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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


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • interview each other to determine significant life events.

  • reflect on significant events in their lives and consider their influence.

  • graphically represent important life events.

  • describe these events and explain their importance through writing.

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Session One

  1. Have students work in pairs to interview other students whom they do not know well. These interviews may last 30 minutes or longer.

  2. Ask students to listen for significant life events that they can later incorporate into biographical pieces on the student they interview. Emphasize that detail is important at this stage.

  3. Have students use the Possible Interview Questions handout as a guide for the interviews, but prompt them to follow up on interesting answers with probing questions.

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Session Two

  1. Ask students to make a list of the most important/influential events in their partner’s life so far. These can be happy, sad, or even traumatic times. Encourage students to concentrate on variety. Along with each event, have students list the year that the event occurred.

  2. Have the students choose 10 of the events and give each one a rating from –3 (extremely negative) to +3 (extremely positive).

  3. Next, have students use the Graphic Map to create a visual representation of the information. Demonstrate the process that students should follow as they graph the information:

    1. Enter a title and names on the first screen.

    2. Click the Next link at the top right of the screen.

    3. Select Other on screen 2, and type an appropriate label, such as “life events.”

    4. Click the Next link at the top right of the screen.

    5. On the next screen, select the “3, 2, 1/ –1, –2, –3” option for rating events.

    6. Click the Next link at the top right of the screen.

    7. On the subsequent screens, describe each of the 10 events they selected in step 2 of the session.

    8. Select a picture to represent the event, and select the appropriate rating (–3 to +3).

  4. (Alternative option) If you do not have access to the Internet in your classroom or a computer lab, follow this procedure instead:

    1. Give each student a piece of graph paper, and have them graph the 10 events, with the rating going on the vertical axis and the year going on the horizontal axis.

    2. Students should join the 10 dots with straight lines.

    3. Have students transfer the rough graph onto construction paper.

    4. Beside each graphed event, have students write a short description and add illustrations.

  5. When the graph is finished, have each student confer with the interview partner and choose two of the events to write about.

  6. Have students write short descriptions of those events (about one paragraph) and describe how those events have been influential in their partner’s life. Students may need to get additional information in order to expand on the incident for a lengthier piece in session three.

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Session Three

  1. Have students expand on one of the descriptions they wrote during Session Two.

  2. Emphasize that students should be sure to describe how the event they write about has influenced the lives of their partners, using information they gathered during the interview process.

  3. If necessary, have students can continue their writing at home. Indicate that students should have finished drafts of their descriptions at the beginning of the next session.

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Session Four

  1. After students have finished their biographical pieces, they should exchange them with their partners for peer review.

  2. Have each student use the Partner Checklist handout to assess their partner’s draft for accuracy, mood, and significance.

  3. Emphasize that students should offer specific suggestions for improvement.

  4. During the remaining class time, have students begin the process of revising their work, using the Partner Checklist as a guide. Additional peer review can be added to create polished pieces for portfolios.

  5. Ask students to submit their work at the beginning of the next class session.

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  • If computers and the appropriate software are available,students can use Microsoft Excel to graph the events. Students could also use the Timeline Tool, adding a rating to each event’s description. Students should save the graph or timeline and list of events so that they have ready ideas throughout the rest of the school year.

  • As a book report alternative, students can create bio-graphs for specific literary characters and plot events.

  • Biographies of famous people (politicians, entertainers, sports figures) are available on the Academy of Achievement Website. Students could complete a bio-graph of a famous person from history, entertainment, sports, or popular culture.

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  1. Students will obviously be reflecting on how the chosen events have influenced the lives of their partners through writing. They could also reflect on the effect that the graph had on their perceptions of the events. Did making a graph of the life events show them a pattern of incidents? For the partner, did seeing the events on a graph made by someone else change their perception of the incidents? Did the graphing partner rate the event the same way the other partner would have?

  2. Students will also have a chance to reflect on their partner’s piece during drafting. Ask them to consider whether the partners effectively captured the feelings they had about the event. If not, they should suggest revisions during drafting for a more accurate result. Writers can also reflect on how the graphing affected their writing process and the difficulty (or ease) of recounting someone else’s life events in interesting and appropriate ways.

  3. In assessing this piece, use the Bio-graph Rubric to consider drafting processes (including interviewing and graphing), the finished piece, and student reflections on their writing.



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