This fun and cooperative activity will help your students review and cement their new knowledge about historical individuals, while practicing their summarization skills. The beauty of this activity is that by the time students have completed the contest, they will have read and thought about the historical personalities being studied many, many times. Of course they will remember these important individuals! I have used this activity with advanced classes and special needs classes. I’ve found that this activity works well with all levels of students.
- Biography sheets: Narrow your focus to two or three historical individuals
- Highlighters, pencils, construction paper, and notebook paper
- Optional black/white templates of the individuals being studied
- Divide students into groups for the activity. I find that groups of 3 students work well for this particular activity.
- Assign a historical individual to each group.
- Explain to students that they will write a short biography about their assigned historical person. This biography will be used for a class contest.
- Ask students to read the biography of their assigned individual and highlight the most important words, phrases, and sentences.
- Tell students to compare their highlights with the highlights of the rest of their group. Students may add highlights to their papers, if desired. Ask students to take notes on their historical individual to help guide them when they write their biographies. Remember, it’s not ok to copy the passage!
- Now, ask groups to write a short biography of their assigned individual using only 50 words. It’s harder than they think! Their highlights may serve as a guide. However, they may not copy directly from the passage. They must use their own words.
- Next, ask students to shrink their biographies to only 30 words each. This is a great exercise for students because it forces them to choose the most important ideas to include.
- Ask groups to glue their biographies to construction paper or write them directly on the paper. Also, ask them to color and glue the picture of their historical person to their construction paper. If you don’t have pictures, ask students to draw an important object from the person’s life on their group’s construction paper.
- Post the finished projects around the room.
- Allow students to visit each biography and read it. Give each student 2 votes. They may use one vote for their own group’s biography. The other vote must be used for another group. Congratulate the winning group!
This activity, from start to finish, took two class periods (50 minutes each). In my classroom, we used Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams as our historical individuals for this activity. Here are examples from my class:
I used this activity in my New England Colonies Unit. If you want to check it out, click on the picture: