Teaching children how to write their autobiographies accomplishes a trio of objectives that will serve them well throughout their lives. The first is to get them thinking about how to best organise material in a way that is both logical and entertaining to readers. The second is to teach them to differentiate between what's important to the structure and cohesiveness of the full story versus trivia that just takes up space. The third lesson behind autobiographical writing is to create awareness and appreciation of personal successes. This, in turn, promotes confidence and the enthusiasm to try new things.
- Skill level:
Other People Are Reading
Things you need
- Family photographs
- Tape recorder (optional)
Ask the librarian at your child's school or the local library for recommendations on age-appropriate autobiographies of famous people. Read them with your child and talk about their structure, content and the parts she liked best. Talk about the uniqueness of human beings and their experiences, as well as the hopes and fears they have in common with one another.
Look through family photo albums together. Have them make a list of the people in the pictures and their relationship to the young author. Example: grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, neighbours, friends. Encourage them to write down everything they know about these individuals. Examples: where they live, what they do for work, and what they like to do for fun.
Encourage them to write down everything they can remember about what's going on in the various pictures. Examples: a family vacation, first day of school, a backyard birthday party, a holiday celebration. Ask them to think about favourite traditions, rituals and customs that the family observes. Explore together the meaning these special traditions have to the child.
Have the child interview family members and friends, especially older ones who can fill in the blanks about the child's earlier years. Examples: where/when she was born, what she was like as a baby, favourite toys and games, what her first room was like.
Create a three-part outline for the child to start writing. The first section is about her ancestors, immediate family (including pets), and her early years. The second part can focus on what she's doing now. Examples: where she goes to school, what subjects she likes/dislikes, friends she plays with, favourite sports, and what she likes to eat, read, listen to or watch on television. The third section is about what she wants to do in the future and why she thinks this would be fun, adventurous or interesting.
Go over the first draft with her. Teach her to look up words she doesn't know how to spell correctly. Use this writing project as an opportunity to work on good penmanship and neatness of material.
Writing the Autobiography
Tips and warnings
- Websites related to K-12 lesson plans or recommended reading lists for children and teens supply different ways to approach the fun and challenges of memoir writing. See Resources.
- Supplement the autobiography with copies of photographs. If she's a budding artist, encourage her to draw pictures of family members, houses, favourite toys or vacation memories.
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