Writing an Autobiography
- Grades: 6–8
- Learn about the process of writing; brainstorm ideas, write draft, revise, edit, finalize draft and share work.
- Be able to write effectively and with detail about their personal history (family, friends, neighborhood), growth and goals over time.
- Read and critique published autobiographies to help understand effective writing techniques used.
- Read and respectfully critique the work of their peers.
- Final product will be completed as a published piece.
Worksheets, timelines, selection of autobiographies for reference, pencil, pen and notebook paper and supplies for scrapbooks
Set Up and Prepare
Explain the meaning and purpose of writing an autobiography. Review autobiographies that would be of interest to your students. Discuss what devices authors use to make the stories compelling. Provide worksheets for students to use to help them generate ideas and support their writing. Review the writing process.
Part I — Learning From Our Pasts
Tell students they will be writing about their personal family history and important events in their lives that have shaped who they are today. Discuss that a family is composed of people living together and functioning as a unit. Give them a copies of the Birth Certificate and Family page and ask them complete them to the best of their knowledge. They can take the worksheets home to ask family members for help completing any missing information.
Part II — Who I Am Today
Explain to students that family is composed of people living together and functioning as a unit. Ask students to complete the Friends and Folks in My Neighborhood worksheets. Using the Family and other related worksheets as reference, students will write and describe their neighborhoods and significant relationships with family, friends, teachers or community members as a way to write about and define how these people have impacted and influenced who they are today.
Part III — Preparing for the Future
Ask students to complete the Scenario, Things I Like to Do and Want Ads worksheets. Explain that a scenario is an account or synopsis of a projected course of action or events. Ask them to make projections for and write about various stages of their lives, e.g., 10, 20 or 50 years from now, etc.
Part IV — The Final Product
Students will use the three written parts to complete the final draft of their autobiography. This piece will be peer reviewed and teacher reviewed before publishing. The timeline and scrapbook pieces can be used to support their writing.
Use worksheets as guide to complete a visual timeline about important events their lives. Students choose "firsts" events to use on their timelines, such as: my first birthday, Christmas, first day of school, first haircut, visit to the dentist, first night away from home, etc. Use worksheets to make autobiographical scrapbooks.
Students are encouraged to talk to their parents and family members about their writing. They can discuss important events in their childhoods such as, the day they were born, learning to walk and talk, funny things they use to do, etc. After students complete their information gathering, they can work on their autobiographical timelines and scrapbooks.
- Brainstorm a list of possible writing ideas/topics to provide focus for writing stories with more details.
- Use worksheets and ten-minute sessions of directed writing for students having difficulty beginning their writing
- Write first draft
- Revise first drafts through peer conferences
- Edit revised work through teacher conferences
- Share final drafts
- Did students understand and follow the writing process?
- Did students enjoy thinking about their personal lives, families, and goals for the future?
- Did writing an autobiography change their thinking about their future goals?
- Books for Teaching Successful Autobiography Writing by Elizabeth Ramos
- Website for Timeline: http://www.ourtimelines.com
Ask students to find a partner to read and respectfully critique their writing using the following criteria:
- Is this story in good order? Are the events in sequence?
- How are the paragraphs? Are all the ideas about one subject/event grouped together?
- Does this story have a good beginning, middle, and end? Which parts, if any, need more information?
- Are there any parts of this story that could be left out? Why?
- Does this story have well-structured sentences? Which need more work?
- Are there grammar mistakes?
- Are there spelling mistakes?
- Does this writing make you feel any particular way? Why?
- What parts of this story are you able to visualize?
- What did you like best about this story?