Biographies of Famous Leaders

Students research and learn about people who have changed the world by inventing things, standing up for what they believe in, and making the world a better place for everyone.

Unit Summary

A note from our team: As part of the upgrade to Fishtank Plus, this unit will be revised this year. Some texts, materials, and questions may change as part of the revision.

In this biography-based unit, second graders explore biographies of famous leaders and change agents. The unit has three main sections. In the first section students research and learn about people who have changed the world by inventing things. In this section students will explore the ways in which inventions can change the world and what it takes to turn an idea into action. In the second section students research and learn about people who have changed the world by standing up for what they believe in and fighting for what others think is impossible. In this section second graders explore the ways some leaders have persevered in the face of obstacles and stood up for themselves or ideas when many had stopped believing in them. In the third section students research and learn about people who have changed the world by making the world and environment a better place for everyone. In each of the sections, students read biographies that expose them to a wide variety of themes, content, and history. It is incredibly important that the necessary framing is done prior to reading a text so that students can deeply engage with the biographies and fully understand the challenges and successes of the different people being studied. Without framing or context, students may miss why each person’s actions are inspirational. It is our hope that this unit will open students’ eyes to the multitude of ways in which a person, regardless of race or gender, can influence and inspire change.

For readers, this unit is a combination of read-aloud and shared reading. At this point in the year second graders have been exposed to almost all of the high-frequency informational reading standards; therefore, this unit is a chance to review some standards and skills students need to practice. Two new standards that are a focus in this unit, however, are describing how reasons support particular points the author makes in a text and also comparing and contrasting the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic. Compare and contrast in this unit should go deeper than text features and structures. Although students can note differences in text features, the main focus should be on comparing and contrasting the different points and the reasons the authors use to support the points in two texts about the same person.

This unit, as part of Match’s second grade Science and Social Studies curriculum, focuses on teaching targeted informational reading standards while at the same building social studies and science content knowledge. Therefore, it can be used as both a reading and/or social studies unit.

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Texts and Materials

Core Materials

See Text Selection Rationale

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • What does it take to change the world?
  • How do inventions change the world?
  • How can perseverance in the face of obstacles lead to great things?
  • What does it mean to stand up for what you believe in?

Reading Enduring Understandings

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  • A biography is a text about a person's life that is written by someone else. An autobiography is a text about a person's life written by the person. 
  • Authors write texts for a specific purpose. Authors often write biographies to describe a person's life and explain why he or she is important. 
  • Authors use different text features and structures to match their purpose. If an author wants to teach a reader lots of specific facts he or she may write an informational text that includes nonfiction text features. If an author wants to tell the story of a person's life he or she may write a narrative nonfiction.
  • Authors include specific details and reasons to help support particular points. In a biography authors often include specific details from the person's life. Readers notice the reasons an author includes to support particular ideas in order to learn more about a topic or person. 
  • Authors use illustrations and diagrams in order to help a reader make connections between what they have read and a visual image or diagram. 
  • Readers can use facts and details from multiple texts in order to build a deeper understanding of a topic. When reading multipe texts on the same topic readers think about what information is the same and different. 

This unit is a collection of biographies, some of which will be read aloud and others that will be used as shared reading. Across both types of texts, students will be pushed to think about the key ideas of the text and the reasons and details the author includes to support particular points. In this unit students also begin comparing and contrasting the key ideas from two texts on the same topic. 

Writing Focus Areas

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Informational Writing Focus Areas

  • Introduce a topic
  • Create text features and diagrams to support a particular point or idea
  • Use the best evidence and facts to support a particular idea
  • Provide a concluding statement or section 

In this unit students will write both short informational pieces and longer research papers. In both students will focus on introducing a topic, using the best evidence and facts to support the topic, and then providing a concluding statement or section. 

Writing-About-Reading Focus Areas

  • Correctly answers question
  • Selects and explains best evidence
  • Uses effective organization 

The writing about reading focus area in this unit is on answering the question correctly and selecting and explaining evidence. In this unit, students work on using the best evidence, particularly in lessons that push students to notice what the author is trying to teach. This does not mean that students should be quoting from the text or that students should be told to always include two details. Instead, students should learn how to include details that help answer the question correctly. Most often those details should be in their own words.

Foundational Skills

Phonics and Word Recognition Focus Areas

Phonics and Word Recognition Focus Areas

  • Use known spelling-sound correspondences when reading one-syllable and two-syllable words. 
  • Use known spelling-sound correspondences when reading multisyllabic words. 
  • Recognize and read grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words. 

