Activity And Project

Bio-Graph: Graphing Life Events

9 - 12
Activity Time
Four one-hour sessions—two at home and two with the group
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Activity Description

Looking for ways to engage young adults at family reunions or other significant social gatherings? Have them take the time to learn about family members' significant personal experiences by interviewing them and sharing their stories with the rest of the family. Young adults can practice their interviewing, graphing, computer, and writing skills through this interpersonal activity.

Why This Is Helpful

Interviewing their family members will help young adults develop their interpersonal skills and get to know more about their family members' histories.  They will also employ multiple intelligences when they use graphs to express their feelings about the individual stories they'll recount.

This activity was modified from the ReadWriteThink lesson plan "Bio-graph: Graphing Life Events."

What You Need

Here's What To Do

  1. Before beginning the activity with teens, familiarize yourself with the Graphic Map Interactive. Visit the Graphic Map page to learn even more about this tool.
  2. Print out copies of the Possible Interview Questions to use during the interviewing phase.  Gather graph paper and art supplies if you won't have access to the Internet.
  3. Have young adults interview unfamiliar or distant family members, whom they do not know well.  These interviews may last 30 minutes or longer.  Interviewers should listen for significant life events that they can later incorporate into biographical pieces on the family members they interview.  Getting details is important at this stage.
  4. Suggest that the interviewers use the Possible Interview Questions handout as a guide for the interviews, but encourage them to follow up on interesting answers with probing questions.
  5. Have the interviewers make a list of the most important/influential events in their relatives' lives so far, based on their interviews.  The events they choose can be happy, sad, or even traumatic at times.  Along with each event, ask the interviewers to list the approximate year the event occurred.
  6. Ask the interviewers to choose up to 10 events and give each one a rating from -3 (extremely negative) to +3 (extremely positive).
  7. Next, have the interviewers create a visual representation of the information they have gathered, using either the Graphic Map Interactive or graph paper.

More Ideas To Try

  • Interviewers can confer with the appropriate relative and choose one event to write about in more detail.  With the relative's help, they should write a paragraph or two that includes the details of the event and describes how the event was influential in the relative's life.  Interviewers can revise their paragraphs in the group setting and then use the art supplies to display their graphs and paragraphs for the whole group to admire.  If there are a group of interviewers, they could read their stories out loud for the rest of the relatives.
  • If computers and the appropriate software are available, young adults can use Microsoft Excel to graph the events. Teens can also use the Timeline Tool, adding a rating to each event's description.
  • Teens can use the Profile Publisher to create a magazine or online profile for the people they interviewed. See the Profile PublisherTool page for additional help and ideas.
  • After reading a book, teens can create bio-graphs for specific literary characters and plot events.
  • Biographies of famous people (politicians, entertainers, sports figures) are available on the Academy of Achievement Web site. Young adults could complete a Bio-graph of a famous person from history, entertainment, sports, or popular culture.

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