Mini Autobiography Assignment

Posted on by Shar
  • Writing paper
  • Pencils
  • Life Map Checklist printable
  • Strips of paper with questions typed or written from the Life Map Checklist
  • Colored pencils
  • 8 ½ x 11 white unlined paper, at least one sheet per student
  • Erasers
  • 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
  • Optional: Black ink pens
  1. 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.
  2. Create your own Life Map and make enough copies so that each student has one. If possible, scan or make a transparency of your Life Map to assist in the modeling of the lesson.
  3. Make a class set of the Life Map Checklist printable.
  4. If students will be sharing colored pencils, arrange desks so that an assortment of colors can be placed in the center where students are seated.
  5. Write the following writing prompts on the whiteboard or project it from your computer:


    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

  6. Create several strips of paper with questions from the Life Map Checklist printable: "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.

Day 1

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.

Prompt: 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.

Day 2

Step 7: Reviewing the concept taught the previous day, ask the students to respond to a journal prompt with one single drawing.

Prompt: 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.

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 down their parents' responses.

Writing Prompts:

  1. Project yourself twenty years into the future. What do you predict you are doing?
  2. 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.

  1. Create a Life Map.
  2. Complete a Life Map Checklist.
  3. Write using three journal prompts.

Were the students able to complete pictograms from their Life Map Checklist?

  1. Review autobiographies that would be of interest to your students.
  2. Make class sets of the following worksheets, which will help students generate ideas and support their writing:
  • Birth Certificate Worksheet
  • My Family Writing Prompt
  • A Friend Writing Prompt
  • The Folks in My Neighborhood Worksheet
  • Imagining Future Scenarios Worksheet
  • My Favorite Daydream Writing Prompt
  • Want Ads for the Future Worksheet
  • Rules for Living Worksheet
  • Things I Like to Do Worksheet

Optional: If you want students to use the Timeline Graphic Organizer to outline their autobiography, make a class set of this printable as well.

Part One: Learning From Our Pasts

Step 1: Explain the meaning and purpose of writing an autobiography. If time allows, read aloud an autobiography or have students choose autobiographies to read on their own. Discuss what devices authors use to make the stories compelling.

Step 2: 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.

Step 3: Hand out copies of the Birth Certificate Worksheet and the My Family Writing Prompt. Ask students to 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 Two: Who I Am Today

Step 4: Discuss with students that family is important to shaping character, but individuals can also be influenced by people who aren't related to them. Ask students to complete A Friend Writing Prompt and The Folks in My Neighborhood Worksheet.

Step 5: Using their responses to the writing prompts and worksheets completed so far, 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 Three: Preparing for the Future

Step 6: Explain that a scenario is an account or synopsis of a projected course of action or events. Ask students to make projections for the future and write about various stages of their lives (e.g. 10, 20, or 50 years from now) by completing the following:

  • Imagining Future Scenarios Worksheet
  • My Favorite Daydream Writing Prompt
  • Want Ads for the Future Worksheet
  • Rules for Living Worksheet
  • Things I Like to Do Worksheet

Optional: Students will be writing autobiographies using the worksheets and writing prompts completed throughout the lesson. If you have the time, have students compile the worksheets and decorate them with illustrations to create scrapbooks of their lives. The scrapbooks may help students organize their writing in the next step.

Part Four: The Final Product

Step 7: Explain to the class that they will use their completed worksheets and writing prompt responses to complete the final draft of their autobiography. This piece will be peer reviewed and teacher reviewed before publishing. The time line and scrapbook pieces can be used to support their writing. Outline the following writing process for students who need more guidance:

  1. Brainstorm a list of possible writing ideas and topics to provide focus for writing stories with more details
  2. Use worksheets and ten-minute sessions of directed writing for students having difficulty beginning their writing
  3. Write first draft
  4. Revise first drafts through peer conferences
  5. Edit revised work through teacher conferences
  6. Share final drafts

Have students use the worksheets as guides to complete a visual time line about important events their lives. They can choose "firsts" events to use on their time lines, such as a first birthday, first day of school, first haircut, first visit to the dentist, first night away from home, etc. Students can also use the 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.

Ask students to find a partner to read and respectfully critique their writing using the following criteria:

  1. Is this story in good order? Are the events in sequence?
  2. How are the paragraphs? Are all the ideas about one subject or event grouped together?
  3. Does this story have a good beginning, middle, and end? Which parts, if any, need more information?
  4. Are there any parts of this story that could be left out? Why?
  5. Does this story have well-structured sentences? Which need more work?
  6. Are there grammar mistakes?
  7. Are there spelling mistakes?
  8. Does this writing make you feel any particular way? Why?
  9. What parts of this story are you able to visualize?
  10. What did you like best about this story?

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