Wednesday, July 14, 2010

2nd Grade Biography Unit

This year, a 2nd grade Haude teacher and I worked together to create a biography unit that lasted 4 weeks. From a teacher created list, students chose an American historical figure that they wanted to learn more about.

One week was devoted to searching for reliable sources--books and media included. One week was devoted to guided research lessons. One of the best guided research lessons was called "Trash or Treasure?" Another week concentrated on writing a 1st person autobiographical sketch from their notes and that included lessons on the writing process. The last week had students finishing all the projects that went along with the unit.

The project options were given in a menu format. The menu of projects were introduced at the very beginning of the unit so students would know what kind of information they needed to look for (keeping the end in mind).

I took pictures of the illustrations some of the students chose to do. Students were also videotaped reading their autobiographical narrative. These were just 2 of the final project options. 4 different rubrics were used throughout the unit for major grades. Within each rubric, 3 or 4 minor grades were given.

Now, how did we differentiate for GT students? Before even introducing the unit to the class, the teacher and I chose different types of historical figures. For example, some were humanitarians, some were scientist, some were inventors, some were presidents, some were well known, and some were not.

We let the GT kids choose from a different list than the regular ed kids. Humanitarian historical figures involved a deeper understanding of moral issues. Also on the GT list were little known historical figures so that GT students would have to go to several different sources to find the "just right" information. For the below grade students, the teacher and I found articles on their reading level ready for them to use.

During the research process, GT students worked by themselves whereas the rest of the class were in partners (differentiation based on readiness). After all the primary/generic information was found, GT students were given task cards with the depth and complexity icons/questions that had to be answered. Then the GT students used the information to fill out a comparison chart so that generalizations could be formed. This step was not done with the others.


  1. Great project for your students! It is amazing to see what this age can accomplish when given such creative tasks. Awesome teaching!!

  2. Nice idea! I have been working on lesson plans with another teacher from Krimmel so that our students can work in teams to complete projects togther. We ultimately want to work with students globally and this is our way of creeping in that direction! Bravo!

  3. Hi,
    I just stumbled upon this post and I'm curious if you (still, years later) have the list of people that you let kids pick from. I'm working on this for second grade this fall and would love to know who you picked!