Biography Research Project

I was so utterly impressed with my students hard work this year creating their Biography Research Projects.

This project is unique because students created authentic artifacts (primary sources) to represent the major life events of a historical figure instead of writing a typical research paper. Students made birth certificates, awards, diplomas, portraits, letters, postcards, wedding invitations, photographs, birth announcements, and so much more! To make each piece, students looked at student samples from the past as well as real examples. This way they could make their artifact as authentic as possible.

Here are some examples of their amazing work:

Obituary 20160420_101926

Marriage Invitation20160420_124711



Movie Ticket Stub20160420_124758

Birthday Cake20160420_124848

Post Card

I assigned each grade level a different continent in which to choose their historical figure. My third graders were assigned Europe, fourth grade was given Asia, and my fifth grader had Africa. My only other criteria was that their figure be deceased and had made a positive impact on the world.

After creating their artifacts, students had to create and store all of their artifacts in a container that represented their historical figure.

Here are some of the cases students brought in this year:





Students displayed their projects at my school’s annual Fine Arts Night and created beautiful and integrate banners for each of the continents represented.


All of the projects and containers were displayed on tables for parents and students to enjoy.  Take a look at the great projects students created:






This project is great for strengthening higher order thinking skills and giving children a sense of ownership because they definitely feel a deep connection to their historical figure.

If you are interested in doing this project with your class, you can get it here.



Fractional Line Plots

One of the fifth grade standards (5.MD.B.2) asks students create line plots that display measurements in fractions of a unit.  I don’t know why, but students have a hard time interpreting information from line plots.  However with enough exposure and practice, they can become masters of this often difficult concept.

I looked online to find resources to help me teach this concept but found mostly task cards. While I love task cards and use them a lot, I really needed a resource that was all encompassing: pre-assessment, notes, practice pages and games, and finally a post assessment.

I created this resource myself and hope that others find it as helpful as I have.  You can find this resource by clicking here.


After taking the pre-assessment, I guided my students through interpreting line plots using this fun and engaging interactive notebook,


Students then practiced making line plots and creating their own questions using this trifold.  My kiddos loved making the this foldable because it stood up.  I couldn’t believe how something so simple could turn an otherwise routine practice opportunity exciting.


Students also practiced creating their own line plot using the fractional line plot mat.  Each kiddo had the choice of using spinners or cards to collect their data.  They then recorded their results in a table, created a line plot, then wrote and answered their own question.  This helped my students to put context and meaning behind the numbers which was extremely powerful!


Finally, it was time to give the post assessment.  My kiddos did great, and I am so happy that they have mastered what has historically been a challenging concept in the past.


Not Your Typical Biography Project

Each year, the school I teach at celebrates the arts by having a Night of the Arts.  Each specials class (art, music, GATE, PE, science) creates something unique to share with parents (choir concert, PE demonstration, science experiments) and all of the classes display art/writing pieces that center around a common theme.   This year the theme is multiculturalism.  This is my first year at the GATE teacher, so I want to do something special.  I have definitely spent a lot of time thinking about a unique project my students could create that would not only expose them to new cultures but would also provide a complex and challenging learning experience. 

Then finally the perfect project fell into my lap (actually it hit me on the head).  I was pulling some resources from the shelves in my garage when a box hit me on the head.  I looked down at it and realized it was the multigenre project I created when I was an undergrad at the University of Arizona.   I had reinvented the project and used it once before when teaching in sixth grade in Idaho.  This was definitely the perfect I had been waiting for.

Here is how it works:

Students research the life of a famous historical figure and choose six major events from his/her life.  Then instead of writing a typical research paper, they create meaningful and accurate primary source artifacts that they eventually present to the class.


For Night of the Arts, my students will choose a famous historical figure from an assigned country.  This way kiddos have some choice about what they research (which is very important when you are looking for by in).  In addition, students will get the opportunity to hear reports about people and cultures from all over the world.

During the project students will create:

Authentic Artifacts 

Students will create long, short, and artistic artifacts to represent the different stages of their historical figure’s life.  Examples of artifacts include birth certificates, campaign buttons, marriage certificates, awards, invitations, newspaper articles, journal entries, portraits, photographs, or obituaries, just to name a few.

Portrail Example

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Campaign Button Example

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Transcript of Interview

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Container, Works Cited, and Rationale

My students will also have to choose a container to house all of their artifacts. The container must be important to the life of their figure.  For example, I have had students in the past use violin cases, luggage, medicine bags, brief cases, and cereal boxes.  In addition, the kids will create a works cited page listing their sources and write a rationale explaining the artifacts they created.  This is such an important part of the process because students must think critically about the reasons behind their choices.

I love this project so much that I decided to share with it with others in my TPT store.  You can find it here.


Included in the packet are:

– Day by Day Lesson Plans

– Project Description Handout

– Sample Biography (2 levels)

– Research Graphic Organizer

– Student Artifact Samples

– Creating Authentic Artifacts Guide

– Project Completion Checklist

– Scoring Rubric


My hope is for students to display and present their artifacts and containers at Night of the Arts.   I will definitely take pictures and share how it goes!

I know my students will love it and can’t wait to get started! ! !


Owl Pellet Lab

What a hit! My third graders have had an amazing time dissecting owl pellets.  Instead of purchasing the small pellets, I paid the extra money and bought the largest pellets possible.  I am so happy I did!  Some of my kiddos found  1 – 1/2 inch skulls.  It has been incredible. I purchased the following owl pellets on Amazon.

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To begin the lab, students were given tweezers, gloves, googles (helps make them feel like real scientists), magnifying glass, pie tin, and construction paper.

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I always try to prepare everything in advanced so that we can spend as much time as possible on the lab itself.  My group is small enough that everyone had their own owl pellet.  If I had a larger class, I would ask students to share their pellets.  They were definitely large enough for two students to dissect.

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I asked students to turn in their lab packet to the bone identification chart from the very beginning.  The purpose of this wasn’t to classify the bones yet, but rather to give them a reference so that they could speak intelligently  about what they were seeing.  I loved the wonderful conversations I heard and the use of the vocabulary they had learned from previous lessons

Student #1:  Wow, I think I found a vertebrae.

Student #2:  No that can’t be a vertebrae because it is too small.  It must be a rib.


Here are pictures of my kids and their discoveries:

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2016-01-13 09.33.31 The next step is for students to identify each of the bones using their chart and then analyze and graph the results.  This week has surely been a lot of fun!


Bone Disease – Spinal Column

Today my third grade GATE students learned about two different bone diseases: scoliosis and osteogenesis imperfecta. Both of these diseases cause curvature of the spine. To learn about the spine, students created a spinal column out of pipe cleaners and egg cartons.

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The pipe cleaner represented the spinal cord and the egg carton sections were the vertebrae.

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All you need to complete this activity is egg cartons, pipe cleaners, and a pen.

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This activity helped my kiddos visualize how the spine moves and its purpose. This was a great addition to the articles students read and the videos they watched.