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Lesson Plan

Bio-graph: Graphing Life Events

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Bio-graph: Graphing Life Events

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Susan Spangler

Susan Spangler

Fredonia, New York


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



This lesson combines the precision of a graph with the subject matter of personal experience. Students interview others in an attempt to choose life events that hold significance for them and then use a rating system to communicate their importance to others. Students first interview another student and make a list of the most important events in their life. They then choose ten events, rating each one from extremely negative to extremely positive. Students next use an online tool to create a visual representation of the information. Students then select two events from the graph and write short descriptions of the events. Finally, they choose one of these descriptions to develop into a biographical piece. The graph can continue to inspire writing for personal narratives and essays, and the lesson can be a resource for writing ideas that the students come back to repeatedly throughout the school year.

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Graphic Map: Using the Graphic Map online tool, students chart the high and low points related to a particular item or group of items, such as events during a day, chapters in a book, or events in a person's life.

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Donald Graves said that to teach writing well, teachers should know at least five details about the lives and interests of each child they teach. This lesson helps teachers do that, and it also helps students get to know each other. In this lesson, students also employ multiple intelligences when they use graphs to express their feelings about the incidents they will write about.

Further Reading

Anderson, Carl. 2000. How's It Going: A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Gazin, Ann. "Reading and Writing Workshop: Focus on Autobiography." Instructor 109.5 (Jan/Feb 2000): 47-52.


Holmes, Leigh H. "Linkages of Nonfiction and Selfhood: The Places of Personal Essays." English Journal 91.4 (March 2002): 64-68.


Leggo, Carl. "The Story Always Ends with Etc.: Autobiography and Poetry." English Quarterly 29.3-4 (1997): 67-86.

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