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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 skills.

In the process, students will gain a deeper understanding of the this time in history and the people who influenced it.

Biography Board:

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:

  • 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 student’s 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 student’s research on their selected individual.
  • Timeline: include here a timeline of this person’s 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 individual’s life and his or her role in the events of the time.

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 students’ creativity in designing their biography boards, instead of requiring adherence to the fixed components presented here.

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 secondary)
  • Taking notes/gathering information from research sources
  • Citing sources
  • Organizing information from research sources into the appropriate categories for this project

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 Colby’s treatment of Lost Bird influence her search for her Native American roots?" may evolve into another research assignment and essay on adopted persons’ search for their biological parents.

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

Historical Understanding Standard 2: Understands the historical perspective.

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.

Level 3

  • 9. Writes biographical sketches (e.g., illustrates the subject’s 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.)

Level 4

  • 8. Writes fictional, biographical, autobiographical, and observational narrative compositions

Language Arts - Writing: Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes.

Level 3

  • 2. Uses card catalog to locate books for research topics.
  • 3. Uses the Reader’s 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 topics.
  • 6. Determines the appropriateness of an information source for a research topic.
  • 7.Organizes information and ideas from multiple sources in systematic ways.

Level 4

  • 8. Determines the validity and reliability of primary and secondary source information and uses information accordingly in reporting on a research topic.
  • 12. Creates bibliographies for research topics (e.g., uses a style sheet format, such as Modern Language Association or the American Psychological Association.)

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

Overview Statement
(One sentence that summarizes this person’s life, contribution, etc.)


(Students 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 person’s 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

Lost Bird of Wounded Knee