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Lesson Plan

The Year I Was Born: An Autobiographical Research Project

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The Year I Was Born: An Autobiographical Research Project

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

Patricia Schulze

Yankton, South Dakota


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Sessions Two and Three

Session Four

Session Five

Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will:

  • conduct research, using a variety of resources including personal interviews, primary documents, and online research.
  • evaluate resources to find those best for the project.
  • demonstrate an understanding of point of view by adopting the voice of a family member or another adult.
  • write an autobiographical research paper.

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Session One

  1. Hand out the Year I Was Born Research Project and the Research Paper Rubric.
  2. Share the details of the activity with the handouts then share the sample paper.
  3. If you desire, share additional examples online.
  4. Discuss the  strategies that students will use, brainstorming sample interview questions and ways that students can use library and online resources.
  5. Help students choose their storyteller by providing a variety of options and examples.
  6. Students should interview others about the first year of their life. Many students will be able to interview their family about their birth and first year of life as well as look through family photographs, their baby books, and so forth. It is inevitable, however, that you will have one or more students who will not have this kind of family information due to divorce, being adopted later in life, being a ward of the state, or in the case of one of my students, a house fire. Make exceptions for these students and talk about the exceptions in class to be sure that all students are included, suggesting they interview anyone who might know some of their history, or skip the interview part entirely and have them do their project using just their research. Students can also write from a fictional point of view, for example, taking the persona of a reporter writing a special report about the year with their birth taking a prominent place. If they have no older siblings, the story can be told from the perspective of a household pet that was in the family before them.
  7. If desirable, change the assignment to a slightly different focus, to fit more of your students' experiences. For instance, students might research and write about "The Year I Was Adopted," "My First Year of School," or "The Year We Moved." You may wish to provide some guidelines, such as the event explored should have happened at least 5 years ago.

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Sessions Two and Three

  1. Arrange for library and online research time, where students can consult periodicals such as Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report for the month and year they were born.
  2. Remind students that their research might include commercials, slogans, births, deaths, sports news, movies, books, plays, music, financial, national news, international news, religious events, music, TV shows, and local news.
  3. Have students search for their birth date on the Internet. Many of these sites give information for their birth date throughout history. To narrow to the year they were born, choose only those events that occurred in their birth year.
  4. Pass out the Links to Websites handout and the Research Form for students to use during their research.
  5. Remind students to record all of their information from their interviews and research on the Research Form, including the information needed to prepare a Works Cited page.
  6. Point students to their class textbook or the Landmarks Citation Machine Website for information on MLA format.
  7. While students work, monitor their progress, offering feedback and assistance as needed.

NOTE: While the goal of this lesson is not to explicitly teach research strategies, you may wish to have students include in-text citations in their written projects, in addition to a Works Cited page.  This could be used as an extension or an addition for students who are more advanced and require a challenge.

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Session Four

  1. After students have completed their research, discuss organization of the paper.

  2. If desired, use the Sample Paper to outline the order that details are included in. Typically, these stories are told in chronological order.

  3. To begin the organization of their papers, ask students to arrange their completed Research Forms in chronological order.

  4. Using the ordered forms, ask students to create a rough outline for their stories.

  5. Divide students into small groups, and ask them to share the basic details of their research and their outlines with each other.

  6. Share three questions to guide group feedback on each outline:

    • What is the most surprising thing about the writer's research and outline?

    • What did you like the most about the writer's plan?

    • What question do you have about the research and outline?
  7. At the end of the session, remind students of the specific requirements of the assignment, pointing to the Rubric for more information.

  8. Ask students to use the feedback, their research, and their outlines to write their papers for homework. Ideally, students should complete the work in a word processor and bring the file on a disk to the next session.

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Session Five

  1. Answer any questions that students have after writing their papers.

  2. Demonstrate the Printing Press, showing students the formats available and pointing out those best for the assignment (probably the first newspaper layout or one of the booklet layouts). Alternatively, a newspaper, brochure, or booklet can be created in Microsoft Publisher or a word processor, instead of using the Printing Press.

  3. Demonstrate how to copy the document from the word processor file and paste it into format template. If copy and paste doesn't work, students can type their mini research paper directly into the template.

  4. Remind students to include a Works Cited page at the end of their document.

  5. Copy and paste your photograph into the template.

  6. Print out document.

  7. If desired, students can add photos or other images to the booklets or newspapers.

  8. If time allows, students can share their stories in small groups or with the full class before submitting them.

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  • Using the Self-Reflection questions, ask students to think about the steps they took as they worked on this assignment—what they had problems with, how they worked out their problems, and how they feel about their final project.

  • Use the Research Paper Rubric to evaluate students’ work on the paper itself.

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