.
  • Then give students time to write their Beanie Baby Biographies.
When students have finished writing their Beanie Baby Biographies, set aside time for them to introduce their Beanie Baby to the class by reading aloud their biographies.
Extension Activity
Students might create their biography as a "book." They will want to divide the story into chunks of information that go together on a page (or "spread" of two pages). What kind of cover illustration might be best for their book?
Assessment
Evaluate the finished biographies. Do students have a beginning, middle, and end to their stories? Was good detail included?
Submitted By
Mary Pat Mahoney, Holy Trinity Catholic School in Grapevine, Texas
Sara Dutcher
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