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Lesson Plan

Telling a Story About Me: Young Children Write Autobiographies

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Grades K – 2
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Six 45- to 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Melissa Weimer

Waterford, Michigan


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Session 4

Session 5

Session 6


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Engage their families in the learning process by working at home to select photographs that represent aspects of their lives

  • Formulate ideas for an autobiography by working collaboratively and independently

  • Practice their writing skills by composing sentences in the first person using themselves as subject matter and revising the composed sentences into a story

  • Participate in a literacy community by reading their stories aloud in small groups

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Session 1

1. Read the book You Have to Write by Janet S. Wong aloud to the class. During preselected points during the reading, you may wish to stop and ask questions aimed at getting students to think about how they might use the suggestions in the book to come up with their own story ideas. There are no page numbers in this book, but two good places to stop include the page spreads with many small pictures on them.

2. After reading the book, ask students to share some ideas they could write about from their own lives. You might record these on a piece of chart paper or on the blackboard.

3. Tell students that they are going to begin work on a project to write stories about themselves and their lives. Explain that a story about a person, written by that person, is called an autobiography.

4. Remind students of the photos they have brought in from home and tell them that they will use these photos to give them ideas for their autobiographies. Share some photographs of yourself. Model the discussion you want them to have in their small groups by talking about what is happening in each photo and why it is important to you. For example:

  • "In this photograph I am _______."

  • "One thing I like about this photograph is _______."

  • "This photograph was taken _______." (Provide both time and place)

  • "_______ are in this photograph." (Talk about the people or things that are in the picture)

  • "I picked this photograph because _______."
If you think it would be helpful, you might also write these prompts on the board, a sheet of chart paper, or a transparency for students to refer to during their discussions.

5. Divide the class up into small groups of four to five students each. Record the grouping of the students so they may return to these same groups for the remaining sessions and continue to work together. If this is a new activity for them, explain the expectations—they will speak quietly, demonstrate respect for other speakers by listening carefully, and not comment until the speaker is finished.

6. Give each student three or four minutes to share the photographs from home with another student in his or her group. Students may refer to the An Autobiography: Information About My Photos sheet, completed previously at home, to help them talk about their pictures.

7. Bring students back together and talk about how the things they said about their pictures can serve as first ideas for their autobiographies. On a large sheet of paper or a transparency, complete An Autobiography: Ideas for My Story sheet for your own story, acting as a model for the students. Try to write the same kinds of things they would, for example:

  • "When I was a baby, I loved my teddy bear."

  • "Last winter I went skiing."

  • "My family likes to go to the beach in the summer."

  • "My dog and I go running in the park."
8. Pass out the idea sheet to students, and give them 10 to 15 minutes to write or draw ideas. They should have at least one idea for each photo and can use their An Autobiography: Information About My Photos sheet as a reference.

9. Have students place their writing and photos in their project folders. Collect and review the folders to make sure that each student has listed ideas on his or her idea sheet. You might make comments or suggestions on these sheets to help students as they move into the planning stage.

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Session 2

1. Begin by having students review their An Autobiography: Ideas for My Story sheets from Session 1 along with their photographs.

2. Encourage them to add one additional thought to their idea sheet, maybe a detail that they forgot the last time.

3. Have students get into their small groups from Session 1. Explain to them that they will be sharing their ideas and getting suggestions or responses from other members of the group.

4. Allow one or two minutes for each student to share with the group thoughts from his or her idea sheet. Each student in the group should then offer at least one suggestion or comment.

5. Tell students to record any additional thoughts they have as they share their ideas and listen to the comments and suggestions from their classmates.

6. Bring the class back together to talk about writing their stories. Emphasize that because they are writing autobiographies the stories need to be about themselves. Tell them that sentences will be written in the first person, and give them some examples: "My favorite things to eat are French fries and spaghetti." "When I was a baby I liked to rock with my mommy."

7. Have students generate some sentences about themselves in the first person and record them on chart paper. Keep the chart in a visible location to use as a reference for the remainder of the project.

8. Using a transparency or chart paper demonstrate how to use the An Autobiography: Planning My Story sheet. You should use your photographs and the ideas from your idea sheet. Remember to write your sentences in the first person and to focus on the subject matter of each particular photo. For example:

  • "When I was a baby I loved my teddy bear. He came everywhere with me. In this picture, I am sleeping with him on a blanket in the backyard."

  • "My family likes to go to the beach in the summer. In this picture we are all doing handstands in the water. I got salt water up my nose."
It may be helpful for students to sketch a drawing of the photo or record a title to help them remember which photo they are working on in the corresponding box.

