ENH/EDU 291 Biography: Fascinating Real Life Assignment

Biographies and Autobiographies: Browse through the children's biographical section of your local library, or use the online catalogs to search for biographic books from the following categories: activists, actor/actresses, anthropologists, artists, astronauts, astronomers, athletes, authors, aviators, composers, cooks, dancers, directors, doctors, educators, environmentalists, explorers, First ladies, generals, geologists, inventors, lawyers, musicians, Nobel Prize winners, nurses, painters/photographers, physicians, politicians, presidents, puppeteers, sailors, saints, sculptors, singers, or television stars.

 The following websites have valuable information; please take a look.

Choosing High Quality Children's Literature: Biography  http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Choosing_High_Quality_Children's_Literature/Biography

Good Reads: Popular Children's Biography Books    http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/childrens-biography

Biographies for Kids: Famous Leaders for Young Readers   http://gardenofpraise.com/leaders.htm

Carol Hurst's Biographies and Memoirs   http://www.carolhurst.com/subjects/biographies.html

Assignment:

Write two book reviews: Select one children's biographical novel and one children's biographical picture book to evaluate.  One evaluation should be about a female and one evaluation should be about a male. This assignment is worth 100 points. 

Sample assignment for novel [50 points]:  written by a former student

Novel: Grant, Matthew G.  Clara Barton.  Mankato: Creative Education, 1974, 120 pages. [1 point]

Appropriate age group:  5th - 7th graders  [1 point]

Selective Life Summary:  [7 points]
Clara Barton realized early in her life that helping people is what she wanted to do. The list of accomplishments in her lifetime is numerous. She became a teacher, worked for the government in the patent office, and became a nurse during the Civil War, all by the age of forty. After the war, she became a lecturer and champion of women's right. World health problems found Clara traveling to Europe where she became involved with the International Red Cross.  She then established the American Red Cross to assist people during war time as well as times of peace.  She worked in this endeavor for over twenty years.  Clara Barton spent the end of her life writing a book about her work, which she lived to see published before her death.

Characteristics/personality traits: [4 points]
       1.  Courageous
       2.  Generous
       3.  Determined
       4.  Caring 

Accomplishments as a result of the traits. You MUST cite examples from the book. [12 points]

1. Clara Barton wanted to help the soldiers during the war, so she received permission from the government to go to the battlefields. She provided supplies, cooked meals for the wounded, helped the doctors with surgeries, or just held the hand of a dying man. She said her place was "anywhere between the bullet and the battlefield."

2. Clara Barton established a free school so children of poor families could attend school also. She worked at this school as a teacher, receiving no pay. She also helped, after the war, with the dreaded task of tracking missing or dead soldiers.

3. Miss Barton did not allow government officials or doctors to stop her from helping the wounded or hurt. She once said, "If I can't be a soldier, I'll help soldiers." She also was determined to form the American Red Cross even though the people in the government thought it was not needed.  When the first local chapter of the American Red Cross helped during a forest fire, the President agreed the establishment of this organization was necessary.

4. From the time she was eleven, when she nursed her brother back to health, Clara Barton helped care for the sick. She was a tireless worker who went wherever she was needed.  A doctor once called her "The Angel of the Battlefield." She was all that plus more.

  1. Evaluation criteria: Use the criteria below to evaluate your book AND provide examples from the text to support what you say.  [NOTE: sample responses have not been provided.]  [18 points]
  2. Authentic: Is the book accurate and as authentic as research can make it?  Give an example.
  3. Objective: Does the author allow his/her own biases to influence the writing? Give an example from the text to support what you say.
  4. Whole Person: Is the whole person portrayed? Are any of the events in the person's life sensationalized?
  5. Details:  Does the author select details carefully to truly reveal the subject?  Give an example from the text.
  6. Theme: Does the theme make a fundamental statement about the person's life and provide a unified view of the person? Give an example.
  7. Literary Style:  Is the style pleasing?  Is it difficult to comprehend? Provide an example to support your answer.
  8. Interest:  Does the person's life offer interest and meaning to today's child.  Cite an example.
  9. Understand the past or present: Will knowing this figure help children understand the past or present?  Give an example from the text to support your answer.
  10. Widen their views:  Can the story widen children's views or possibilities for their own lives?  Cite an example.

