Thursday, March 26, 2015

Notes from Narrative Biographies

Grade 7 students are preparing for their Biography Pageant! They'll read about an inspirational person and then act as that person to share what they learned.

Guiding Question: What's "Narrative Nonfiction"?
Last week, students selected biographies from the library. These will be independent reading books for the next couple of weeks, so we wanted to provide "page turners" instead of the typical fact-laden, reference-type bios. 

Some favorite narrative-style biographies
We talked about what makes a nonfiction book a "narrative." 

Structurally how is it different? 
(Reads like a story: sense of beginning, middle, end; character development, engaging style, chapters often have a central idea)

Visually how is it different? 
(paragraphs versus headings and sub-headings, may or may not have pictures)

See titles in our catalog here

Guiding Question: What's effective note-taking?
Next, we talk about how to take research notes as we read, explaining the differences among quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing. See last year's full lesson here.

Notes template in Google docs
This year, we added two elements to the notes template: "Comment" and "Category"


In my work with high school students, I've noticed that students need lots of practice with adding their own voice to a research paper. Providing a steady stream of commentary and avoiding a list of facts makes an essay more dynamic and shows what the writer really thinks.

To help students internalize this skill, we ask them to add a personal comment for each of their notes. Comments can be anything that shows their thinking, questioning, or planning about their topic.

Another addition: We ask students to write a category on each note. Asking them for some "meta" data about their fact helps them synthesize what it's about and it will help them organize their facts into an outline later.

Now it's time to read and get inspired by some interesting people! 

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