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Read-Aloud Ideas: Biography
Middle Elementary

Before reading

Students in second, third, and fourth grade often enjoy hearing multiple versions of the same fictional story.  If possible, gather several biographies about the same person. (Use the different versions to gather ideas for the “I Poem” below.)

To introduce or reinforce the elements of a biography, make “biography stew or “biography hash” with a recipe created by super-librarian and children’s literature expert Judy Freeman. Use the actual ingredients for a snack afterwards, or simply find images and clip art of the items to put in a pan or bowl for “virtual” stew.


After reading

Compare and contrast different books about the same person.  What aspects of the person’s life and contributions were highlighted?  Do we “know” the person better after hearing several accounts of their life?  Did the biographer give a survey of the person’s entire life, or did they provide depth around one incident or one aspect or contribution?  Which type do students prefer?  Why?

Use this model from ReadWriteThink to build an “I Am” poem as a class after reading (even if just one text was used).  Challenge students to think about how the subject of the biography would complete each part of the poem.  Solicit ideas—real or imagined, based upon impressions from the books.

Challenge students individually or in small groups to read additional biographies and write an “I am” poem about another famous person.


Adler, David.  A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln.  ISBN:  0-8234-0731-4  Lexile: 630  

Adler, David.  Lou Gehrig: the Luckiest Man.  ISBN:  0-15-200523-4  Lexile:  750
Pair this with the one about Hank Aaron below.  You don’t have to be a fan of baseball to appreciate the character traits of these athletes and the way they conducted themselves.

Brenner, Barbara.  Abe Lincoln’s Hat.  ISBN:  Lexile: 330

Krull, Kathleen.  Wilma Unlimited:  How Wilma Rudolph became the World’s Fastest Woman.  ISBN:  Lexile: 730
Olympic medalist Wilma Rudolph overcame polio as a youngster.  An inspiring story with illustrations and design features that will prompt discussion.

Lindbergh, Reeve.  Nobody Owns the Sky:  the story of Brave Bessie Coleman.  ISBN:  1-56402-533-0  Reading level:  3.9
Told in rhyme, this book highlights the achievements of the first licensed black aviator in the world.

Nettleton, Pamela Hill.  Abraham Lincoln: Lawyer, President, Emancipator  ISBN:  978-1-4048-0185-1 Lexile: 670

Stauffacher, Sue.  Tillie the Terrible Swede:  How one Woman, a Sewing Needle, and a Bicycle Changed the World.  ISBN:  Reading level:  3.4
Another tale of a girl with a dream.  Swedish immigrant Tillie Anderson longed to be a serious biker when it wasn’t fashionable for women to do so.  She earned the money to buy her own bicycle, trained to build up her muscles and endurance, “used her noodle and her needle” to design a racing outfit, and went on to become the women’s bicycling champion of the world.

Stone, Tanya Lee.  Elizabeth Leads the Way:  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote.  ISBN:  Lexile: 700
It may be hard for today’s female students to imagine a life with so few choices;  Tanya Stone focuses on how Elizabeth Cady Stanton “got the ball rolling” for voting rights for women.  The circumstances leading up to the gathering at Seneca Falls are woven into a story and readers can’t help but sympathize with Elizabeth and her friends.

Tavares, Matt.  Henry Aaron’s Dream.  ISBN:  978-0-7636-3224-3  Lexile:  920

More on Lexiles

Introduction Lower Elementary • Middle Elementary • Upper Elementary