Friday, February 20, 2015

Let's Write Short Autobiographies with Kids


Let’s Write Short Autobiographies with Kids
by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com


Tight writing is something every author aims for (or should!) I love writing activities for kids with limited word counts not only because it helps develop the skill of writing succinctly and thoughtfully, but also because it looks achievable to kids. It’s not daunting, even for reluctant writers.

I’ve written several articles here at The Book Chook about such short writing activities:

* In Visual Storytelling, I explained my own process of telling a digital story in five frames, with a frame being an image and a caption. Read more about it here.

* In Get Kids Writing with Lists, I suggested way to incorporate list writing into family life. I also gave list ideas for four groups: preschool kids, school-age kids, lists for birthdays and lists for kids who love to read and write. Get more information here.

* In Writing Fun for Kids - Create a Caption I suggested kids match up a sentence or dialogue snippet with a picture. The picture could be something they draw or paint in real life, or create digitally. Creative thinking is fostered further by setting up photo shoots for an image. Read more.

* In Biff! Zap! Pow! Using Comic Editors for Education, I suggested a number of ways to use another short writing form, comics, in an educational context. Lots more information here.

* In Let’s Write Six Word Memoirs with Kids, I provided links to lots of resources on writing six word memoirs, then showed how I used different apps to create my own sample short memoirs. Read more.

Today I want to suggest you consider writing seven word autobiographies with your children. But wait, I hear you say. How is a seven word autobiography different to a six word memoir? Well, it’s one word more. But that increased word limit could make all the difference to someone! In all honesty, the main idea is to focus on kids summing themselves up in a few well-chosen words, and communicating who they are to their audience of choice.

Here's a sample one I created about myself:


There are some excellent examples of seven word autobiographies from adults on Brain Pickings, and these would be great to discuss with older kids, say senior primary and up. Notice the way some of these micro-biographies are lists and others are sentences. How does each one reflect something of the creator?

I would suggest children first of all brainstorm some words that describe themselves. What do they love to do? What is something special about them? Discuss those with a partner, inviting feedback. Look at some adult autobiographies at Brain Pickings and reflect again, perhaps creating a new version. This would also be a great time for children to use a thesaurus, striving always to choose words that best reflect who they think they are.

Kids could take a selfie or pose in some special way for a digital photograph to accompany their seven word autobiographies. Words could be added digitally, or printed out separately for a wall display. Another way to present children’s work would be to add the seven words to a word cloud generator like Wordle or ABCya (great for younger kids) the way I did below.


This would be a wonderful activity to try in say Year One, then keep so children can read it in Year Six before they try it again. How has their sense of self changed? Are there any similarities or differences kids can notice?

Find more of my tips for writing with kids at Listly. 

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