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Lesson Plan

Writers' Workshop: The Biographical Sketch

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Six 30- to 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa L. Owens

Lisa L. Owens

Issaquah, Washington


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology

Student Interactives






  • Computers with Internet access

  • Blank transparency and markers

  • Overhead projector

  • Scissors and writing supplies (e.g., pencils, notebook paper, heavier paper for Bio-Cubes)

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Bio Cube

Grades   3 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

Bio Cube

Bio Cube is a useful summarizing tool that helps students identify and list key elements about a person for a biography or autobiography.


Cube Creator

Grades   3 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

Cube Creator

The interactive Cube Creator helps students identify and summarize key elements. It can be used as a prewriting or postreading activity.


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1. Depending on the past experiences and knowledge of your students, you may want to conduct a biography unit in a reader's workshop before beginning this lesson to explore the definition and elements of a biography. The Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site provides a collection of thematic resources for integrating children's literature into a variety of curriculum areas, including Biographies and Memoirs. Several biographies for children are highlighted, along with suggested activities, role-playing, and discussion groups.

2. Visit and familiarize yourself with the Bio-Cube tool. (You will need the most recent version of the free Flash plug-in to use this tool. You can download plug-ins from the Site Tools page.) Bookmark the Bio-Cube tool on the computers students will be using so that it can be easily accessed. If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, reserve a session in your school's computer lab (see Session 2).  

3. Create your own Bio-Cube. Be sure to use a biography you will not be assigning to students. Note that you will use this sample Bio-Cube in Sessions 2 and 3 as you guide students in using the online tool and also as you model writing a brief biographical sketch.

4. Bookmark the biographical websites listed in the Resources section for students to use when researching their biography subjects. Be sure to familiarize yourself with each site (and any other similar biography sites you choose) so that you can guide students effectively in their research.

5. Explore the biographical sketches at the Writing with Writers: Biography website. Select one or two age-appropriate sketches for your students to review online. You may prefer instead to print your selections and make copies to share with students.

6. Print the Writers' Workshop: Biographical Sketch Sign-Up Sheet and post it on a classroom wall or bulletin board to track the biography subjects students select.

7. Photocopy the Writers' Workshop: List of Possible Subjects, the Writers' Workshop: Biographical Sketch Rubric, the Writers' Workshop: Proofreading and Publishing Checklist, and the Writers' Workshop: Performance Assessment for use in class. You may also want to make overhead transparencies of these handouts for discussion purposes.

8. Consider creating a class writers' workshop banner to display during the lesson to foster students' enthusiasm.

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