African-American Biography Task Cards for Writing, Speaking & Listening Practice

The ESL Nexus
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  1. These short biographies profile 80 African-American men and women, 100 American women of various ethnicities, and 68 women around the world who were pioneers in their field or achieved something notable. Included in each resource are 15 ways to use these task cards to help your students develop the
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80 famous and important African-Americans who were pioneers in their fields are profiled in this resource. Included are 15 ways to use these biography task cards to help your students develop their writing, speaking and listening skills.

✓ Please Note:

* This resource is available in a bundle with 2 more products, Women Around the World Biography Task Cards and Famous & Important American Women Biography Task Cards, at a savings of 20% off the cost of each individual product; you can find it HERE.

Resource at a Glance:

What will students learn?

Basic facts about the lives of 80 influential Black Americans who were born between 1720 and 1960; how to use facts and phrases to write a short biography.

Who is it for?

All students, including English Language Learners.

How does it help teachers?

* Students learn about famous and not-so-famous African-Americans who had an impact on U.S. American history.

* Students practice their skills in writing, grammar and mechanics by transforming the information on task cards into complete sentences and paragraphs.

* 2 models of biographies are provided for students at different levels of writing proficiency.

* Suggestions for other activities extend students’ learning.

* An included rubric saves teachers time if they want to assess their students’ work.

What educators who have used this resource say about it:

♥ "I love all of the different ways you can use these task cards!" -- Angelica M.

♥ "These are perfect for my ELL students!" -- Meghan S.

More Info:

Every task card presents basic biographical information plus some interesting facts about an African-American who was born in the 18th, 19th, or 20th century.

Simple instructions for doing 8 types of activities are included. Activities such as writing various types of paragraphs, categorizing the task cards, giving presentations, creating posters, doing research, doing map and timeline activities, practicing note-taking, and playing games are all described. The versatility of these task cards makes them ideal not just for Black History Month but also Language Arts, Social Studies, and even Science classes any time of the year.

Your students will be inspired by the achievements of these African-American scientists, diplomats, inventors, aviators, doctors, educators, businesspeople, politicians, athletes, soldiers, musicians, lawyers, nurses, abolitionists, novelists, singers, civil rights activists, explorers, poets, mathematicians, journalists, women's rights activists, and judges that are highlighted on the task cards.

The information on the task cards is not presented in complete sentences because one of the suggested activities is for students to write paragraphs about the people. By transforming the keywords and fragments into complete sentences, and including a topic sentence and a closing, students practice writing good paragraphs and learn some history at the same time. You can use these task cards to do other types of writing activities, too. An evaluation rubric is included so you can easily assess your students' writing.

To use the task cards, just print them out and cut them apart on the dotted lines. Laminating the task cards so they last longer is recommended but not required. Some activities can take up an entire period and some can be implemented in shorter amounts of time. Depending on the activity, students can work on their own, in pairs or small groups, or as the whole class. Some of the activities can also be used in writing centers.

This resource is appropriate for ELLs at an intermediate level of language proficiency (such as WIDA Levels 3 and up) and if you work in a WIDA Consortium state, 4 sample Model Performance Indicators are included. ELLs at a lower level of language proficiency (such as WIDA Level 2) may be able to do a few of the suggested activities and these are listed in the teacher notes. In addition, if you work in a Common Core state, a list of ELA standards this resource addresses is included.

Some of your students may be familiar with several of the 80 people profiled but there are probably many other African-Americans included in this resource whom they have never heard of before.

As an educator of English Language Learners, most of my students were members of racial and/or ethnic minorities. I wanted my BIPOC middle schoolers to see themselves reflected in the materials we used and activities we did in my classroom as they developed their language skills. This resource was created with that idea in mind.

You can use this resource remotely in 2 ways:

a) When teaching synchronously or asynchronously online, explain the writing task and display the model paragraphs. Display the task cards one at a time and give students time to write a paragraph (10-15 minutes depending on your class); alternatively, you can send the task cards to students and they can select which ones to write about. Have students send you their completed paragraphs and use the rubric to assess them. Review the list of activities and decide which, if any, you want to use; then explain the task to the students.

b) For students to do on their own: Photocopy the model paragraphs and the student pages and send the material home. Tell students how many task cards they should write about and have them send you their completed paragraphs when they’ve completed the assignment. Use the rubric to correct them. Some of the tasks in the list of activities can also be done by students at home.


What you get in this product:

★ A table of contents for easy reference (1 page)

★ A Notes to the Teacher section with explanatory information (1 page)

★ A list of the ELA Common Core standards addressed (1 page)

★ 4 sample WIDA Model Performance Indicators (1 page)

★ 15 ideas for using the task cards (1 page)

★ Student materials for the 2 game activities (2 pages)

★ An evaluation rubric for writing tasks (1 page)

★ Model task card biography with 2 example paragraphs at different levels of writing complexity (1 color page and 1 black-and-white page for a total of 2 pages)

★ 80 biographies of important African-Americans, 4 per page (20 pages)


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Martin Luther King Day Word Search & Crossword Puzzles

African Studies: Writing Prompts about Sierra Leone Artifacts, Distance Learning

African Studies: Clip Art Based on Photographs of Artifacts from Sierra Leone

Checklists for Editing and Revising Paragraphs for ELLs and Other Writers

Women in America & Around the World Biography Task Cards BUNDLE


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Thank you and happy teaching!

Common Core Standards © Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved. Any claims of correlation or alignment to the CCSS Standards are solely those of The ESL Nexus and have not been evaluated or endorsed by the NGA. The ESL Nexus is the sole creator of this product and does not claim endorsement or association with the creators of the CCSS standards.

Any claims of correlation or alignment to the WIDA ELD standards are solely those of The ESL Nexus and have not been evaluated or endorsed by the WIDA Consortium. The ESL Nexus is the sole creator of this product and does not claim endorsement or association with the creators of the WIDA standards.


Total Pages
32 pages
Answer Key
Rubric only
Teaching Duration
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/experiments, or technical processes.
Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.


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