I’ve been asked several times, “How exactly do you teach from your Special Days lists?” The answer to that comes in multi-parts, but usually starts with “Biographies, lots of biographies!”
Every Special Days list includes birthdays of famous people throughout history. I’ll ask the boys what they know about that author/artist/scientist/historical figure/religious leader. If they are not familiar with him/her, we’ll do biography study! Some days we only have a brief discussion about the person, or a review if we had studied him or her in the past couple of years. Other days we will go more in depth and I’ll include reading resources, videos, and quotes into the lessons. Some biography studies can be finished in a couple of hours. Some biography studies catch a bigger interest and I won’t stop the study until that interest is satisfied, even if it means having to cancel my other special days lesson plans for a week or more. Whoever we miss, we can try to catch next year or the year after when their special day happens again.
This past school year we started notebooking some of our biography studies and plan to continue with this for the upcoming school year. We arranged the pages in a timeline order and as the notebooks fill up, we can start a new one. However, the boys prefer projects over notebooking, so we’ll do some of each.
Below is my “go-to” resource list for online resources for biographies, how-to’s, and notebooking printables. Also, our local library has a wonderful collection of biographies and Youtube has many video biographies suitable for children and youths, so don’t forget to check those when you are looking for resources.
Alternatives to Writing Biographies – Biography Project Ideas
Lesson Plans for 6 sessions of the “Writer’s Workshop – The Biographical Sketch” http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/writers-workshop-biographical-sketch-1039.html?tab=4#session1
How to Write a Biography – http://www.howtowriteabiography.org/
100+ Biographies and Printables (These are short and written for younger readers, however older students will find these helpful as a starting place when researching a historical person. Also the printables are a useful for work samples for portfolios or history based notebooks) http://gardenofpraise.com/leaders.htm
Artists Biographies – http://www.vangoghgallery.com/artistbios/
Composer Biographies with Music Selections http://www.classicsforkids.com/
Kid Safe Scientist Biographies Resources- http://www.kidtopia.info/science_biography.html
President Biographies Resources –https://stilllearningsomethingnew.com/2014/02/14/resources-for-presidents-day/
Church Leaders, Missionaries, Hymn Writers, and Evangelists Biographies http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/index.html
Kid Safe Online Encyclopedia – http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies
1000’s of Biography E-books to download or read online http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Biographies_%28Bookshelf%29#Pierre_Abelard
When we write biographies, we generally include the person’s birth and death dates, where they were from, a childhood fact or two, and their accomplishments as adults including spouse and children. We will usually add a quote to the notebooking page, too.
Biography Notebooking Printables from The Notebooking Fairy
Portraits of Historical Figures (public domain) for when we want a photo to print off for the notebooking page http://www.lib.utexas.edu/exhibits/portraits/index.html
Sometimes we’ll look over a history timeline to get the idea of what was going on in the world during our subject’s life. https://www.factmonster.com/us/timeline-archive
In accordance with my state’s homeschooling regulations, I keep a daily subject checklist. On biography days I will check off the relevant History/Science/Art/Music and Reading Comprehension boxes. And, if we made a notebooking page I’ll check off Composition and Penmanship, too. Don’t you just love it when one topic can cover multiple subjects!
And every now and then we’ll bake and decorate a birthday cake because …
I’d love to hear how you go about biography studies! Please share about them in the comments.
(This post is actually ‘Part 2’ of a series in which I’m explaining how my family learns across the curriculum with topics selected from the Special Days list. For the series introduction, Special Days and the Evolution of Morning Calendar Time, click here. For Part 3, Special Days and Geography click here. For Part 4, Special Days and Science click here)