Many gifted kids love reading biographies, but there's no reason they can't write one of their own! If your child is one of those who loves biographies and also loves writing, then encourage her to write her own biography. Sometimes a child has a good idea of who they'd like to write about and sometimes they don't. Getting ideas on who to write about and gathering information on that person and the time in which they lived would be the first steps to writing a biography.
Writing the Biography
Once your child has gathered all the information she needs, she needs to come up with an "angle." This is what makes one biography substantially different from other biographies. Coming up with an angle just means figuring out the main idea of the biography or the point the biography will make about the person. A good way to think about the angle or main idea is that it is one sentence that expresses the writer's opinion of the person. It is what the writer wants everyone to know or think about that person. It is really like a thesis statement. For example, a child might want everyone to know that his grandfather was an honest, hard-working person who, in spite of many hardships made a good life for himself and his family.
That main idea can help your child stay focused on the details to include in the biography. After all, a lifetime is full of many, many events; they can't all be included.
Which ones should be included? The ones that help illustrate the main idea! If the main idea is to show a person was hard-working, readers don't need to know all the details about the person's various pets -- unless that person worked hard to take care of those pets!
Once your child knows the message she'd like to convey with her biography, she can write a short and simple outline that lists the events and details she wants to write about.
It doesn't have to be long or complicated or very formal. Even a list of events she's like to write about will work quite nicely.
Making the Biography Interesting
What makes a biography interesting? We'd like to think that the story itself is enough to make the biography interesting, and that's sometimes true when we're writing a biography about a family member to be read by other family members. But how can your child make his biography interesting to others?
One way is to use specific words when possible rather than general words. For example, "car" is a general word, but "Mercedes" is specific. "Walk" is also a rather general word, but "shuffle" is more specific. Encouraging your child to use more specific words will not only make the biography more interesting to read, it will also help her expand her vocabulary! Of course, it's not always necessary to use specific terms.Sometimes adjectives and adverbs can use used. For example, your child might write, "the old and rusted cars" or "walked slowly." The idea behind all this detail is to help a reader see and feel what the writer sees and feels.
The Read, Write, Think Web site has a great exercise sheet to help kids be more descriptive in their writing.
But be sure to let them know that less can sometimes be more! In other words, tell them not to overdo it!
Adding Final Touches
Once your child is done with his biography, there are some final touches she can add. Pictures are great additions to a biography. Family pictures can be collected from other people in the family, but how do you get pictures of famous people? The best way is to look for photos that are in the public domain.That just means that no one owns the copyright to the photos anymore, so anyone can use them.
Another final touch is to find a great quotation to start with, one that will get a reader "hooked." This can be something the subject of the biography (i.e. a grandparent) frequently said, or it could be a quotation from a famous author that reflects what your child wants to say about his subject.
Publishing the Biography
Publishing can mean something as simple as printing out copies of the biography on a printer or getting it published as a book. It's actually easier to get it published than you might think. Bookemon.com is a wonderful place to go to get a book published. There are lots of "templates" to pick from and lots of biographies that you can take a look at. Books created there can be shared with everyone and anyone!
Write a Biography
How to pick a subject, research, and write a profile for class.
PART I: BRAINSTORM
Biography means "writing about life." The key to writing a good biography is picking a good subject who has lead an interesting life. While it may be tempting to write about your favorite celebrity, you are strongly encouraged to select someone who has lived an important life and made a lasting contribution to the world.
People you are familiar with are also good subjects for profiles. They are easily accessible for interviews. Also, you can easily interview others about them.
Step 1: Make a list of 10 possible subjects for your biography. Think about all the people in the world who fascinate you. Examples:
- Bill Clinton (former President)
- William Shakespeare (famous writer)
- Serena Williams (famous athlete)
- Your principal
- Queen Elizabeth (famous queen)
- Albert Einstein (famous scientist)
- One of your teachers
- Frida Kahlo (famous painter)
- A relative
- A mentor
Step 2: Choose three people from your list who seem like the best candidates for a biography.
Step 3: Run a quick search on the Internet to see how much information you can easily find about your three candidates.
Note: For people in your communitysuch as your principal or teacherthe Internet will not be a helpful research tool. You will have to talk to the person directly to see how much info you can quickly find out.
Step 4: Answer the following questions for each of your three candidates (yes or no).
- Is the person's life worth writing about?
- Do you feel strongly about the person?
- Has the person made a difference in the world?
- Does the person fascinate you?
- Does the person's life make a good story?
Step 5: Which person's life stands out as the best story? That's your subject!
PART II: RESEARCH
Now that you've selected a subject, the real fun begins! Biographical research is like detective work. Your assignment: Uncover fun facts about your subject!
To help you get started, we've provided you with a list of Research Resources.
Step 1: Visit the library to gather information about your subject. No detail is too small, no story too great! Take good notes! Investigate! You should browse:
- The Internet (See Research Resources)
- Newspaper articles
- Magazine articles and interviews
- History books
If your subject is a community member, dig up details through interviews.
- Interview your subject.
- Interview people who know your subject.
- Interview people who have an opinion about your subject.
Step 2: Track down basic facts about your subject, such as:
- Date of birth/death
- Place of origin
- Educational background
- Favorite books, music, art
Step 3: Find out which events shaped your subject's life, such as:
- Greatest accomplishments
- Worst failure
- Biggest obstacles overcome
- Lasting contribution to the world
Step 4: Find out which people influenced your subject's life:
- Most influential teacher
- Worst enemies
- Best friend(s)
- Heroes and role models
- Favorite family member
Step 5: Gather three quotations by and three quotations about your subject. Be accurate!
PART III: WRITE
Now that you've gathered enough facts and quotes, it's time to write!
Step 1: To help organize your biography, draw a time line of important events in your subject's life. Keep this handy when you begin to write. Include things like:
What is the most interesting thing you learned about your subject. That's where your story should begin. Work in the rest of the details as the story unfolds. Follow this basic outline for storytelling:
- Quote from or about your subject that backs up your lead.
- A paragraph that gives the who, what, where, why of your subject. This paragraph tells your readers what the story is about and why they should read it.
- Another quote from or about your subject.
- Several paragraphs that tell your storycan include more quotes.
- A conclusion that takes your readers back to the information in the first paragraph.
Not all biographies follow this format. This format is most often used by journalists writing news stories.
Step 2: Write a first draft of your biography.
- Be honest. Tell the truth about your subject, good and bad.
- Be accurate. Check facts by cross-referencing in other sources.
- Be clear. Always keep your readers in mind.
Step 3: Read your biography out loud. Answer the following questions:
- What new information have I learned about my subject?
- Is my story always clear? If not, where does it break down?
- What more would I like to know about my subject?
- Do the transitions between paragraphs make sense? Does the story flow from paragraph to paragraph without confusing the reader?
Step 4: Based on your answers, revise your biography.
- Check spelling and grammar.
- Check quotations for accuracy.
- Double check all facts.
Congratulations on finishing your biography!