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Write a Biography

Students will review the elements of a biography. Then they will interview a classmate and write a biography of his or her life.

PROCESS:

  1. Prior to conducting this activity, gather several age-appropriate biographies to share with the class. If necessary, ask your school librarian for help in selecting books.
  2. As a class, discuss the difference between an autobiography and a biography. Guide students to understand that an autobiography is a chronological story that someone writes about his or her own life. A biography is much the same, but the author writes about someone else.
  3. Invite students to examine the books you collected in small groups. Rejoin as a class to identify additional characteristics of a biography. For example, the information in a biography is based on fact. Whenever possible, events and dialogue are based on reliable first-person accounts. Most biographies follow chronological order. Biographies describe the time, place and other people in the subject's life accurately. And, a biography avoids stereotypes. Through description and examples, the story tells readers how the subject was unique.
  4. Divide the class into pairs or have students choose partners. Inform students that they will each write a biography about their partner.
  5. Instruct students to interview their partners. You may also wish to have them interview their partner's friends and family members to gather additional information. Then give students time to write their biographies. Encourage students to share photographs to help illustrate their stories.

ASSESSMENT:

Invite students to share their biographies with the class. Encourage classmates to identify anecdotes or facts that taught them something new about the subject of each biography.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:

Grades 3-4:
Assign partners. Instruct partners to identify a memorable moment in each of their lives. Then have them interview each other about those topics. Encourage students to write a brief, chronological biography about this moment in their partner's life.
Grades 5-6:
Assign partners. Instruct partners to identify a key event in each of their lives. Then have them interview each other about those topics. If any classmates were present when this event unfolded, instruct students to interview them, too. Give students time to write a detailed, chronological biography about this event in their partner's life.
Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs or allow students to select their own partners. Instruct students to compile a list of questions they would like to ask their partners about their childhood. Give them time to interview each other. Encourage students to interview other people in the subject's life or, if relevant, search newspaper clippings to gather more information. Give students time to write their biographies.
Grades 9-10:
Divide the class into pairs or allow students to select their own partners. Instruct students to compile a list of questions and then interview their subject and key people in his or her life. Have students visit locations that are important to their subjects, such as their homes, favorite hangouts or places where key moments in their lives took place. Encourage students to study news clippings or conduct other research to gain a better understanding of the time, events and people that influenced their subject's life. Then have students compose a timeline. Using that timeline as a guide, challenge students to write a detailed biography about their partner.