Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Big on Biography

Lorinda Luther


Students select a person to research for biographical information. Utilizing resources in the Media Center, students record information on note cards; students then interpret and categorize information for appropriate placement on a graphic organizer.


The student uses a variety of reference materials, including indexes, magazines, newspapers, and journals, and tools, including card catalogs and computer catalogs, to gather information for research topics.

The student synthesizes and separates collected information into useful components using a variety of techniques, such as source cards, note cards, spreadsheets, and outlines.


-Internet-accessible computers
-General encyclopedias
-Biographies and/or biographical collections (If available, [Biography Today] is a great periodical to use.)
-4” x 6” note cards, three per student
-Graphic Organizer, one per student (See Associated File)


1. Make sure Media Center and reference materials are available.
2. Gather three note cards for each student.
3. Copy a Graphic Organizer for each student. (See Associated File)
4. Locate and bookmark the Website (See Weblinks) on computers.


1. Introduce terminology such as biography, autobiography, general encyclopedia and special encyclopedia.

2. The class brainstorms a list of people from whom to select and kinds of biographical information that would be appropriate/interesting to gather. To gain students’ attention and build on prior knowledge, it is recommended that they be given a broad range and allowed to select personalities in whom they have a personal interest.

3. Take students to the Media Center and give specific directions for research. Explain that their objective is to learn how to locate information in various sources and be able to interpret and categorize that information.

4. Give students a Graphic Organizer (See Associated File) on which to record their information after it is collected on note cards. In order to focus the students' research, explain the four areas into which they will organize their information (Early Life/Education, Interests/Hobbies, Career/Accomplishments, and Famous for…). Instruct students to locate some information in each category. Students will be assessed both on the note cards they submit and on the Graphic Organizer.

5. Students rotate among three different centers located in the Media Center. At the computer area they obtain information from the Website (See Weblinks) At the area of general and biographical encyclopedias, they receive instruction on how to locate their topic. At the biography section, students are instructed on how these are arranged. Supplemental materials such as [Biography Today] may be stationed here to provide a third source of information in case an individual biography on the student’s topic is not available.

6. Give students three 4” x 6” note cards and show how to label each note card with bibliographical information sufficient to identify the type of source used, e.g. title, author, name and edition of encyclopedia. Note: This process should be kept simple as detailed bibliographical citation is not the goal of this lesson.

7. Students have approximately 20 minutes per station to locate and record information on note cards. They should complete one note card per station, and have at least four comprehensible items of information from each source relating to their topic.

8. The teacher circulates among the groups to ensure all students are meeting stated objectives and is responsible for managing time objectives.

9. Once students have completed their research, they return to their tables. They categorize the information collected and place each item within one of the four quadrants labeled “Early Life/Education,” “Interests/Hobbies,” “Career/Accomplishments,” and “Famous for…”. The completed Graphic Organizer should contain at least 12 items of information placed under the appropriate headings.


Use completed note cards and the Graphic Organizer to formatively assess the student’s ability to:
-successfully locate information in a variety of text sources;
-interpret material located in order to categorize correctly as a manner of organization.

Criteria for assessment:
-3 correctly identified/labeled note cards (one from each research station);
-4 comprehensible items of information from each source relating to the topic chosen;
-a completed Graphic Organizer with 12 items of information placed under correct headings. (Although the number of items under each heading will vary, there should be at least one item in each category.)


1. This activity can be extended to include a writing activity. Once students return to the classroom, they can utilize their Graphic Organizer, after evaluation and assessment by the teacher, to write a three-paragraph article about the person they selected, focusing on thematic organization of material.
2. ESE students may provide two items of information from each reference source.
3. ESOL/ESL students may be paired for research with another higher-functioning ESOL student or with a non-ESOL student who would function as a model and mentor.

Web Links

This site is to be used to gather information from an Internet source so that students do not spend all of their time browsing for electronic sources of information. (The skill of browsing for electronic sources of information can be a focus at a later time.)

Attached Files

This file contains the Graphic Organizer.     File Extension: pdf

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