Teacher’s Guide: Biographies

 

Scroll down to find classroom activities for the following biographies:


Those Rebels, John and Tom

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)

What To Do About Alice?

Walt Whitman: Words for America

The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins



Those Rebels, John and Tom


1. Create a Venn diagram to explore in what ways John and Tom were different and what they had in common.


2. Visit the websites for the Adams National Historical Park and Monticello to learn more about both men and to better understand the differences in their backgrounds.


[Note: The house that John lived in while he was a member of the Continental Congress is now called the John Quincy Adams Birthplace. John was born in the house next door!]



The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy)


1. Listen to me discuss the book here.


2. Reread the section of the book about Papa’s special octagonal study. Ask students to imagine that they had a study of their own, where they could dive into special projects. What would they choose to do their study? Invite them to design the perfect space by creating a blueprint.



What To Do About Alice?


1. Alice described her zest for life as “eating up the world.” Ask students what they think this phrase means. Reread the book as a class, noting the kinds of things Alice did to experience everything life had to offer. (Note, also, all the spoons tucked into the art!)


As a follow-up, have students consider what kinds of things they would like to do to “eat up the world.” Invite them to share their ideas orally, in a written paragraph, or through making a poster.


2. Invite your students to learn more about what it’s like to be a kid living in the White House at the website for the White House Historical Association.



Walt Whitman: Words for America


1. Walt loved to experiment with language. When he was excited about what he wrote, he said that his “heart thumped double-beat. As a class, create a list of other ways to express the feeling of excitement. Ask students to come up with their own way to say they are happy, angry, or sad.


2. Walt loved to ramble. While he rambled, he often took notes in a handmade, pocket-sized notebook. Have students make their own notebook by cutting a few pieces of paper into small squares, punching two holes along one edge, and then binding the pages together with a piece of ribbon or string. Then go on a class ramble and have students take notes on what they see.



The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins


1. Draw the outline of several fossil bones on a white piece of paper, xerox a class set, and give each student one copy of the fossils and a blank piece of colored paper. Have them cut out the fossils.


Just as Waterhouse Hawkins, Richard Owen, and other early paleontologists began with a few scattered fossils and had to deduce the rest of the skeleton, ask each student to design a dinosaur, using the fossils provided and then 'filling in the blanks' with their best estimation of what the rest of the skeleton might look like.  Have them glue the fossils bones on their piece of paper and then draw in the rest of the skeleton.


2.  As a child, Brian Selznick, the illustrator of The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, used to make small dinosaur models out of tin foil. Give each student several pieces of tin foil to create their own dinosaur models to display in the classroom.


As a follow-up, create a dinosaur feast, just as Waterhouse Hawkins did to share his own dinosaur models:


-- create special invitations using the actual invitation (shown in the book's front papers) as inspiration

-- create a menu using the actual menu (shown in the book's end papers) as inspiration

-- invite important dignitaries, such as the school principal and members of the school board, to attend the feast!


3. When Waterhouse Hawkins's American dinosaurs were smashed, he protested to the Parks Department. They told him not to waste his time with "dead animals" when there were so many living ones around. Ask students to write a letter to "Boss" Tweed, explaining why they think that studying dinosaurs is important, or a waste of time.


Alternatively, divide the class in half to create arguments for each side of the debate (studying dinosaurs is important; studying dinosaurs is a waste of time). Have each group brainstorm talking points for 'their' side and then have a real debate, with one student acting as Waterhouse Hawkins and another acting as Boss Tweed.