NOTE TO TEACHERS
About Landmark Biographies
Teachers know that biographies are great learning tools. Teachers also know that many students, when presented with a biography, often discount them out of hand. So, how can teachers get this important material into the hands (and brains) of their students?
The answer is easy: Landmark Books. Since 1950, Landmark has offered young readers biographies that are ell-written, informative, and fun. Interesting details and anecdotes help students to identify with each historical figure as a real person—one who encounters challenges, celebrates accomplishments, and endures hardships. By reading books in the Landmark series, students will not only deepen their understanding for and appreciation of history, but may very well develop a new love for biographies.
Using Landmark Biographies in the Classroom
• Build biography into every unit of the curriculum. For example, if students are learning about time, have them read about Albert Einstein. If students are studying Black history, have them read about Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr.
• Start a biography-of-the-month book club. Each month, students can choose a biography to read and report on. At the end of the year, bind each student’s reports into a book.
• Have a “living history” day where students come to school dressed like a person they have read about. Each student will have a chance to “address” the class in character.
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Readers meet the young, hardworking, curious boy from Kentucky and watch him grow into a gifted lawyer, politician, and eventually become the 16th President of the United States. Learning about the historic events of Lincoln’s presidency—the
Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Gettysburg Address—helps young readers discover why “Honest Abe” Lincoln is revered by people all over the world.
The following books are also in this guide:
Meet Christopher Columbus
Meet George Washington
Meet Thomas Jefferson
Meet Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the Classroom
These easy-to-read biographies of three of America’s greatest heroes serve as brief introductions to the lives of these complex men.
The themes of leadership, courage, bravery, heroism, and freedom connect the work of these men and guide young students to a better understanding of the battle for freedom throughout our nation’s history.
In addition to discussion questions related to themes, this guide offers suggestions for activities that link the language arts, social studies, art, and music curriculum.
Brainstorm the meaning of freedom with the class. Then ask students to write a paragraph about what freedom means to them. Encourage students to share their writing orally with the class.
George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. were all outstanding leaders in American history. Ask students to discuss the qualities of a leader. Then ask them to cite events in the lives of each of these Americans that indicate their leadership qualities. Discuss at what age these men demonstrated their leadership abilities. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t plan to become a minister. Why did he feel that he could better help people if he became a minister?
Ask students to define courage. Washington, Lincoln, and King each faced defeat in their lifetime, but they never gave up. Discuss the courage it took for each man to continue his dream. Based on the information in these biographies, which man do you think fought the most courageous battle? How did it take courage for Martin Luther King, Jr. to fight his battle peacefully?
Discuss the meaning of bravery. How does bravery relate to courage? How does it take bravery to be a leader? Divide the class into three groups and assign each group one of these famous Americans to discuss. Ask them to talk about the many ways each of these men showed bravery. How is their bravery celebrated today?
Discuss the qualities of a hero. It is said that George Washington was a hero to Abraham Lincoln. How might both of these men have been heroes to Martin Luther King, Jr.? Discuss why Mohandas Gandhi of India was a hero to Martin Luther King, Jr. How is each of these men a hero to all Americans?
Washington, Lincoln, and King each fought for freedom. Compare and contrast the type of freedom for which each man stood. Ask each student to take a look at the paragraph they wrote about freedom in the pre-reading activity. What might Washington, Lincoln, and King say about their interpretation of freedom?
Read aloud "The Gettysburg Address" by Abraham Lincoln. Analyze the meaning of Lincoln’s words. Ask the class to discuss why it is considered the "one of most beautiful speeches ever made."
Review the meaning of metaphor. Martin Luther King, Jr. was called the "drum major for justice." (p. 104, Meet Martin Luther King, Jr.) Ask students to explain this metaphor and then have them write their own metaphors for Washington, Lincoln, and King.
Draw a map of the United States and label the 13 original colonies. When did these colonies become states? Then find out how many states existed during Lincoln’s presidency. Which states were considered a part of the confederacy?
Divide the class into three groups and assign each group Washington, Lincoln, or King to research. Ask each group to construct an illustrated timeline of the most important events in the life of the person assigned to them. Share the timeline in class.
Ask the class to plan a special celebration for Martin Luther King’s birthday in January and President’s Day in February. Encourage students to use poetry and songs to pay tribute to these men.
"We Shall Overcome" is a famous freedom song that was sung during the civil rights movement. Locate the lyrics to this song and read them to the class. How might this song of freedom have been appropriate for Washington and Lincoln’s era? Students may also enjoy locating songs from the American Revolution and the Civil War.
Have the class draw or paint a mural called "Freedom." They should include tributes to Washington, Lincoln, and King in the mural.
Teaching ideas prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Media Services, the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities.
DISCUSSION AND WRITING
• The young Abe asked a lot of questions as a boy. Why is it important to be inquisitive?
• How do you think Abe’s trip to New Orleans influenced his feelings about slavery?
• What character traits did Lincoln show during his childhood and young adulthood that served him well as the president during wartime?
• Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas engaged in many debates during their political campaigns of 1858. Explain to students that a debate is a spoken event in which two or more people present and argue opposing sides of a given topic. Have students think about an important school issue for a class debate. The topic should be simple enough that students can choose a side: for or against. Lead students through a debate where students have the opportunity to express their viewpoints.
• When he was campaigning to be a state representative, Lincoln addressed issues that were important to people of Illinois, like improving roads and public schools. Ask students to create their own school-based platforms and hold a class election.
• After reading Meet Abraham Lincoln, work with students to construct a time line of the events in Lincoln’s life. Collaborate with the school art teacher and have students design and create a mural that represents the events from the book.
Vocabulary/Use of Language
The vocabulary in these biographies isnít difficult, but students should be encouraged to jot down unfamiliar words and use a dictionary to look up the definitions. Such words may include:
slavery (p. 3), lawyer (p. 8), hero (p. 20), cross (p. 20), politics (p. 28), representative (p. 29), election (p. 33), capital p. 34), Congress (p. 42), Confederate (p. 50), and Union (p. 53).
Review for the Landmark Series
"One of the most critically acclaimed, best-selling children's book series ever published." The New York Times
BEYOND THE BOOK
A to Z Teacher Stuff
This page from his popular teachers’ site is loaded with activity and project ideas to further students’ learning of Abraham Lincoln.
Loogootee Elementary West
Students will love this site on Abraham Lincoln, designed by Indiana first graders and their teacher. It features quizzes, animation, a picture gallery, and many ideas for classroom activities and projects.
ABOUT THIS GUIDE
Guide prepared by Colleen Carroll, Education Consultant, Curriculum
Writer, and Children’s Book Author, Sleepy Hollow, NY.
Random House Children’s Books • School and Library Marketing
1745 Broadway, 10-4, New York, NY 10019 • BN0606 • 12/06
Abraham Lincoln by Ingrid D'Aulaire[978-0-440-40690-7]
My Dream of Martin Luther King by Faith Ringold[978-0-517-59976-1]
Toliver's Secret by Esther Wood Brady[978-0-679-84804-2]
Click here to download the Teacher's Guide PDF