Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Famous Californians - Paper Doll Project

This year, each of my fourth graders researched a famous Californian, wrote a biographical paragraph about their Californian, and made a paper doll.

This project can be done with any real person (King Tut, Queen Elizabeth, Christopher Columbus...), or any fictional character (preferably one who would be fun to costume like the Queen of Hearts, Robinson Crusoe, Caliban...).

I had my students write their biographical paragraphs in first person, as in, "Hola, me llamo Pio Pico. I was the last governor of Alta California under Mexican rule..." or "Hi, my name is Bridget Mason, but you can call me Biddy. I was born a slave in Georgia..."
 I required my students to tell me the following:
  • Their name
  • Why they were a famous Californian
  • How they became a famous Californian (2 to 3 sentences)
  • A fascinating fact
I like keeping the assignment short and making them write in the first person. It means they can't just cut and paste the person's Wikipedia page.
I've done variations on this in the past.

A couple of years ago, I put my students in groups and had them create life-size posters of explorers like Sebastian Vizcaino and Vitus Bering. They had to choose one group member to be traced onto a piece of white butcher paper, and then they used tempera paint to paint on clothing. (They especially liked using glitter paint on the armor of conquistador Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and the gold braid embellishing Sir Francis Drake's clothing.)

When I taught 6th grade (ancient civilizations), my team teacher and I liked to do a Living Museum. We had students research real and mythological characters from the ancient world, write speeches, dress in costume, and perform as their character. You should have seen the paper mache Anubis head one kid made!


  1. What great projects. I particularly like the paper dolls.

    1. Thank you Melanie! My students did a really good job on them. I was really pleased with how much creativity and care they put into them.