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        Writing a Biography - Ask Someone to Tell Their Story

        Students interview a family member or friend and write a short biography of that person.

        Lesson Summary


        After watching three short videos, students develop interview questions to ask a grandparent, family member or friend about their life. Once students ask questions and collect information, they write a short biography about the person they interviewed.

        Why is this an important concept?

        Learning about and writing a biography helps students distinguish between stories that are fictional and the real life events of others. Understanding the importance and use of biographical accounts allows students to transfer this information to more detailed writing.

        Grade Level:


        Suggested Time

        (2) 50-minute periods

        Media Resources


        The Lesson

        Part I: Learning Activity


        1. Be sure to preview each video before beginning the lesson.

        2. Check for prior knowledge by asking students if they know what the word "biography" means. Tell students a biography is the factual account or true life story of a real person. Tell them they are going to write a biography about someone they know - either a grandparent, another family member or a friend. Again, check for prior knowledge by asking students if they have ever heard any stories about their grandparents, other family members or friends. Take a few responses and have a brief class discussion.

        3. Explain to the class that to help them with their biographies they are going to watch three videos, each featuring children asking their grandparents questions about their lives when they were children. You may choose to show the videos in any order. Before showing each video, give students a focus for viewing or a question specific to that video. Below are some suggestions but you may prefer to create your own:

        • For the video entitled "Ol' Bill": Ask students to pay attention to what Grandma Alice did for fun when there was no television.
        • For the video entitled "Pushmobile": Ask students to listen to Grandpa Max describe how he got things to play with.
        • For the video entitled "The Book": Ask students to explain why Abuelita wrote the book Mami's Flowers for her granddaughter Alisha.

        4. Play each video as many times as necessary for students to understand the conversation between the grandparents and grandchildren. Discuss. Explain to students they will model the behavior of the grandparents and grandchildren in the video when they do their own interviews.

        5. Tell students that before they conduct their interviews and write their biographies, they must first think about what they want to know about the person. Explain to students that the answers the person gives will be important to writing the biography. Write the questions students suggest onto the board or a transparency. You may select three questions from the ones the students created or devise your own set. Sample questions could be:

        • Where were you born?
        • Describe your home or neighborhood
        • What kinds of games did you play as a child?

        6. Distribute the Biography: Telling Their Story form to each student. Ask students to transfer the questions on the board to the corresponding boxes on the organizer.

        7. Instruct students to share this organizer with the person they want to interview. Students should ask each question and take notes in the question box. You may prefer to make this an in-class activity by asking students to interview each other.

        Part II: Assessment

        1. Distribute the Biography: Telling Their Story form. In class, ask students, based upon their notes on the organizer, to write one to two complete sentences from each section. For example, answers to the question 'Where were you born?' in section 1 would be followed by 'Describe your home or neighborhood' and 'What did you like to play?' in sections 2 and 3.

        2. Guide students to complete each section of the story form.

        3. Story forms can be placed in a student file to demonstrate skill acquisition or comprehension.

        4. Students can present their completed biographies to the class.

        For students who need additional teacher guidance:

        1. In a small group guide students to transfer the three questions to the Biography: Telling Their Story organizer.

        2. Ask students to interview each other.

        3. Depending upon ability or comfort level ask students to either write a response or draw a picture of what the interviewed person says.

        4. Completed Biography: Telling Their Story forms can be placed in a student's portfolio.

        5. Students can either read their report or describe the pictures they have drawn about the experiences of the person interviewed.


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