[kids-lib] Suggestions: Book talking for 3rd graders on biography

Jennifer Maurer jennifer.maurer at state.or.us
Wed Dec 30 16:22:49 PST 2015

Hi Debbie,

When I was still in the schools, I often used these two biographies for read-alouds.

My Name Is Georgia: A Portrait by Jeanette Winter


Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra


For the first, I shared pictures from a Georgia O’Keefe calendar before reading the story. For the second, we closed our eyes and listened to some Duke Ellington tunes after hearing the story.

Depending on time, perhaps you could find 5 to 10 biographies to feature (contemporary & historical; sciences, arts, history, etc.), and instead of booktalking each specifically, you could do a quick group activity. Introduce the concept of biographies and that there are books about people from now and long ago and who are famous for a variety of reasons. Have big cards with the biography subjects’ names and other cards with an image and/or fact that represents them, and have students guess at matching them. For example, for Georgia O’Keefe, you could feature one of her paintings. For Duke Ellington, you could show a piano and music notes, and have a QR code that links to one of his songs that students could listen to an excerpt of. For a sports figure, perhaps show something related to the sport (maybe a basketball) and include a statistic (most free throw points in an NBA game). Etc. Once students have paired the cards, go through as a group confirming or rearranging. Once a match is correct, show the book that relates to the card duo.

Ultimately, the point of your “booktalk” would be to get students interested in reading biographies, and they could read any bio, not just those featured in your activity. Maybe you could gather a crate of biographies and check them out to the teacher/s for use in the classroom.

Here a few lists of picture book biographies that I found.


Good luck!


Jennifer Maurer
School Library Consultant
Oregon State Library
250 Winter Street NE
Salem, OR 97301
jennifer.maurer at state.or.us<mailto:jennifer.maurer at state.or.us>

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From: Kids-lib [mailto:kids-lib-bounces at listsmart.osl.state.or.us] On Behalf Of bbogart6 at comcast.net
Sent: Wednesday, December 30, 2015 3:52 PM
To: Debbie Pfeiffer
Cc: kids-lib at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
Subject: Re: [kids-lib] Suggestions: Book talking for 3rd graders on biography

Also, this is a perfect age for informational picture books, aka picture books for older readers. From bios of jazz musicians to Martha Graham and Martha Stewart, they are visually appealing and short enough text that welcomes young readers. Again, you will want top reread.  Diego Rivera's life, fx, was very difficult.

Sent from my iPad

On Dec 30, 2015, at 12:34 PM, Debbie Pfeiffer <debbiep at harneycountylibrary.org<mailto:debbiep at harneycountylibrary.org>> wrote:

I'm new to the list and could use some advice. I've been asked to do a quick book talk for 3rd grade classes, which are doing a unit on biographies. This will be my first book talk (though as a fiction writer I've definitely done my share of pitching book ideas).

If I were talking about a select group of books, I would obviously pre-read them and then come up with hooks of why they'd be fun to read.

A general subject like biography, however, seems to dictate a different, perhaps more general approach? I'm definitely reading some biographies but if I talk about 3 or 4 even, it's likely the students won't be able to check out those particular ones I'd pinpoint--the elementary school's library doesn't usually have multiple copies of most of them.

There are, of course, more than one volume on major figures like Abraham Lincoln or Helen Keller, but many times those volumes aren't duplicate copies, but another author's version.

Don't, however, want to spend all my time telling them why they *should* want to read biographies. And as a part-timer, I don't have time to read all the books in the school's 921 section! 😉

Any advice, direction to good resources, or suggestions welcome.

Thanks, and happy new year!
Debbie Pfeiffer
Library project coordinator
Harney County Library
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