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Description of Unit

In this interdisciplinary/language arts unit, students explore and gain knowledge of famous people and how they used their gifts and talents to overcome challenges and become successful. Students will first read and compare/contrast biographies of several people. In their research, they will choose a figure to study and create a timeline of that person’s life.

This guide links the Who’s Who: A Study of Biography unit to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for second graders. Who’s Who is an English language arts and social studies unit that allows students to explore and gain knowledge about famous people and how they use their gifts and talents. Who’s Who also has interdisciplinary connections to mathematics and science. For example, students will discuss attributes of famous people by category, allowing them to use patterns to describe relationships and make predictions, as described in the Mathematics TEKS. They will also use information and critical thinking to make decisions, as described in the Science TEKS. The following document includes the applicable TEKS and the details of the Who’s Who unit. The final section of this document presents the applicable Texas College and Career Readiness Standards adopted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) on January 24, 2008.

Phase I. Learning Experiences

  1. Brainstorm famous people from different areas, such as entertainment, sports, or literature. You can use examples from Attachment #1, Famous People. Students may continue to add to the list throughout this unit.
  2. Categorize the famous people from the brainstorming session. Use categories such as athlete, artist, musician, politician, inventor, or entertainer.
  3. Discuss attributes of the famous people by category. What attributes do they have in common? How are they different?
  4. Discuss definitions of giftedness and how people have different talents.
  5. Gather biographical information about one person from each of the categories. For each person, talk about these questions:
    • What were the person’s attributes and areas of strength?
    • What challenges did the person overcome?
    • How did he/she use strengths to overcome those challenges?
    • What were the person’s gifts and talents? How did he/she use them?
    • What episode or story from the person’s life best characterizes him or her?
    • What did the person contribute to others?
  6. Have students compare and contrast the people they discussed.

Phase II. Independent Research

A. Research process

  1. Selecting a topic. Each student chooses a famous person to investigate.
  2. Asking guiding questions. Once students have selected a topic, each student should think of three to five guiding questions, such as:
    • When did this person live?
    • How did the person reflect the time period in which he/she lived?
    • What are the person’s attributes?
    • What are the person’s gifts and/or talents?
    • What challenges did the person face?
    • How did the person use his gifts and/or talents to overcome those challenges?
    • What did the person contribute to others?

    While these examples are general, the student’s questions should be specific to the person they study. The questions should lead the student to form individual research-based findings. The student should develop a hypothesis or some possible answers to the questions.

  3. Conducting the research. After you have approved student proposals, each student will begin to use the resources he/she has identified and others he/she may encounter. During this stage, the student will need to keep a log, note cards, and/or resource process sheets for all the sources he/she uses and what he/she learns from each one.
  4. Summarizing. Each student should create a timeline of key events in the person’s life.

B. The product

Each student will create an original form of biography—the student will tell about the person in a genre that is appropriate for that person (e.g., a student who studied an artist may create a piece of art that reflects the artist’s life). Have the student explain why he/she chose the form of biography and why it is appropriate for the person.

C. Communication

Students present their biography to the class. The presentation should be long enough for classmates to understand the person’s gifts and/or talents and should end with a question-and-answer session.

D. A completed project includes:

  1. Description of reasons student chose the form of biography and why it is appropriate for the person
  2. Research log, note cards, and/or research process sheets
  3. Biography, including references or works cited
  4. Timeline of person's life
  5. Video or audio recording of the class presentation, including the Q&A session
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