200+ Lives to Explore in Picture Books

Linking Picture Book Biographies to National Content Standards: 200+ Lives to Explore
By Liz Deskins and Christina H. Dorr
(Libraries Unlimited, 2016 – Learn more)

Reviewed by Joanne Bell

Teachers have a great challenge today. We have so much to accomplish and not enough time. We have all of our content objectives to meet, and now we also have to coordinate with other disciplines for STEM and STEAM as well as adding in activities to help with social/emotional health. And don’t forget to weave in writing and speaking opportunities. I love teaching, but it can be an overwhelming responsibility at times.

Picture book biographies offer a window into cultures

I think that Linking Picture Book Biographies to National Content Standards can provide us with a way to make it all come together. Picture books are a perfect choice for a read-aloud and picture book biographies are even better. Not only are they quick to read, but they also explore content in another way.

They can give a “you are there” feeling that can assist students in understanding other perspectives and how these different people faced and persevered through real problems in their lives to find new knowledge about themselves and the world while meeting a goal. Furthermore these stories could lead to future careers, book talks and role models to emulate.

Fortunately there is a plethora of biographies in the market today spanning a wide range of topics. This book covers science, social studies and the arts. Each of the book’s chapters is divided into major topics of the subject, giving several title examples to use with a brief review of the books. (Just a note here that not all of the books listed are indeed picture books. Some are chapter books, but they are in the section called Additional Biographies.)

The authors list the Standards that are met, a Description and Essential Questions and a quick lesson about one of the books. There are also sections entitled Additional Biographies That Are Not Associated with the Units Discussed So Far and a Conclusion. The stories can be used to introduce a unit and/or add further details of the subject or even more questions for an inquiry-based study.

Topics included

The fields in science include Life Science, Physical Science, Earth and Space Science, with three divisions in each. Oceanography, Conservationists, Weather, Climate and Earth’s Regions are just a few examples.

Social studies is broken down into History, Civics, Economics and Geography, again with multiple divisions within each major category, such as Global Civil Rights, Global Connections and Slavery.

The arts section includes segments that include Visual Artists, Musicians, Writers Actors and Athletes. Subdivisions of these are Sculptors, Songs for Social Movements, Literary Poets and Value of Physical Expression.

Read a MiddleWeb article by co-author Christina Dorr

More ideas

The Conclusion has many more ideas for using picture books. The authors give three suggestions for interdisciplinary units. One is “Our Village is Earth.” They go on to explain a little about the unit development using the essential question, “How do we depend on one another to thrive?”

There is a also a short overview of how to blend in science, social studies and the arts. After that, the three appendices are as follows:

Appendix I – Book Award Lists that Include Biographies
Appendix II -Technology Suggestions
Appendix III – Standards Referenced

I for one can’t wait to look into the exciting suggested titles and start using them in my classes. I think it will add so much to enhance my lessons.

Joanne Bell is a middle school teacher at St. Joseph Elementary School in Cottleville, Missouri. She currently teaches social studies to sixth and seventh graders, but has spent most of her 35 years in the elementary grades.



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