Pre-write: Creating a Life Map
- Grades: 9–12
- Unit Plan:
This activity serves as both an ice-breaker for the beginning of school and a good pre-writing tool that gives students confidence when approaching small writing tasks.
- Create a Life Map to use as a graphic organizer when writing any autobiographical assignment.
- Use a Life Map Checklist to stay on task while creating a Life Map.
- Understand and use pictograms to represent personal events and goals in their lives.
- Display their Life Maps on a classroom bulletin board.
- Colored pencils
- 8 ½ x 11 white unlined paper
- Black ink pen
- Life Map Checklist Printable (PDF)
- Strips of paper with questions typed/written from the Life Map Checklist
- Several autobiographies to use for student independent reading or as a Read Aloud throughout the unit. I like to use the following:
Boy: Tales of Childhood, by Roald Dahl
26 Fairmount Avenue, by Tomie dePaola
Knots in My Yo-Yo String, by Jerry Spinelli
Celia's Island Journal, by Celia Thaxter, edited by Loretta Krupinsky
Bad Boy, by Walter Dean Myers
Set Up and Prepare
- Clear a bulletin board that you will use to display the students' Life Maps at the end of this lesson. (Using borders designed like a road would be ideal. If you do not have enough room to dedicate an entire bulletin board to this assignment, scatter the Life Maps throughout the walls in the room.)
- Create your own Life Map and make enough copies so that each student has one. (If possible, make a transparency of your Life Map to assist in the modeling of the lesson.)
- Xerox student copies of the Life Map Checklist.
- Have enough sharpened colored pencils and white unlined paper for each student. (Students may have to share colored pencils. If so, have desks arranged so that an assortment of colors can be placed in the center where students are seated.)
- Write the following writing prompts on the chalk board or overhead:
Did you ever have a regular chore to do when you were small?
Do you remember what it was?
From 350 Fabulous Writing Prompts: Thought-Provoking Springboards for Creative, Expository, and Journal Writing by Jacqueline Sweeney, available in the Teacher Store.
Create several strips of paper with questions from the Life Map Checklist. Ex. "Where were you born? Where did you go to college?" Etc. The students will be "interviewing" you, so have your responses prepared ahead of time. Make sure your responses align with what you have depicted on your Life Map that you will share.
This lesson offers a supportive approach to writing by introducing simple journal prompts and pictograms based on the very thing these students know the most about - their own lives!
Step 1: Distribute the paper strip "interview questions" to random students as they walk in at the beginning of class, asking them to hold on to the question until further instruction.
Share with the students that they will begin this class by interviewing you, their teacher. This is their opportunity to get to know you. Tell the students who have the interview questions to raise their hands. Select each student and have them ask their question. Share your responses. You may want to extend the interview by having other students ask their own questions of you if you wish.
Step 2: Tell the students that they will be writing an autobiography later in class, an opportunity for you to get to know them. Build on prior knowledge and ask if any of them have written an autobiography before and have them share their experience. Remind them that an autobiography contains information about one's own life written by that one person. Briefly introduce some autobiography titles, using the ones listed in the Materials section or your own, and encourage students to read one of their choice during their independent reading time. Tell the students that they will first pre-write that autobiography by creating a Life Map over the next week or so, using the first step of the writing process. Select one of the writing prompts from your list writing on the chalkboard and have the students answer the prompt with one single drawing.
Did you ever have a regular chore to do when you were small? Do you remember what it was?
(Students might draw a small child mowing the lawn or taking out the trash.)
Step 3: Explain to the students that their Life Map will be a display of pictures. Explain the concept of a pictogram. Draw a heart on the board to represent love. Draw a diploma to represent graduation. Draw a stick figure of a man, woman, and smaller stick figure for a child to represent a family. Ask two students to come up to the board and draw what they would see as a pictogram for a hospital and a school. Use the Life Map Photo as your guide.
Step 4: Hand out your Life Map and the Life Map Checklist to the students. Review the Life Map Checklist. Remind them that they do not have to write anything on their Life Map and that their entire life story (past, present, and future) will be told in pictograms. Using the transparency, model the process by sharing your Life Map. Show how your answers to their interview questions are all displayed on your Life Map.
Step 5: With the students, brainstorm some major life events that they might include in their Life Map. Some examples may include getting married, beginning a new career, starting a family, major purchases, etc.
Step 6: Have the students clear everything from their desks. Give the students their blank sheets of paper and colored pencils. Let them begin.
Step 7: Reviewing the concept taught the previous day, ask the students to respond to a journal prompt with one single drawing.
Project yourself twenty years into the future. Write a journal entry on what you predict you are doing.
Then, have them respond to that same prompt using a few sentences. Model your own response with them, encouraging them to only check their sentences for proper capitalization and punctuation, at this point.
Step 8: Allow the students to continue working on their Life Maps. Monitor the students by walking around the classroom, asking them to explain their "Career after College" pictogram to you.
Step 9: Students should be able to finish the assignment within two days. If they finish sooner than expected, have them retrace their pictograms with a black pen. This will add an extra touch to their drawings. If not, let them finish the project at home.
Step 10: Have the students share the Life Maps with the class. Let students post their Life Maps on a classroom bulletin board.
Step 11: Close the lesson by reading aloud from one of the autobiography titles listed in the Materials section.
Supporting All Learners
This assignment is designed with the Second Language Learner in mind. There is no language involved since the focus is on drawings and not words. I have found success with this lesson in my Honors classes as well. You will see that the higher-level students will go into a great amount of detail with their pictograms. Special Education students can focus more on the objective than the actual quality of the lesson. They may need more guidance as they explore their career choices and future goals.
Ask the students to "interview" their parents using the writing prompts from this lesson. Have them write their parents' responses. Writing Prompts:
- Project yourself twenty years into the future. What do you predict you are doing?
- Did you ever have a regular chore to do when you were small? Do you remember what it was?
This can be shared in class the following day.
- Create a Life Map.
- Complete a Life Map Checklist.
- Write using three journal prompts.
Look at the work and ask yourself if the students were able to tell their stories through their Life Maps. Are you pleased with the communication that you had with your students? Do you feel that you know them better? Do you feel that they know you better? Did every student finish their Life Map addressing the issue of what they wanted to be when they got older?
Were the students able to complete pictograms from their Life Map Checklist?