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How to Use Biographies as Teaching Strategies

Janelle Cox

Many children love to read about fantasy and adventure, but they also love read about real heroes and places and events. However, fiction stories and teaching strategies about them usually take precedence. But true stories can be very inspiring and can offer students a lot of benefits. Not only do they provide some of the most valuable lessons in life, but nonfiction-based teaching strategies also provide children with important background knowledge that can help them with all school subjects. Here we will take a look at some of the amazing benefits of teaching strategies that utilize biographies, as well as discuss which biographies will be of most interest to children.

Benefits of Teaching Strategies that Use Biographies

Here are three benefits of nonfiction stories.

They Are About Real People

Sometimes true stories can be even more inspiring to children than reading about a fairytale land where the king saves the princess. A factual tale talks about how a real courageous person overcame a real obstacle in their life. Famous or not famous, it’s interesting to read about how a person pursued their career, raised a family, and lived their life. This shows young readers that one person can make a difference in the world, which is a great life lesson to learn.

You Learn Lessons of Experience

Nonfiction stories offer the reader an exceptional view of a person’s life. You get to read about the secret to their success, and the extraordinary feats that they have accomplished. There is no better place to find some inspiration than to find one in a biography.

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History Comes Alive

Learning through the lens of another person can really make history come alive. If you are a child and are just reading about specific dates and times in a person’s life, it would be extremely boring. But if you were a child reading through the eyes of a historic person about the adventures and challenges they’ve endured in their lives, you would be captivated. These specific dates and times in person’s life, coupled with real moments that happened, help bring the story alive.

Biography Favorites

There are many nonfiction stories out on the market. There are so many that whatever your interest is, you will find one that suits you. Here are a few of best.  

The Life of a President

The life of a President of the United States of America can captivate a young reader. Every young American should read the biographies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. These two fathers of the United States America have affected all Americans in some way of another. There are also great biographies about Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and James Madison. If your students are interested in soldiers and the war, then other great leaders like Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Robert E. Lee are great biographies to read. These stories about real leaders and heroes can be a great inspiration to young minds.

Adventures in Exploration

There have been many great explorers in history who can offer your students an exciting adventure about real life situations: Christopher Columbus, who sailed the ocean blue in 1492, or Magellan and James Cook, who discovered other new worlds; People of the past who had exciting life adventures in space exploration, like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Sally Ride. Any and all of the biographies are worth the read for children because they prove that they can do anything, and that anything can happen if you try hard enough.

Biographies of Women

Women have overcome many obstacles in the past to get to where they are today. It is because of the many trials and tribulations that women went through in the past, that we have the rights that we have today. Students can benefit from reading the true stories about women like Helen Keller, Emilia Earhart, Martha Washington, Rosa Parks, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. These women were able to rise in their fields, which can be a great inspiration to all young boys and girls.

Biographies in Science

The biography of the greatest inventor of all time, Thomas Edison, is one that all children should read. He gave the world electric light, the phonograph, and many other historical inventions that children would be interested to learn about. Alexander Graham Bell, the man who invented the telephone, is another great biography for children. With the current technology of the smartphone, it would be of great interest to young children to see how far technology really has come with the telephone.

Nonfiction books offer children exciting real adventures, stories of inspiration where lessons can be learned, and lives can be changed. Biographies about real people offer something fiction books cannot: The secret to success is within one’s self.

What are your favorite nonfiction books for children? Please share your favorites in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you have to say.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.