Biographies began a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… no wait that’s a different Holiday! The truth of the matter is Biographies did exist as far back in history as 44 BC when Cornelius Nepos wrote a lengthy biography on the most famous generals of the Greeks and Romans.
Biographies were not always considered literature. Perhaps the writing style was too dull. That’s where today comes in. We celebrate National Biographer’s Day on May 16th because today marks the anniversary of the day Samuel Johnson and James Boswell sat down to begin working on the book: The Life of Samuel Johnson.
James Boswell’s writing style changed the future of the biography forever. The standard had been set, and a new way to tell a story was born. The book was published in 1789 and during those times, it was considered to be one of the best biographies in the English Language!
Since then there have been many, many biographies written. Even multiple biographies written by different authors about the same person. Think about someone like Abraham Lincoln. Search Abraham Lincoln Biography, how many come up? (Go ahead, I’ll be here when you get back)
My search on Amazon resulted in 20 pages. Biography writing is big business. But it has to be a well written biography. I stumbled across a biographer who is writing a series aimed at kids, “Ordinary People Change the World” by Brad Meltzer. The books have been out for awhile – even when I was a classroom teacher, but somehow they were hiding from me. Perhaps you are familiar with them. I think everyone should order the complete set for their home or classroom. Click the pictures to order them on Amazon. It’s ok to do it one at a time, I promise.
I came across a video of Mr. Meltzer reading his book: I am Amelia Earhart, and then doing a quick Q & A session afterward sponsored by PBS. Like all homeschool families, I’m busy – but I was drawn in- in 3.5 seconds flat. I don’t want to give it away, but when he started to talk about copyright lawyers I almost spit my coffee and the man had a fan for life! I knew he was going to get my attention for Biographers Day. I will also be spending my extra time to create other quality curriculum to accompany his outstanding books, holiday or no holiday. I too will do my best to avoid the copyright police and simply try to better the world!
I often get the question when working with families homeschooling about how to “get the kids to write”. This question is very similar to the “How do I get my kids to read more” question. Assuming there are no under lying challenges like dysgraphia or other processing disorders, the way you get kids to write is the same way you get them to read – by exposing them to good writing. They need a MODEL. They need something that INSPIRES them. Kids are not writing because they are bored by it. Even with challenges, a child that WANTS to write – is GOING to find a way. The funny thing – when you read the story of Amelia Earheart, she wasn’t good at flying – she just worked harder than anyone else! We can apply these lessons to our children in our homes and classrooms. They don’t have to be good at whatever it is they want to do.
The style of writing Mr. Meltzer uses to craft his biographies is engaging for the reader and can be inspiring to follow for young writers as well. I created a virtual bookshelf in which learners are taken to SAFE YOU TUBE (no ads or other videos) to listen to Brad Meltzer or a special guest read the selected biography. There is a companion worksheet for each of the selected book for learners to record the life events of the hero and to become familiar with the pattern of the biography. Then the young biographer in training can use the provided graphic organizers to interview a hero in their life. Someone in their home or community that they wish to write a biography about. This biography can be as simple or as in depth as YOU, the adult guiding them want it to be, or as they, the self guided learner wants to take it. After the “book” is written I suggest the project is completed by video taping the young author reading their story the same way Brad Meltzer reads his! This would make a GREAT Summer Reading/ Writing project. You absolutely do not need the books to complete the project, but they are a wonderful addition to any library. As I said before, I do wholeheartedly believe every home and classroom needs these books!
You can begin you addiction, I mean exposure to GREAT WRITING by purchasing BECOME A BIOGRAPHER from Happy Hive. It is available NOW in my Amped Up Learning store. Simply click on the product cover below to be taken to the storefront.
Take a test drive of my interactive “bookshelf” with this blog edition. Simply click on the image and you will be taken to the read a loud by Brad Meltzer for I am Amelia Earhart. When you download the sample pack it contains an interactive image and you click on the book!
I hope these books help inspire the biographer in your learner!
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