History is anything but boring or hard when taught the way Myra Zarnowski suggests. History students become biographers who read, discuss, research, and write books about their subjects, providing their own original interpretations of the facts. By digging into the past and reflecting on what they have learned, students get involved in the process, and are eager to do it again and again. Zarnowski's practical text focuses on a questioning approach to teaching history. Rather than merely memorizing facts, students engage in historical sense making using the biography as an entryway into the larger issues of history. Each chapter deals with a new way of questioning and dialoguing with biographies, including such strategies as:
  • What if…? A means of exploring what might have happened in the past, but didn't
  • Powerful pairs, triplets, and quads: a careful examination of competing or complementary biographies about the same person
  • Visible authors: a look at how authors put themselves into their biographies by giving us their "take" on the facts
  • Sidebars, captions, timelines, and authors' notes: appealing ways of providing information to enhance the text
  • Ssimple questions (without simple answers): What's the difference? What do you think? What else? Straightforward but challenging questions that grab students' attention and launch in-depth discussions.
For each strategy Zarnowski provides a rationale based on existing research, a procedure to follow when using that approach in the classroom, and samples of student work. Plentiful artwork throughout the text, a hefty reference section, and lists of recommended biographies, including picture books and full-length works, will help you get started with using biographies in your own classroom.

Support original thinking while meeting the goals of the NCSS standards for activities that involve learning and manipulating information and constructing knowledge. Offer your students the opportunity to become passionate, engaged, and original. Take a more thoughtful, open-ended approach to teaching history with biographies and turn your history students into history makers.