Writing and Assessing an Autobiographical Incident

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Ten 45-minute sessions
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Students read and discuss several biographies and autobiographies. They analyze two autobiographical incidents, identifying the structure, organization, and style of the pieces. After talking with family members and brainstorming possible topics, students select a focus for their autobiographical incident and use an online tool to organize the events in chronological order. Students then draft their autobiographical incident and complete the writing process by conferencing, revising, editing, publishing, and sharing with the class. They assess their writing with a rubric.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

By asking students to explore important events in their own lives and to share those personal memories with the classroom community, this lesson addresses several important points from NCTE and IRA's Standards for the English Language Arts. Standards states: "When students explore the connections between voice and audience, purpose and form, they become more versatile and confident in the choices they make as language users" (34). Sharing personal stories is also an excellent way to build classroom community. Standards addresses the importance of classroom community: "The concept of the literacy community emphasizes the collaborative nature of much language learning. Whether students' participation in a given community is face-to-face or technologically mediated, it is an essential part of their coming to view themselves as effective language users" (45). Standards also addresses the benefits of incorporating students' own experiences into their writing: "...[S]tudents need frequent opportunities to write about different topics and for different audiences and purposes. Their own experiences, enriched by their readings and discussions with others in and out of school, are important resources for writing" (35).

Further Reading

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

  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 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

  • General classroom supplies (writing paper, pencils, pens and so forth)

  • Computer and printer 

  • Overhead projector



  • Expose students to a variety of biographies and autobiographies.

  • Have the students interview family members or discuss family conversations and memories.

  • Test the Interactive Timeline or Graphic Map on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • read various genres of literature.

  • apply events in nonfiction to personal experiences.
  • interpret and make connections through litarary analysis, evaluation, inference, and comparison.

  • develop a narrative piece of writing.

  • write for a variety of audiences and purposes using well-organized paragraphs, with adequate and appropriate supporting evidence.

  • use varied sentence structure, precise vocabulary, appropriate tense, and conventions to maintain clarity.

  • use the steps of the writing process in written work.

  • organize material effectively.

  • proofread and revise their own work.

  • use available technology to plan, compose, revise, and edit written work.

  • talk clearly in small and large groups about experiences, events, and ideas.

  • listen and respond to others.

Instruction and Activities

  1. Students should read and explore biographies of many different people, paying special attention to organization, voice, word choice, and sentence fluency.

  2. Examine the parts of the word autobiography (specifically "auto" meaning self; "bio" meaning of life; and "graph" meaning write.)

  3. With the class, build up a list of words that start with the prefix auto- or bio-.

  4. With the class, discuss the question, "What is an autobiography?"

  5. Using the overhead projector, discuss and examine an autobiographical incident.

    • Identify the basic text structure-introduction, events (chronological sequence), and conclusion (typically, the conclusion explains the difference these events made to the writer's life).

    • Discuss ideas, organization, voice, word choice, and sentence fluency.

    • Explore the tense the excerpt is written in. Why is it written in this tense?

    • Consider how the writer has used pronouns-which pronouns are used, and why do you think the author chose them?

    • Find and highlight some verbs in the text.
  6. Examine another autobiographical incident.

    • Identify and highlight the structure of the piece.

    • Discuss the how ideas, organization, voice, word choice, and sentence fluency shape the text.

    • Identify the tenses being used.

    • Consider how the writer has used pronouns-which pronouns are used, and why do you think the author chose them?

    • Identify the sequence of the writing.
  7. Once you've explored both texts, compare the two autobiographical incidents. Ask students to talk about which incident they enjoyed more and why they liked it.

  8. Have the students talk with family members about amusing anecdotes, experiences, and important events in their own lives.

  9. Share the rubric with the class, and discusses its components.

  10. Model a short autobiographical incident from your life.

  11. With the students, complete the Autobiographical Incident Rubric, assessing your autobiographical incident.

  12. Assign the autobiographical incident to students.

    • Brainstorm categories for stories-for instance, school adventures, a special holiday, brothers, sisters, family, scary moments, and so forth.

    • Use guided imagery to capture emotions. Consider the following brainstorming questions to help students get started:

      • What time of day is it?

      • What is the weather like?

      • How is the weather affecting you?

      • Where are you?

      • Look around you. What do you see?

      • What colors and textures are around you?

      • What mood are you in? Content? Upset? Sad? Excited?

      • What expression are your wearing on your face?

      • How are you holding your body?

      • What clothes are you wearing?

      • Are there other people around?

      • Who are these people?

      • What do they look like?

      • How are they acting?

      • How do you feel about these people?

      • Are there any sounds? What are the sounds?

      • How are the sounds affecting you?

      • If you could feel your surroundings how would they feel?
  13. Ask students to use the Interactive Timeline or the Graphic Map to organize the chronological events in their autobiographical incident they will write about.

  14. Students draft their autobiography using the information from their mind brainstorming.

  15. Teacher models revising, using the rubric, focusing on

    • Interest level

    • Details

    • Dialogue

    • Thoughts and feelings

    • Introduction and conclusion

    • Sequence
  16. Teacher models editing, focusing on

    • Using consistent verb tense

    • Using consistent pronouns

    • Using vivid, concrete nouns that bring events to life by the use of names of people and places

    • Using prepositions for variety

    * Steps 14 and 15 can be done with the teacher's autobiographical incident

  17. Students revise/edit their autobiographical incidents.

  18. Students type their incidents in a word processor.

  19. With the students, assess your autobiographical incident using the rubric.

  20. Students share their autobiographies with the class.


Student Assessment / Reflections

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