Autobiography, Biography, Personal Narrative, and Memoir
Lesson plans and teaching ideas
All the World's a Stage: Exploring the Biography as a Basis for a Theatrical Production
In this lesson, students will analyze the effective story-telling or literary techniques used by playwright George Stevens, Jr. in his historical play Thurgood. They will then write their own scenes depicting a critical event in a significant person's life for performance or publication. Related links are included.
Follow links here to biographies and other accounts based on primary sources. These could serve as good models for students doing research.
Definitions and lots of links to biography sites. Scroll down to find ideas for writing biographies, examples of biographies by students, teacher resources, and vocabulary words.
Biographies: Creating Timelines of a Life
Working in teams, students use multiple sources to research someone's life. This unit is designed for grades 3-5 and can be adapted to other levels.
This site helps younger writers through the process of writing a biography. It encourages use of the 6-Trait approach.
Biography Writing with Patricia and Frederick McKissack at Scholastic.com
Students learn how to research and write a biographical sketch, including research and writing strategies. They can also receive a Certificate of Achievement. Sample biography of Frederick Douglass is available onsite.
Building on Biographies from Education World
Two online biography resources and 10 ways to teach biography
Cultural Icons: Voices of their Nations
Students explore the definition of "cultural icon" and study a cultural leader and his or her part of the world in detail. This lesson is written to emphasize geography skills.
Cut and Paste Biographies: Creating Collages to Document the Lives and Legacies of Famous African-Americans
This lesson is based on a New York Times article about artist Romare Bearden. It is adapable to several age levels and purposes. This lesson emphasizes research.
Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, and the Unreliable Biographers
Students find, examine, and attempt to explain the causes of inconsistencies in at least four Poe biographies. This standards-based lesson is extensive. Resources are present but less extensive for an investigation into the life of Ambrose Bierce.
A Fitting Introduction
Someone the student admires is coming to school. Students write an introduction for that person. This activity is designed for very young writers and includes a printable handout.
From Object to Story: Writing a Historical Narrative Featuring an Artifact from One's Family History
Students share observations about the history of familial artifacts. They then research the history and cultural significance of selected objects to prepare their own historical narratives. Includes short reading as prewriting activity.
Looking for an autobiography for your class to read? Try October Sky.
In the First Person: an index to letters, diaries, oral histories, and personal narratives
Are you looking for a model personal narrative for your students? Something from a specific time period? Much of the older material in this database is subscription-only, but the more recent documents are available free of charge.
It's All About Me
Designed for third grade, this thorough unit plan includes 11 lessons and a culminating activity. Students explore biography and autobiography, review parts of speech, conduct interviews, and give a speech. This 37-page document includes lesson plans and handouts. It requires Adobe Reader or compatible application for access. Consider downloading the file and printing only those pages you need.
Johnny Cash: Personal Narratives Inspired by Johnny Cash
Although the lesson was designed for use with a movie, this site includes downloadable video clips that make it work. Students will reflect on the topics of Johnny Cash's songs, analyze his songs for writing methods and strategies, and then draw upon their own childhood observations and life experiences to write a personal narrative that includes sensory details. Designed for grades 6 and up.
The Journal of Harriet Tubman
If Harriet Tubman had blogged about her life, it might have looked like this. A model of student research that can be used to create other biographies.
A Life Lived Well
"Students brainstorm words and phrases that describe themselves. They then construct found poems using words and phrases taken from the article, and write autobiographical obituaries that celebrate the lives and achievements they imagine for themselves."
Living to Tell the Tale
Students read an excerpt from the memoir by Gabriel García Márquez, work with vocabulary words, and write a brief autobiographical piece. Access requires Adobe Reader.