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“Guess what I did?” Anyone who spends time around children is bound to hear this question a lot. You can channel children’s fondness for talking about themselves into a creative project by helping them write an autobiography. They’ll have fun while learning valuable skills: forming words and sentences, writing for purpose, and retelling events in order.
- You’ll need three photos that the child chooses. These preferably will be from different times in the child’s life, i.e., photos of the child as a baby, in preschool, and now. You’ll also need paper and writing supplies, tape or glue, construction paper, coloring supplies, one printout of the first page of My Autobiography (Planning My Story) and three copies of the second page (Telling My Story).
- Start with the photos. Talk about what order they would go in if they were in a book. Number the photos on the back and line them up in order.
- Ask the child about who is in the photos and what is happening. Have the child write sentences describing the pictures in the spaces provided for each photo on the planning page. Remind the child to write in first person and encourage him or her to sound out words. Don’t worry about spelling. This will free the child to use bigger words. Afterward, you can write the correct spellings under misspelled words. Do the writing for children who haven’t learned that skill.
- Attach the photos to the Telling My Story pages with tape or glue. Review the planning pages and help the child decide which sentences tell the story the best. You might ask which sentences have the most descriptive words or which sentences are the most fun to read. Help the child write them below the corresponding photos. Have the child make the book’s cover using construction paper and coloring supplies. Staple or tie the pages together in order.
- Encourage children to make thank-you notes or cards for special occasions, such as birthdays and holidays. Fold a piece of construction paper in half. Have them draw a picture on the front and write their message on the inside. Ask children who don’t know how to write what they want to say and then write it for them.
- If your family or group has a blog or online photo album, help the children write blog entries or photo captions. The activity will help them learn to write descriptively and enhance their computer skills.
- Help an older child (7 or 8) create an illustrated journal or diary. Let the child pick out a notebook from the store. Encourage the child to write and color in it on a regular basis. Entries can describe and illustrate things that happened to them at home, in school, or around the neighborhood and how those things made the child feel. For inspiration, check out the book Amelia’s Notebook by Marissa Moss.