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Living Wax Museum: An Elementary Biography Project

Looking for a fun, new research and writing project for your elementary kiddos? This living wax museum is a great way to tie together reading, writing, social studies and speaking and listening skills all in one fun project. I have done this project with second through fourth graders and they have all loved it.

Reading

Start this project off by having your students select what famous figure they want to research, or by assigning them a famous figure. My ABSOLUTE favorite books for us to conduct our research are the “Who Was” Series by Jim Gigliotti. They are perfect for on-level/higher second graders, and are most appropriate for third and fourth grade students.

Typically, I will introduce the project, show the students my example, and then briefly introduce all of the famous figures that they can pick from. I then let them go one by one and pick which person they want to research.

For my second graders, I always have one group (my lower level readers) that work together to collect our research all on the same person, but then I release them to each write their own reports.

We spend about one week reading our books and researching our influential figure. While they work, they take notes on important aspects of that person’s life. There are also a ton of great books on Epic! that students can use for additional research and ideas.

Writing

After our notes are compiled, students begin writing their drafts for their research reports. I have students write 6 total paragraphs about their famous figures. We do an introduction, a paragraph about their early life, a paragraph about why they are famous, fun facts, a paragraph about a character trait that best describes them and why, and then a closing.

We spend about 1-1 & 1/2 weeks working on our writing. We write about a paragraph or 2 per day, then take our writing through the revising/editing/publishing process. I then give students a good 2-3 days to spend a TON of time publishing their work to the best of their capability, using their best handwriting and best pictures that they can.

Wax Museum: Speaking & Listening

We end this project by inviting parents and other classes to come watch us present our reports. This is a fun time where the students get to dress up like their famous person, bring in props and practice speaking in front of an audience. We always get amazing feedback from the parents and from other classroom teachers. This component is totally optional, but completely worth it!

I always send home a student letter at the beginning of the project so that parents have ample time to help students gather materials for their costumes and to help them get a good understanding of who their influential figure is.

Distance Learning / Digital Learning:

Is your school closed for an extended period of time due to this crazy virus? This project is a GREAT way for students to continue learning at home. Simply send the PDF to parents to print at home (or print at school if you still have access), and send students to Epic or your local online library to find biographies on the person of their choice. Then, add a digital component by having students upload their videos to Google Classroom, SeeSaw or the digital platform of your choice. This is a great way to provide a few weeks of reading/writing plans to parents, while incorporating choice in student learning still.

Recommended Resources:

Snag everything you need for the biography research and writing reports in this Biography Writing Resource.

Click here for a compilation of all of my favorite “Who Was” characters to research for this project. These books are the perfect level for 2nd-4th graders, and are really affordable (between $2-4 each by following my Amazon affiliate link.)

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