The core texts in this unit include more multisyllabic words than in previous units. At this point, students should be fluid in identifying known spelling-sound correspondences in one-syllable and two-syllable words; however, they may struggle to decode longer multisyllabic words. When prepping for a lesson and internalizing the text complexity of a particular text, we suggest identifying multisyllabic words that may be challenging for students. Look at all of the words to see if there are any patterns. Are most of the words closed syllables? Open syllables? R-controlled? If so, include a quick teaching point to focus in on strategies students can use to tackle the multisyllabic words in the text. If there are no patterns, pick a few words to model with students and review how to use syllabication to tackle challenging words. During reading, circulate and provide additional teaching and guidance on syllabication. 

Fluency Focus Areas

  • Readers read with expression and volume to match interpretation of the passage
  • Readers use proper intonation to show interpretation of the passage
  • Readers reread in order to confirm or self-correct word recognition and understanding 

The main fluency focus of this unit is on reading an informational text with the right expression and intonation to show interpretation of the passage. This includes knowing how to read different text features to highlight the feature's purpose and rereading and self-correcting in order to figure out the meaning of domain-specific, multisyllabic, or tricky words. This unit includes both read aloud and shared reading texts, therefore, students will have a chance to hear multiple examples of fluent reading while also having ample time to practice reading fluently on their own. 

 

Vocabulary

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Literary Terms

compare, contrast

Text-based

discrimination, obstacles, spectacular, articulate, synonym, thesaurus, mechanic, devoted, discouraged, agriculture, crops, soil, luxury, crippled, paralyzed, triumphant, astonishment, scholarship, concentration, right, ambition, hope, desire, race, ashamed, outsider, moved, inspired, judge, honor, thrive, inferior, poverty, prejudice, representative, advisers, oath, peace, cautious, study

Idioms and Cultural References

“set idea into motion”, “dark times”, “goofing off”, “her roots”

Content Knowledge and Connections

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You can change the world by thinking of ideas/inventing things that will make our world a better place. 

  • Explain that Tony Sarg used his creativity to transform his simple marionettes into magnificent balloons for the Macy’s Parade.
  • Explain that Peter Mark Roget turned his book of lists into a thesaurus so that people will always be able to find the right word.
  • Explain how Honda worked hard to make his dream of making cars come true.
  • Describe how George Washington Carver helped farmers turn their failing crops around with his discovery of uses for peanuts.

You can change the world by overcoming obstacles and standing up for what you believe in. 

  • Describe how Wilma Rudolph became the fastest woman in the world, despite having polio as a child.
  • Describe how Malala Yousafzai stood up to the Taliban to show that all women and children deserve an education.
  • Explain how hope and a desire for change drove Barack Obama to become the first African-American president of the United States.
  • Describe how Sonia Sotomayor’s hard work and perseverance helped her become the first Latino Supreme Court Justice.

You can change the world by making the world and environment a better place for everyone. 

  • Explain how Mama Miti planted trees in Kenya.
  • Describe how Jane Goodall’s research helped the world better understand chimpanzees.

Assessment

This assessment accompanies this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Lesson Map

1

  • Balloons Over Broadway pp. 1 – 18

    RI.2.3

Explain why Tony’s first puppets did not work and what solutions Tony dreamed up by describing the connection between a series of events.

2

  • Balloons Over Broadway — 19-end

    RI.2.3

    RI.2.6

    RI.2.8

Describe how Tony shows perseverance to make his dreams come true and how his invention changed the world by identifying and explaining details an author uses to support an idea.

3

  • The Right Word

    RI.2.3

    RI.2.6

    RI.2.8

Explain what the author means by “so that today, whenever you need it, you can still find THE RIGHT WORD” and how Peter’s actions made this possible by identifying and explaining details an author uses to support an idea.

4

  • Honda pp. 1 – 13

    RI.2.3

    RI.2.8

Describe what steps Honda took toward making his dream come true and why by identifying and explaining details an author uses to support an idea.

5

  • Honda — 14-end

    RI.2.3

    RI.2.6

    RI.2.8

Describe how Honda changed the world by identifying and explaining details an author uses to support an idea.

6

  • A Weed is a Flower

    RI.2.3

    RI.2.6

    RI.2.8

Explain how George Washington Carver was able to help all people of the world by identifying and explaining details an author uses to support an idea.

7

  • George Washington Carver

    RI.2.2

    RI.2.4

    RI.2.5

    RI.2.7

    RF.2.4

Explain how George Washington Carver proved that the earth would provide what they need by identifying and explaining details an author uses to support an idea.

8

  • A Weed is a Flower

  • George Washington Carver

    RI.2.9

    SL.2.1

    SL.2.6

Compare and contrast A Weed Is a Flower with George Washington Carver by identifying and explaining points presented by two texts on the same topic.

9

2 days

Writing

  • All unit texts

    W.2.2

    SL.2.1

    SL.2.6

    L.2.6

Write an informational report describing how a person made the world a better place by stating a claim and including supporting details from the text.

10

  • Wilma Unlimited pp. 1 – 18

    RI.2.3

    RI.2.7

Explain the bravest thing Wilma ever did and how others responded by identifying and describing the connection between a series of events.

