Activity 2: Biography Board
The biography board provides students with the opportunity to
gain in-depth understanding of a key historical figure and the role this person
played in history.
Students are asked to conduct research into the life of the
selected historical figure and organize the information into several categories
that provide an overall perspective on the person.
This activity is designed as a group project that requires
students to practice effective communication, problem-solving, and collaboration
In the process, students will gain a deeper understanding of the
this time in history and the people who influenced it.
Ask students to work individually or in small groups to create display boards
that provide biographical insight into the life of one of the people involved in
the Wounded Knee conflict or events leading up to the conflict - or people
depicted in the Lost Bird of Wounded Knee documentary.
- Chief Big Foot
- Dr. Charles Eastman
- Chief Sitting Bull
- General Nelson A. Miles
- Clara Colby
- Leonard Colby
As part of this project, ask students to write four questions that other
students should be able to answer after reading their display. These questions
should be a separate sheet of paper attached to the back of the biography board.
1. Determine if you want the biography boards to be group or individual
projects. Advantages to the group approach will be involving the students in
group research, planning, and writing activities that enhance communications
skills and meet additional standards requirements for working with peers.
2. Introduce the concept of the biography board to students. Make copies of
the biography board format provided below and distribute to the class. Go over
each section of the board with explanations like the following:
3. The teacher may want students to be flexible with the components of the
biography board - adapting the size of the components, or developing their own
different components as appropriate to their chosen historical figure. The
teacher may want to focus on the studentsí creativity in designing their
biography boards, instead of requiring adherence to the fixed components
- Title: the name of the person on which you are reporting.
- Overview Statement: write one sentence that gives a snapshot of the
individual and the role this person played in the events surrounding the
conflict at Wounded Knee or the life of Lost Bird, for example. This
sentence should be a summary of what the biography board will present.
- Illustration: attach a drawing, photograph, or other illustration of this
person. The illustration may be the studentís own drawing or
interpretation of this person and his or her life. If illustrations are not
available, a symbol or abstract representation of the individual may be
appropriate. All illustrations should include captions.
- Poem or Quote: this may be an original poem written by the student or a
quote by or about the individual found in the studentís research on their
- Timeline: include here a timeline of this personís life and times.
Students will want to include incidents pertaining to the individual
specifically and events taking place in society and the country/region at
this time that are pertinent to the individual.
- Written Information: in this segment of the biography board students will
write a short biographical narrative about the selected individual. Students
should focus on major points in the individualís life and his or her role
in the events of the time.
4. Provide students with information on using a variety of resources to
research their selected historical figure. These may include books (biographies,
encyclopedias, history textbooks, non-fiction historical books), periodicals
(magazine or newspaper articles related to the individuals), and the Internet
(web sites, online encyclopedias, etc.). Determine how many resources you expect
the students to use in their research. For students in grades 9-12, sources
should be cited on the back of the biography board. Determine which style of
citation you require and provide students with an example of bibliographies
written in that style.
5. Divide class periods during which students are working on their biography
boards into topics such as these: (see the first link cited above for
excellent resource info for these topics)
Identifying research topics
Using various methods and tools to find research resources
Determining the validity and reliability of research sources (primary and
Taking notes/gathering information from research sources
Organizing information from research sources into the appropriate categories
for this project
Although this was written as a guide for students at Cornell, it has a
wealth of information on the research process, citation guides (Web links to
style guides),etc. Excellent resources.
When discussing each topic, be clear about your expectations of the students
in relation to this project. Provide students with a clear outline of your
expectations and your assessment criteria for each segment of the project.
6. Provide students with examples of questions they should write for inclusion
on the back of the biography board. You may want to require students to write a
combination of objective and subjective questions - making inferences or
drawing conclusions from the materials presented. The questions may be used in a
class period or over several class periods to extend the information provided
through the biography boards. Subjective questions may also be used as
"starters" for further writing assignments. For example, a student
question such as "How did Leonard Colbyís treatment of Lost Bird
influence her search for her Native American roots?" may evolve into
another research assignment and essay on adopted personsí search for their
7. Determine how you want the biography boards to be presented to the class
and instruct students as to your expectations. You may want students to display
their boards during a class period when the class can go around the room and
read each board. Or you may want students to present their boards in an oral
presentation, asking for class feedback at the same time. You may decide to hold
a special exhibit of the biography boards and open it up to other classes. Your
decision will be a factor in how the students design their boards and how they
prepare for the presentation/display of their products.
Standards: (Source: McREL K-12 Standards at www.mcrel.org)
Historical Understanding Standard 2: Understands the historical
Level 3 (Grade 7-8)
- 1. Understands that specific individuals and the values those individuals
held had an impact on history.
Level 4 (Grade 9-12)
- 1. Analyzes the values held by specific people who influenced history and
the role their values played in influencing history.
Language Arts - Writing: Standard 1: Demonstrates competence in the
general skills and strategies of the writing process.
- 9. Writes biographical sketches (e.g., illustrates the subjectís
character using narrative and descriptive strategies such as relevant
dialogue, specific actions, background description; reveals the significance
of the subject to the writer; presents details in a logical manner.)
- 8. Writes fictional, biographical, autobiographical, and observational
Language Arts - Writing: Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for
- 2. Uses card catalog to locate books for research topics.
- 3. Uses the Readerís Guide to Periodical Literature and other indexes to
gather information for research topics.
- 4. Uses a computer catalog to gather information for research topics.
- 5. Uses a variety of resource materials to gather information for research
- 6. Determines the appropriateness of an information source for a research
- 7.Organizes information and ideas from multiple sources in systematic
- 8. Determines the validity and reliability of primary and secondary source
information and uses information accordingly in reporting on a research
- 12. Creates bibliographies for research topics (e.g., uses a style sheet
format, such as Modern Language Association or the American Psychological
The Following Biography Board is provided for your use. Teachers may wish
to adapt this example or they may expect students to be creative, within
teacher-established guidelines, in designing their biography boards.
Name of subject
(One sentence that summarizes this personís life,
insert a photograph, illustration, or their own drawing of this person.)
Poem or Quote
(Students write an original poem or find
a quote from the person.)
(Students produce a timeline of important
events in this personís life and in relation to other events taking
place during this time.)
Written Information About The Person
(Students write a short biographical
narrative about this person that includes
the highlights of his or her life.)
|Names of Students