Get to Know Your Students with This Autobiography Lesson
Read a Published Autobiography or Biography
When middle school or high school students are assigned to write an autobiography, it can be a daunting task. The teacher needs to set up a defined set of tasks for the students to complete so that the autobiography is organized and detailed. It is best if the students look at models and read autobiographies or biographies before they begin writing their own autobiography.
For the middle school student, Beverly Cleary: The Girl From Yamhill is a great book for students to read. She is a well known author who many students know. However, there are many autobiographies from which to choose. The Macmillan website gives a nice list of biographies and autobiographies for middle school students if you want to find other books to read.
Assign students to read at least one autobiography or biography. It is a nice way to work in a non-fiction read for the students. Teachers should take time to review the differences between autobiographies and biographies. The books can be a whole class read, can be read in literature circles, or can be independent reads.
Students should take note of how the autobiography or biography
- is organized
- what information was included
- what they enjoyed learning about the person
After students have finished their book, the whole class should have a discussion of what makes a good autobiography. The teacher should make a list on the board for students to take notes. The students should try to work some of the items they listed into their own autobiographies.
Guidelines for Students
Once students have read published autobiographies, they will need to write their own. This autobiography should celebrate the student's life. This should be a positive experience and allow students to share important events in their lives.
Before assigning the autobiography, the teacher should decide the following:
- How many pages should the whole piece be?
- How will it be broken down into sections?
- Will photos need to be included?
For example, a middle school autobiography could be set up as follows:
- Four sections: birth to two years, three years to five years, kindergarten to third grade, fourth grade to present year.
- Each section should be two-to-four pages long.
- Final copies should be typed or written neatly in ink.
- Each section should include copies of pictures and/or mementos from the time period.
- A cover should be decorated, neat and colorful.
- A family tree.
- A map showing where students have lived and/or visited.
Students should include anecdotes and details that are unique to them. In addition, students could include favorite relatives, toys, music, colors, television shows, friends, movies, foods, restaurants, neighbors, etc. It can also include firsts, like their first tooth, friend, video game, cell phone, boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.
To assess the autobiography, the teacher could create a rubric and grade it based on the criteria of neatness, content, organization and writing conventions.