Biography Writing Workshop
I just completed a Biography Writing Workshop for one of the local third grade classes in Kankakee, Illinois, and it was a ball. The class had 24 students who participated over the course of three weeks. Some of them might have been a bit reluctant at the beginning of the workshop, but they soon caught on to the concept of writing a biography.
The top three authors received awards for reading their stories. They each got a writing journal to encourage further creativity. Two students received honorable mentions for their stories, for which they got writing pens.
The structure of the Biography Writing Workshop included the basic writing process, parts of a story, fiction versus non-fiction, directions on conducting an interview, sample questions to ask and guidance on developing their own stories.
We started out by discussing the five steps of the basic writing process: Brainstorming, Rough Draft, Revision, Editing and Publishing. We covered the parts of a story, with a beginning, a middle and an ending. In addition, the differences between fiction and non-fiction were explained, with emphasis on writing a biography of a live person.
The kids got really enthused when we discussed how to make their stories interesting. In particular, they were to use “juicy” (i.e., descriptive) words. Instead of saying someone was “nice,” they learned to say they were beautiful, generous or enormous. An incentive of Juicy Fruit Gum encouraged even more participation that was fun, too.
Each student received a handout that included all of the above, plus five lists of questions to use when conducting interviews. Their interview subjects could be anyone at least twenty years old and preferably someone important to them. Most of the students interviewed a parent, grandparent or sibling, and several interviewed an adult at the school.
The presentation of the stories was on Friday, May 16, 2008, which was also the International Day of Story Sharing. Each of the participating children read their stories to an audience of their own class and another 3rd grade class. At the conclusion, all the kids got a gold-embossed certificate of participation.
In response to questions, all the kids seemed to enjoy the workshop and would like to do one again in the future. My pleasure would be in conducting one for them.