Personal Comments: [7 points]
Clara Barton is a remarkable individual who has contributed greatly to our world and history.  She is a true role model for all children, and . . . (continue on).

Sample assignment for picture book [50 points]: NOTE: Changes have been made to the biography/autobiography picture book review.  Criteria for evaluation have been identified.

Picture book: Sabin, Francene.  Rachel Carson, Friend of the Earth.  USA: Troll Associates, 1993, 27 pages.  [1 point]

Appropriate age level: 2nd-4th graders [1 point]

Life summary  [10 points]
Rachel Carson grew up in the country where her parents owned 65 acres of land, mostly woods.  Not only did she enjoy and respect all the creatures and products nature had to offer, she studied them and did research. She also loved to write.  She grew up to be a scientist and earned her master's degree in marine zoology.  She found that museums and even the U.S. government would not hire women biologists.  She finally got a job with the government as a writer.  She is most famous for her book, Silent Spring, in which she wrote of the dangers of DDT, a pesticide upon nature and mankind.  As a result, our nation banned its use.  She became one of the most influential women as a result of her speaking out about our environment.

Characteristics/personality traits: [4 points]
       1.  Respect as a famous author and her work as a scientist
       2.  Leader for women's rights to be hired as biologists
       3.  Determined to open doors for women and letting the world know about DDT
       4.  Influential through her work to improve the environment

Fundamental statement about her life [4 points]
Rachel Carson knew prejudice firsthand.  Even though she was unable to get a job as a biologist because she was a woman, eventually, her knowledge, her caring, and her ability to write had a greater impact upon our planet than she ever dreamed.

Evaluation  Use the following four evaluation criteria.  [12 points]
1.  Meaningful: Rachel Carson's life can offer meaning to children today.  Not only does it prove that sometimes we are prevented from fulfilling our heart's desire, but God can bring greater good out of rejection and other obstacles set in our path.

2.  Quality of life: By reading about Rachel Carson's life, children can see that decisions prominent people make can affect the quality of our life today.  Ecology and the environment is an important concern today.  It has become a science in itself.

3.  Inspirational: Rachel Carson's life can be an inspiration to young people.  Sometimes our interests, though uncommon or different, can benefit mankind.  We can be assured that we have made a difference in our world, that every single person can matter.

4.  Influential: Rachel Carson's influence was felt in many ways.  Speaking out about the destructive ways humankind was treating the environment and the need to take care of our surroundings brought environmental protection to the forefront.

Judging Appropriateness of Illustrations  [18 points]
Finally, judge the appropriateness of the illustrations by responding to the following questions. Provide examples to support what you say. [NOTE: sample responses have not been provided.]

  1. To illustrate, if you look at the Latin roots of the word, means "to make bright," implying that the illustrator interacts with and adds to a text.  Cite an example of this from your book.
  2. Do the illustrations tell the story by themselves?  What is missing, if anything, without the words? How would the story be different if it were told only by the illustrations?
  3. What do the illustrations tell you about character and setting, for example--that you cannot tell from text alone? Do the illustrations change the meaning of the text?
  4. Exactly what does the illustrator chose to depict in relation to the text on each page? Does the illustration take place before, during, or after the events in the text?  Do the illustrations give us a character's perspective on events, or are we granted an omnipotent view of characters and events? 
  5. What colors does the illustrator use? Do the colors change with changes during the story?  Are certain colors associated with certain characters or events? How does color complement, enhance, expand the story?
  6. Where are illustrations placed on the page? To what effect?  Is there a consistent pattern or a variation? Why?

 

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Last Update: 4/25/2008