I am moving from first to second next year and am planning on using an idea I felt 1sties were too young for. Read George Washington's Breakfast by Jean Fritz to jump start students on their own quest for answers. It is the story of a young boy who loves George Washington and wants to know what he ate for breakfast.
I teach second grade and my students did biography reports this year. They were required to make a timeline of the persons life ( I provided a graphic organizer), write a paragraph about the person, and do some type of project to report out to the class. They loved it! The most popular project was dressing up like the person and telling about their life.
Before I asked them to do any of the pieces, I modeled what I expected by using a read aloud biography.
The students research and read a just right book about their person and then write about 10 events or a timeline. I give them the organizers. They need to pick out important information about their person and focus on why they are famous. They then collect artifacts that will help them remember the event and decorate a box. Then they give an oral presentation. The kids love it and really start to read other biographies.
Our second grade students also did biographies. We spent time reading several different biographies beforehand. They were then given a graphic organizer to help them outline info about their person (they each had a famous African American-we did these in Feb. for Black History month) like when they were born, where they grew up, what they were famous for, several important details from their life, etc. They worked on this part at school in the library and computer lab. They then took their graphic organizer home and wrote a paragraph or two about their person. We also gave them a person cutout(looked like the gingerbread boy) on cardstock which they decorated to look like their person. These came out great, the kids had such a good time sharing them with the class. The last part they had to do was an oral presentation on their person.
The past two years I've done biography projects too. WE do them in Feb for African-American History month. The students pick a famous African-American to research which we do during class time and they have to write a paragraph or two. Then as part of their "home" project they have to create a poster about their person that they can then use to report back to the class. My kids also asked if they could dress up this year for their reports and they had so much fun presenting.
My students just finished their biography reports. We did "Important Americans". Each student writes a report in the first person. I give them an example to follow. In addition to the report they make a picture frame using a foam board. The parent cuts an oval for their face and they draw the head and torso of the person. When they present their report, it becomes a living portrait! They put clothing and other accessories on their person. They are a perfect way to introduce biographies. BTW - I have students sign up for a person and I take them to the media center to check out books. I do not allow any duplicates, so the first one to bring back their signed form, get their choice. No one wants to sit through multiple presentations on the same person. I have them make three choices just in case. I explain to them that they might not get their first choice and to not be disappointed.
I'm currently working on this with my students. It's important to model and teach them how to read, locate, and record important information. I use a graphic organizer, too. Rather than writing a traditional report, I have them create a slideshow presentation. They imported pictures for each slide and then we share these.
My second graders really enjoyed their reports. I modeled what I wanted first and then they each picked "An American Hero" and wrote a paragraph answering questions I provided and they also made a timeline.
It is not too early! I would recommend giving them an outline that they fill in before writing it. Include: Name, Age, Birthday, Hometown, Family, School/Grade, Hobbies, One thing I'm good at, What I Want to Be When I Grow Up, etc. Then they can draw a self-portrait. My students loved these!
We do file folder biography reports (I know I must have gotten the idea from somebody else--Sorry! I can't remember who!!), but we use The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown as the format for the students to write their reports.
We read The Important Book in class (The important thing about a spoon is that you eat with it, it is hollow, it is like a little shovel, etc....But the important thing about a spoon is that you eat with it)
We usually do this in February, so together we create an Important Poem about Martin Luther King in class (because we have already studied him).
e.g. The important thing about Martin Luther King is that he fought for freedom.
He gave many speeches.
He led non-violent marches.
He inspired people to unite.
But, the important thing about Martin Luther King is that he fought for freedom.
Then the students have an idea of how to write an Important Poem for their person.
So basically, we give them a plain manila file folder that is stapled on the sides and a packet of papers that include a blank portrait paper for them to draw their important person (glue to the front of the folder), the Important Poem template (glue to the back of the file folder), a sources sheet (put inside the file folder). Also, we ask students to create some sort of picture or symbol of their person that they can put inside of their folder.
Also, we give them a list of about 40 February heroes (famous Americans with birthdays in February) that they can choose to study.
On the day of the presentation, we let the kids dress up as their February hero and present their projects by reading their Important Poems and sharing their special symbol that they created to represent their hero.