11

  • Wilma Unlimited — 19-end

    RI.2.3

    RI.2.6

Explain how Wilma Rudolph became the fastest woman in the world by identifying and describing the connection between a series of events.

12

  • Malala Yousafzai

    RI.2.3

    RI.2.6

    RI.2.8

Explain why Malala is a warrior with words by describing how specific reasons support specific points an author makes.

13

  • Barack Obama: Son ...

    RI.2.6

    RI.2.8

Explain how hope helped Barack Obama make his dreams come true by describing how specific reasons support a specific point an author makes.

14

  • Barack Obama pp. 1 – 9

    RI.2.2

    RI.2.3

    RI.2.5

    RI.2.7

    RF.2.4

Explain what challenges Barry faced as a child and how they influenced him by identifying and describing the connection between a series of events.

15

  • Barack Obama — 10-end

    RI.2.2

    RI.2.3

    RI.2.5

    RI.2.7

    RF.2.4

Explain how Barack Obama found his way and got into politics by identifying and describing the connection between a series of events.

16

Discussion

  • Barack Obama: Son ...

    RI.2.9

    SL.2.1

    SL.2.6

Compare and contrast Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope and Barack Obama by identifying and explaining points presented by two texts on the same topic.

17

  • Sonia Sotomayor pp. 1 – 22

    RI.2.3

Describe Sonia’s childhood by identifying and describing the connection between a series of events.

18

  • Sonia Sotomayor — 18-end

    RI.2.6

    RI.2.8

Explain what the author means by “You never know what can happen – especially when you water a flower” by describing how specific reasons support specific points an author makes.

19

  • Sonia Joins the Supreme Court pp. 1 – 7

    RI.2.2

    RI.2.3

    RI.2.5

    RI.2.7

    RF.2.4

Explain why Sonia’s dream changed over the years by identifying and describing the connection between a series of events.

20

  • Sonia Joins the Supreme Court — 8-end

    RI.2.2

    RI.2.4

    RI.2.5

    RI.2.7

    RI.2.8

    RF.2.4

Explain how Supreme Court justices are chosen by identifying and describing the connection between a series of events.

21

Discussion

  • Sonia Sotomayor

  • Sonia Joins the Supreme Court

    RI.2.9

    SL.2.1

    SL.2.6

Compare and contrast Sonia Sotomayor and Sonia Joins the Supreme Court by identifying and explaining points presented by two texts on the same topic.

22

2 days

Writing

  • All unit texts

    W.2.2

    SL.2.1

    SL.2.6

Write an informational report describing how a person made the world a better place by stating a claim and including supporting details from the text.

23

  • Mama Miti

    RI.2.3

    RI.2.6

Explain how Wangari changed the country by identifying and describing the connection between a series of events.

24

  • The Watcher

    RI.2.6

    RI.2.8

Explain why the author describes Jane as a brave woman who wasn’t afraid to do something that had never been done before by describing how specific reasons support specific points an author makes.

25

  • Jane Goodall

    RI.2.8

    RF.2.4

Explain why Jane’s work with chimpanzees was important by describing how specific reasons support specific points an author makes.

26

  • The Watcher

  • Jane Goodall

    RI.2.9

    SL.2.1

    SL.2.6

Compare and contrast The Watcher and Jane Goodall by identifying and explaining points presented by two texts on the same topic.

27

Discussion

  • All unit texts

    RI.2.2

    SL.2.1

    L.2.6

Analyze and discuss unit essential questions by participating in a class discussion by stating a claim and providing evidence from the entire unit to support the claim.

28

2 days

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.2.1 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • L.2.2 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  • L.2.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 2 reading and content, choosing flexibly from an array of strategies.

  • L.2.5 — Demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings.

  • L.2.6 — Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts, including using adjectives and adverbs to describe (e.g., When other kids are happy that makes me happy).

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.2.2 — Identify the main topic of a multiparagraph text as well as the focus of specific paragraphs within the text.

  • RI.2.3 — Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.

  • RI.2.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area.

  • RI.2.5 — Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.

  • RI.2.6 — Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.

  • RI.2.7 — Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.

  • RI.2.8 — Describe how reasons support specific points the author makes in a text.

  • RI.2.9 — Compare and contrast the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic.

  • RI.2.10 — By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 2—3 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

Reading Standards: Foundational Skills
  • RF.2.4 — Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.2.1 — Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

  • SL.2.2 — Recount or describe key ideas or details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.

  • SL.2.6 — Produce complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification.

Writing Standards
  • W.2.1 — Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words (e.g., because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section.

  • W.2.2 — Write informative/explanatory texts in which they introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points, and provide a concluding statement or section.

  • W.2.5 — With guidance and support from adults and peers, focus on a topic and strengthen writing as needed by revising and editing.

  • W.2.8 — Recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.