9. Pass out the An Autobiography: Planning My Story sheet to students, and have them work on planning out their stories, keeping their photographs and idea sheets in front of them as they work. While students are working you should circulate throughout the room, providing support as needed.

10. Students should save all work in their project folders. Collect and review the folders to check students' composition of sentences. In addition to making sure that students have written more than one sentence for each photograph, check to make sure that sentence are written in the first person and that they relate to the subject of the pictures. Offer students feedback.

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Session 3

1. Begin by having students review their An Autobiography: Planning My Story sheets, making revisions or additions if they choose.

2. Get out the planning sheet you created either on chart paper or a transparency during Session 2. Tell students that part of the writing process is making choices about which of the sentences they have written in the planning stages they will use in the final version. Select some sentences you will use for one photograph and then ask students to help you with the other three. Highlight or circle the ones you pick as you go along.

3. Have students choose sentences they would like to use in their own autobiographies. They can highlight or circle the sentences they choose.

4. Students should save all work in their project folders.

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Session 4

1. Using chart paper or transparencies, share with students a couple of the pages you have completed for your autobiography. Remember to stress that they should be writing in the first person and that their writing should focus on the subject matter of the photograph. Distribute four copies of the autobiography page to each student.

2. For each page of the autobiography, each student should:

  • Affix the photograph he or she will be using with tape or glue

  • Write the selected sentences from his or her planning sheet that correspond to the photograph

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Session 5

1. Any students who have not completed their autobiography pages should do so. (Note: If you need to, add another session for students to complete this work.)

2. Explain what a dedication page is–the place where the author of a book thanks the people who have helped him or her to write it. Read aloud the dedication page from You Have to Write and some other books in the classroom. Talk about how some are general and some are specific. Show them the dedication page from your autobiography and discuss why you have chosen to dedicate the book as you have.

3. Distribute the dedication page and give students time to fill it out, circulating and supporting them as necessary. Tell students they are welcome to add a picture of the person to whom the book is dedicated if they like.

4. Talk about what they usually see on the cover of a book–the title, the author's name, and a photograph or illustration. You might bring in some autobiographies or biographies to use as examples. You can also show them the cover you have created for your own autobiography.

5. Distribute a cover sheet to each student. Have them create covers for their autobiographies. Give them time to draw a self-portrait or other picture to decorate the cover.

6. Have students place all completed work in their folders.

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Session 6

1. Tell students that they will now turn their autobiographies into books. Have your own autobiography ready for binding to show students how they can bind their pages into books.

Easy bookbinding technique:

  • Place the covers and all the pages for the book in sheet protectors. You can also photocopy the pages onto cardstock before putting them into the sheet protectors.

  • Put the pages in the correct order and bind them together through the holes of the sheet protectors using any of the following: yarn, string, ribbon, o-rings, plastic cord ties, or pipe cleaners.

  • The tops of the sheet protectors may be sealed using transparent tape.
It might be helpful to have an additional adult or two assist during this project. Encourage volunteers from the students' families to help out.

2. Once the books are bound, have students get into their small groups where they can take turns reading aloud their autobiographies.

3. Bring students together for a group discussion about the project, focusing on what they have learned and how they feel about it. Questions you might ask include:

  • What will you do with your autobiography?

  • Who else would you like to share your autobiography with?

  • What did you like best about writing your autobiography?

  • What do you think it will be like to read your autobiography when you are a grown-up?

  • What is one thing you learned about yourself?

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  • Invite families to school to share the published autobiographies of the students.

  • Further develop students' autobiographical writing skills by using the Stapleless Book or the online ReadWriteThink Printing Press to have them write more about their lives.

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Throughout this lesson, you may use the Assessment Guide to document observations of students in each of the five areas found in the lesson objectives: family participation, collaborative work, independent work, writing sentences, and reading aloud. There is also space to record other notes and observations.

Some questions to ask when using the Assessment Guide include:

  • Family Participation–How much did the family participate in this project? Did they send in appropriate photographs and complete the work that needed to be done at home? Was the work done when requested?

  • Collaborative Work–How did the student collaborate with his or her peers? Did he or she make appropriate suggestions? How did he or she accept suggestions about his or her own work?

  • Independent Work–How did the student work independently during the project? Did he or she follow directions? How well did he or she stay on task when working independently?

  • Writing Sentences–How did the student do at composing and writing sentences for the autobiography? Are the sentences on topic with the photographs? Are the sentences grammatically correct? What resources did he or she use to spell and write words (asking a peer, asking a teacher, the word wall, the dictionary, or using phonetic spelling)?

  • Reading Aloud–How did the student do when reading the autobiography aloud? Could he or she read it independently or was assistance needed? How was the fluency of reading aloud?


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