A biography is an informational account of someone’s life written by someone else. Writing a biography is a great way to introduce students to informational writing and introduce them to some of the basic elements of research.
Before going through the lesson with students, you may want to read a biography to give students an idea of what the genre is. You can find biographies in your school library, local library, or read a story such as the biography of Mother Teresa from iStoryBooks.
After introducing students to the genre, follow the steps below to help students write their own biographies. You may want to write a biography as a class before having students write their own biographies.
Make a list of five people you could write a biography about. Look at your list and determine who you could find the most information on or who you may not be able to find much information on. For example, you may find more information on Lebron James than Anthony Davis. Narrow down the list to the one person you want to research.
Come up with a list of questions about the person that you want to find the answers to. Questions should include information such as when was the person born, what was the person’s childhood like, and what does the person do for a living.
For younger students, teachers may want to skip this step and simply provide students with a graphic organizer that contains the information students need to find. Items to include on a graphic organizer are: name, birth date, reason he/she is famous, about his/her childhood, fun facts.
Conduct research to find information about the person. Students may search online, in encyclopedias, magazines, and books in the library to find the information they need. Teachers may need to direct students to the appropriate resources. For example, students researching a current television star may find more information online and in magazines than in encyclopedias and books.
Find quotations from the person being researched. Write down 3-5 quotations from the person to include in the biography. This will help the biography seem more credible.
Note: As students conduct research and collect quotes, they should be sure to write down where they got the material so they can cite their sources at the end.
Organize notes into chronological order to make it easier to write the biography. Organizing the notes will help students create a rough draft of their biographies. During this step, students can also determine if any information is missing or any information is not relevant, then they can add or remove information as necessary.
Write the biography. Using notes, students can put the information into their own words. A good biography should follow this basic format:
- Chronological description of life
Cite sources by creating a works cited page or bibliography. Younger students do not have to create a properly formatted bibliography or a works cited page, but they should be encouraged to write down the author and title or website address of each source they used.
Publish the biography by writing a clean copy, creating a cover page, and adding pictures to the text where they can enhance the content.