Famous Americans Project Based Learning (PBL) Unit for Info Reading & Writing

Grade Levels
3rd - 4th
Formats Included
  • Zip
223 pages
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Take your Famous Americans project to a new level of engagement and rigor this year with this unique Impactful Americans Project Based Learning Unit.

Your students have been invited to present at the Impactful Americans Symposium. This special event is a time when experts come together to share the amazing accomplishments of important Americans throughout history. Each student will research one impactful American, and present on how this person changed America for the better. Their presentations will help symposium attendees celebrate the life of each important person selected, and help them learn from his/her accomplishments.

This project is broken in to several parts to help your students learn about the time management and organization required to complete a long-term project. It is designed to last five weeks in your third/fourth grade classroom. Due to the emphasis on informational reading, informational/expository writing, speaking and listening skills through a social studies lens, you may opt to incorporate this project into your literacy block.



Getting Started: Your students will be invited to the Impactful Americans Symposium, select the impactful American they are interested in researching, and identify an overarching theme for that person’s life and impact.

Research: Your students will use books from your classroom, school library, and public library, along with suggested websites to research the life, impact, and character traits of the American they selected. A detailed rubric is provided to guide student reflection and growth. You will also teach short research lessons about:

  • Major and minor events and describing them in sequence
  • Paraphrasing vs plagiarizing
  • Efficient research with text features
  • Using text evidence to support a claim

Speech Planning: Your students will use provided graphic organizers to plan the 8-10 minute speech they will present at the Impactful Americans Symposium. Each research-based speech will include:

  • Opening
  • Early life portion
  • Impacting America portion
  • Character traits portion
  • Closing

Speech Practice: Your students will practice their speech at home each night in preparation for their presentation the following week. A detailed rubric, and practice checklist are provided to support student success.

Portrait Drawing: Students will create a hand-drawn portrait of the impactful American they researched to hang behind them during their presentation at the symposium.

Symposium Setup: Students will work together to transform their classroom into a professional presentation environment. They will create an oversized timeline that displays four important life events for each American presenting at the symposium. Students will also participate in a class discussion about how to behave professionally during a special presentation.

Symposium Attendance: Before the symposium begins, you will model diligent note taking skills. During the symposium, students will use the provided note taking log to share evidence for how carefully they listened. During each presentation, they will be required to write 1-2 facts they found interesting or surprising, and a question or a fact that left them thinking. This is also the phase when students will deliver their presentation.

Reflection Time: After learning how people in America’s history accomplished amazing things to make our country better for future generations, students will have time to reflect on the power of the hard work and accomplishments of these impactful Americans. To do so, students will answer three questions:

  • Explain how one impactful American you learned about at the symposium impacted your life.
  • What are some important improvements that still need to be made in America?
  • What can you do to make an impact for future generations?



Teacher Guide: a detailed 48-page guide to support you during each step of a successful project based learning unit. This teacher guide includes:

  • 3rd and 4th grade standards alignment
  • Quick prep checklist to get you organized before the project begins
  • Ready-to-print and editable project calendar
  • Recommended books & websites lists
  • Lesson plans for each day including supply lists, teacher steps, intervention & enrichment ideas
  • Ready-to-print and editable rubrics to assess informational reading, informational writing, speaking, and listening skills throughout the project
  • Ready-to-print and editable progress tracker spreadsheet to keep you and your students organized

Student Guide: a 76-page guide that explains each step of the project in student-friendly language. Students record all the research and planning for their project on the pages of this guide in order to boost organization. You will print one guide per student using double-sided formatting. This student guide includes:

  • Master checklist to track every project step
  • Project calendar with daily assignment goals
  • Engaging narrative introductions for each project phase
  • Step-by-step instructions for each project phase
  • Carefully-formatted log pages for recording research and notes
  • Rubrics to guide work quality and reflection
  • Glue-on tabs to make navigating the guide more efficient

Speech Planners: 7 planner pages to scaffold student work as they write their speech for the Impactful American Symposium. Printable and digital versions of each planner are included.

Sample Project: A 69-page project sample ready for you to print and share with your students. Perfect for boosting student independence, self-directed learning, and painting clear expectations of work quality throughout this project based learning unit. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the famous American researched for this sample project.

Notes for Home: These editable notes will help you keep your parent community in the loop with the progress of this project, and inform them of project pacing expectations. Please note: the only portion of this project that is intended to be assigned for homework is “Phase 4: Speech Practice” when students will practice their speech at home nightly in preparation for the symposium the following week.



A project based learning approach gives students the opportunity to apply grade level skills in more meaningful and memorable ways. The level of professionalism required as you work together to transform your minds and classroom for the Impactful Americans Symposium will have your students hooked on learning. Their engagement while reading informational text will skyrocket as they complete meaningful research. The motivation to grow as an authentic writer of informational/expository pieces runs high as they prepare to present their written work to a live audience. Their speaking and listening skills will grow rapidly as they rehearse for their presentation and provide meaningful feedback and questions throughout the symposium.



The wide range of standards incorporated into this PBL experience brings a new level of rigor to each standard addressed. The ready-to-print and editable rubrics included in this resource give students a clear picture of what it takes to demonstrate each level of understanding. Consistently referring to each rubric as you confer with students, provide feedback, and give them time to reflect on their current levels of understanding helps them reach to perform at a higher level in their reading, writing, speaking, and listening.



Detailed lesson plans for each day provide unique ideas for scaffolding and enriching this project based learning experience.



The thorough detail included in your teacher guide makes prep, planning, and implementation easy. Your ready-to-print materials allow you to incorporate this project in your classroom immediately. A detailed project sample is included in this resource, making first-time implementation more seamless.



"A+ product. my students are loving this project. the teacher guide is extremely thorough and articulated with the classroom in mind. my third graders and I are loving this project. thank you." - Juan P.

♥ "I am so excited to start this with my students next week! It is laid out so nicely, and user friendly!! Thank you for such an incredible resource!!" - Tesia T.


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Total Pages
223 pages
Answer Key
Included with rubric
Teaching Duration
1 month
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.
Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.
Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.
Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).


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