"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Comparing and Contrasting Biographies about Wangari Maathai

The third graders have been deep in a Biography unit studying Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner from Kenya who started the Green Belt Movement.  Over 30 million trees were planted in the first 30 years of the movement. With the third graders studying trees for the year, Wangari Maathai has a great curricular connection.

We begin the unit with reading Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire Nivola. This book provides a fairly broad picture of Wangari's life.

The next week, the students perform a readers' theatre script of the book from Library Sparks. I love readers' theatre and so do my students.  They love this chance to practice public speaking. 

In the past, I have broken the students into groups to read the remaining three biographies and write scripts, but this year took a different turn.

I read Wangari's Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter the third week.

The fourth week, we read Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli (and illustrated by Kadir Nelson!). I normally add Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson, but we are running out of time! 

Next week, the students will work in groups to write and perform a short readers' theatre script for one of the books.

This unit includes weekly discussions about where biographies are located, how to identify them and how they are organized.  I have also used this unit to highlight the importance of reading more than one biography on a subject.These three picture book biographies could not be more different in their approach and style.

I put out some paper for the students to reflect on the unit thus far.

When asked what they know about biographies they said this:

When asked about the strengths and weaknesses of each biography, they said this:

When asked why picture book biographies matter, they said this:

Readers' Theatre here we come!

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