Students will learn the genre of autobiographical writing by using a personal picture to create a well-developed plot.
- Grades: 6–8
Students will follow the writing process and learn about the various elements that go into developing a well-thought-out, autobiographical narrative. Encouraging students to take ownership of their stories is the key to getting them to see that they are really the experts when it comes to the genre of autobiographical writing.
- Understand first-person narrative
- Develop a story plot
- Include place and setting
- Introduce and develop characters
- Incorporate rising action and a climax
- Develop an appropriate conclusion
- Produce a well-written essay that contains a strong plot structure, includes a theme, and speaks to a clear audience.
- Demonstrate the ability to produce a clean, well-polished typed document.
- Narrative Writing by Tara McCarthy
- Sample photographs
- Sample narrative essay to use as a model for students (Students are fascinated by glimpses into their teacher's life. Try a sample of your own autobiographical writing as an example.)
- Computer, Internet, or library access
- Photograph Brainstorming (PDF) This is a list of questions to guide students to the story within the photograph.
- Plot Chart (PDF) A plot chart is a guide to help students organize the plot structure within their writing.
- Peer Evaluation (PDF) This is a guide to help students evaluate each other's writing.
Set Up and Prepare
- Make enough copies of all handouts before introducing the lesson.
- Have a copy of the sample writing example to show students.
- Have students bring in a personal photograph to use for their writing assignment. Encourage them to choose a photo in which they are visible.
Step 1: Introduce the writing assignment by having students examine their photo and fill out the Photograph Brainstorming (PDF) worksheet.
Step 2: Many times, beginning the essay is the most difficult part about writing. To help my students get into the flow, I have them discuss, with a partner, the story that's taking place within the picture. Allow enough time for both students to discuss their photographs.
Step 3: While in conversation mode, the listener is taking notes for the speaker. This provides students with an alternative form of brainstorming.
Step 4: Using the notes from their partner and the Photograph Brainstorming (PDF) worksheet, students will now begin their first draft or pre-write.
Step 5: Students exchange their writing through the peer evaluation and editing process. Use the Peer Evaluation (PDF) worksheet.
Step 6: Students type their second draft using their peer's evaluation of their writing.
Step 7: Students meet with the teacher in a writing conference. During this conference, students will read their writing aloud to the teacher so that reading fluency and the readability of the students' writing can be monitored and assessed.
Step 8: Students will now evaluate their initial student-teacher writing conference and complete the Conference Form for Students (PDF).
Step 9: Students will begin their third draft using the information they received from the student-teacher conference.
Step 10: Students may schedule a second student-teacher conference if time permits. Final draft writing begins immediately. When students are finished, they will submit a clean, typed copy, along with all other drafts and worksheets that were produced through the writing process. Be sure to have them submit their essay with the inspiring photograph!
Students can share their writing by selecting from a variety of multi-modal options. Often there are other opportunities for student publishing, including:
- Posting the document on the Class Homepage
- Creating a poster that highlights the theme of the story
- Creating a visual story through a PowerPoint presentation or website
- Binding the story into a book
- Conducting an oral reading of the story for the entire class
By extending the lesson, I integrate language arts and reading standards with the multiple intelligences. Any standards-aligned rubric or project rubric can work for the assessment of this lesson.
- Did students respond to the way I introduced the writing prompt?
- Did modeling a sample of my own writing give students a useful example?
- Did I provide them with the ability to get started right away?
- Did students develop an overall understanding of a plot structure?
- Was their understanding evident in their first draft, second draft, third draft, and final draft?
- Did students remain on task during their peer evaluations?
- Did students respond positively to having the opportunity to conference with me before submitting their final essay?
- Did students enjoy or take advantage of the various options available to them in the extended lesson activity?
- Does students' writing proficiency meet your state's writing standards?
- Should I change anything in the way I model or teach this lesson?
Using a content standards-aligned rubric, assess students based on their ability to create a polished essay with a well-developed plot structure. I also assess students' effort and class participation throughout the unit.