It's been a process. We started by talking about Van Gogh in oral class. Before showing anything other than his picture, I asked my students, "What do you know about this man?" Most of them had some idea about him - he's an artist, he painted Starry Night, he cut off his ear, he killed himself. After talking about what we already knew, we watched a short biography about him. Then I had them think, "What sort of questions would you ask him?" We wrote their questions on the board and re-watched the video to see what else we could learn once we knew what we wanted to listen for.
The following week we read a short article about Van Gogh's life and then as a class created a time line for him. I also asked my students over the course of the next week to find an article about a famous person that they were interested in, read it, print it off, and bring it to class. I showed them several websites that are specifically designed for kids so the English is a little bit easier to understand and the article isn't a 20 page Wikipedia monster. I created a sample of the work that I wanted them to complete in class the following week: a fact sheet. My example was about William Shakespeare and I used one of the websites I had told them about to demonstrate that they could complete the assignment with the tools I'd provided. Before leaving class that day, each of the students had to tell me who they wanted to find out more about (that way I could look into it too to make sure that there would be something for them to read). The kids picked different famous people for different reasons. One of my favorite reasons was, "I want to talk about Albert Einstein because his name is Albert, the same as me."
|My example Fact Sheet on the famous bard William Shakespeare|
In oral class (which is combined with writing class) we started watching interviews of other famous people: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and J.K. Rowling. Before watching the interviews and then afterwards we went through the same process as we did with Van Gogh and the biography. Sharpening our skills on asking good questions that are relevant by looking at the types of research and questions that had been asked by the interviewers in the videos.
The third week after viewing and talking about interviews some more, the kids started designing and putting together their own fact sheets about the people they'd picked. We had: actors, athletes, scientists, inventors, humanitarians, directors, and more. The perimeters I gave for the fact sheets were that they must include: the person's name, a time line, and three fun facts. One of my students learned that she and the director/animator that she had chosen to learn about shared the same birthday, and she used that as one of her fun facts. It took most of them anywhere from 20-30 minutes to complete them, but overall I was pleased with the results.
|Some fact sheet examples|
|One of the students presenting his fact sheet. We're still working on eye contact while speaking to the class.|
|Rough drafts of the biographical paragraphs waiting to be handed back.|
This week the students will be working on their final drafts of the paragraphs they wrote. I hung up their fact sheets on the bulletin board in the back of the classroom so that they could admire each others' hard work, and hopefully learn a little more about some other famous people who maybe they didn't pick.
I was very impressed with the work that they've done so far and am so proud of them. I'm excited to see where they can go from here!