Standard Lesson

BioBags: Linking Literature and Life

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five 30- to 40-minute sessions
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A BioBag is a kind of literature autobiography, a collection of written works that represent memories or milestones in a person's life. The texts might include books, letters, diaries, recipes, and so on, all representing various aspects of a life story. In this lesson, the teacher starts by sharing his or her own BioBag with the class. Next, students visit a website to learn about several children's authors and the texts that inspired them. Then students interview one another about the texts that have been important in their lives. Finally, students put together their own BioBags and present them to the class.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • The Literature Autobiography Bags (BioBags) described could include any text that is significant to students from books to letters to greeting cards.

  • Literature can evoke strong emotions in students and allow them to get to know each other in a different way.

  • BioBags can introduce students to a variety of literature and can encourage them to read a particular title because a classmate loved it.

  • BioBags are enjoyable for students from elementary grades through university.


Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Computers with Internet access

  • Overhead projector

  • Several small tables (or desks) for displaying students' BioBags




1. Using the BioBag Assignment sheet as a guide, prepare your own BioBag to share with your students. Include a variety of literature, such as a book you loved as a child, a letter from someone important, a special recipe, songs or poems, travel brochures, or a diary or journal. The idea is to assemble a collection of texts that have significance for your life.

2. Make a copy for each student of the BioBag Assignment sheet and BioBag Rubric for use in Session 1.

3. Access and become familiar with the Reading Rockets: Video Interviews. Bookmark the site on the computers students will use in Session 2. Note: To see the video interviews you will need RealOne Player or Windows Media Player installed on your computer. Most computers already have one of these installed, but if not, you can download RealOne Player or Windows Media Player free of charge.

4. Assemble a collection of books written by the authors featured in the video interviews using the Video Interviews Booklist (or other titles by these authors available in your school or public library).

5. Make a copy for each student of the Video Interviews Worksheet. Also make an overhead transparency of the worksheet for use in Session 2.

6. Reserve a 30- to 40-minute computer lab session for Session 2. In the computer lab, students can work independently to navigate through the Reading Rockets website and listen to all seven interviews. To cut down on noise, it may be helpful for students to use headphones while listening to the interviews. Note: If you do not have a lab with a computer for each student, you can use several classroom computers for the Reading Rockets activity. Assign times during the day for all students to listen to all seven interviews (they can work independently or in pairs). In this case it may take you longer to finish Session 2. If you have only one computer in your classroom, you can conduct Session 2 as a whole-class activity using a data projector.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Evaluate the role of texts in their lives

  • Revisit literature that holds special significance for them

  • Be introduced to literature that has been important to their classmates

  • Be introduced to literature that inspired various children's authors

  • Enhance technology skills by using the Internet to learn about authors and the texts that inspired their lives

  • Improve communication skills by presenting their BioBag projects to the class

Session 1: Introduction of BioBags

1. Before students enter the room in the morning, place your BioBag in the front of the room where all of the students will notice it. You might even want to put a sign on it that asks, "What is inside the bag?" to further build anticipation and curiosity.

2. When it is time to present your BioBag, gather your students and ask them to predict what might be in the bag. After students have made their guesses, tell them that you are going to share your "literature autobiography." (If your students are unfamiliar with autobiographies briefly explain that an autobiography is a life story.) In this case you are going to share different written works that represent and help to describe special memories in your life.

3. Present your BioBag, making sure to share the items in chronological order.

4. After your presentation, display the literature from your BioBag and allow students to browse through the texts and ask questions.

5. Explain to students that they will be assembling and presenting their own BioBags. Distribute copies of the BioBag Assignment sheet and the BioBag Rubric you will be using to assess students' BioBags, and read through these handouts as a class. Make sure that all students understand their homework assignment and the expectations for the project. Note: Be aware of students who may not have access to a variety of literature at home. You might suggest that they

  • find copies of favorite books in the classroom or library

  • draw pictures of favorite books if they no longer have them

Session 2: Author Research

1. Display the books you have collected by the seven authors on the Video Interview Booklist (see Preparation, Step 4). Explain to students that in this session they will be watching Reading Rockets: Video Interviews with children's book authors to find out what literature inspired these authors.

2. Tell students that because they may not be familiar with all of the authors on the videos you are going to give them time to browse through books by each of these authors. Ask students to try to look at at least one book by each author.

3. Give students 15 to 20 minutes to browse through the various books. Students can work independently or in pairs (this may depend on how many books you were able to locate).

4. Once students have had an opportunity to browse through the books, ask students to share books or authors that interested them.

5. Hand out the Video Interviews Worksheet and demonstrate how to navigate through the Reading Rockets: Video Interviews site. Select an author and then find the video segment named on the handout. Ask students to listen to the entire segment before writing down their answers.

6. If you are using a computer lab, assign each student a computer to work on, as students will be working independently. Remind students to use headphones to hear the interviews more clearly. Monitor students while they are working on the computers. If students finish early, challenge them to select other authors on the Reading Rockets site and listen to their video interviews.

7. After students have had adequate time to listen to all seven video interviews and record their findings, gather as a class to share the results. Display the transparency of the Video Interviews Worksheet and write students' findings in Column 3 under the heading Texts That Inspired the Author.

8. Ask students who had time to listen to extra video interviews to share any interesting information they learned.

Session 3: Student Interviews

1. Gather students together and explain that they are going to interview one another about the texts that have been important in their lives. Tell students that their BioBags can include texts other than books, and this interview can help them think of all the different kinds of texts they can use. Note: This activity may be especially important for students who do not have many books at home.

2. Pass out the BioBag Interview. Choose a student to role-play an interview with you. Model how to ask questions and take notes on the Interview sheet. Go through two or three questions for the class.

3. Have students work in pairs to conduct BioBag Interviews. Depending on your class you can either allow students to choose their partners or assign partners. While students are interviewing one another, look for opportunities to praise skills such as asking questions clearly, listening attentively, taking good notes, and staying on task. Also monitor students and offer support in reading questions and writing answers if needed.

4. When everyone has completed the interview, ask students to reconvene, this time sitting beside their partners. Discuss the interviews, asking students to share

  • two things they learned about the person they interviewed

  • a text they have now decided to add to their BioBag

  • something surprising they discovered about their partner or about themselves

  • a personal memory sparked by the interview

Sessions 4 and 5: Presentation of BioBags

Depending on the number of students in your class, additional sessions may be required to present the BioBags. Three presentations plus intermission should take about 30 minutes.

1. Write each student's name on a small piece of paper and draw names to decide the presentation order. Write the order in a place where everyone can see it.

2. At the front of the room set up three small tables or desks and have three students at a time set up their BioBag display. Then give each student 5 to 10 minutes to describe the pieces in his or her BioBag.

3. After three students have presented, take a 5- to 10-minute intermission to provide an opportunity for the other students to visit the display tables and ask further questions of the presenters. Then continue with the next three presentations and so on until each student has presented.

4. After everyone has presented, meet together as a class to reflect on the BioBag experience. For example, ask students to share

  • their favorite part of the experience

  • the most challenging part

  • something that was surprising

  • something from another student's presentation that interested them


  • Have students record their BioBag stories in the Stapleless Book. Each page can be devoted to one item from the BioBag, with an explanation of why the student chose that item.

  • Invite parents and other school faculty to assemble BioBags and share them with your class.

  • Have students conduct a BioBag Interview with a family member or friend, and then write a brief "literature biography" of that person.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Use the BioBag Rubric to assess the BioBags and BioBag presentations.

  • Use the whole-group discussion (see Session 4) as a time for student reflection on the BioBag experience.

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