Genre Lesson: Biography/Autobiography
The Story of Jackie Robinson: Bravest Man in Baseball | 760L
- Learning Goal
- Distinguish biography and autobiography using a story’s point of view.
- Approximately 2 Days (40 minutes for each class)
- Necessary Materials
Provided: Ice Queen: Biography or Autobiography? Handout, For the Love of Animals: Autobiography or Biography? Handout, Jackie Robinson: Biography or Autobiography? Worksheet (Student Packet, page 2)
Not Provided: The Story of Jackie Robinson, Bravest Man in Baseball by Margaret Davidson
Activation & Motivation
Play “Three Times the Charm.” First, tell students a brief story about your morning. For example, “Today I rolled out of bed and walked into the bathroom. When I turned on the light, I noticed that my toothbrush was missing. I looked high and low, but it was nowhere to be found. Finally, I found it in the trash.” Next, ask for a student volunteer to retell what happened in the story to the teacher. Say: Tell me what happened to me this morning. Have the student turn and face you at the front of the classroom and tell you what you did that morning. The student should say, “You rolled out of bed and walked into the bathroom. When you turned on the light . . . ” Finally, have a volunteer student retell the story to the class.
Explain that even though the story is the same, it is being told from three different points of view: First Person Point of View (the teacher), Second Person Point of View (a person speaking to the teacher), and Third Person Point of View (a student telling the story as if the teacher isn’t in the room).
will explain that, just like we told the story about my missing toothbrush from three different points of view (first, second, and third), stories that we read in books are told from different points of view. In fact, different genres, or types of stories, sometimes have specific points of view.
For our unit, we are going to read from the nonfiction genres autobiography and biography. I will write these genres on chart paper or the board. Both types of texts have something important in common. They tell us the story of someone’s real life. I will write “Bio” on chart paper or the board and explain that “bio” means “life” in ancient Greek. I will circle “bio” in both autobiography and biography.
How can a reader distinguish between these two types of texts about someone’s real life? It is important to note that an autobiography is told from a first person point of view. “Auto” means “I” or “Self”. Biography, on the other hand is told from a third person point of view. It is told about a real person who is not the author.
To distinguish an autobiography from a biography, good readers ask themselves who is the story about and who is telling the story? Point of view clue words can be used to determine who is telling the story (such as “I,” “We,” “My,” and “Me” for first person, or “He” and “She” when speaking about the main character for third person). If the main character of the life story is the same person who is telling the story, then the story is an autobiography. If the main character is different from the storyteller, then the story is a biography.
I will read aloud two short excerpts and figure out if each excerpt is an autobiography or a biography. I will distribute the passages so students can read along. Note: See Ice Queen: Biography or Autobiography? Handout.
First, I will identify the main character of the story in Excerpt 1. I know from the title and from the text of the story that Maria is the main character. Next, I will look for point of view clue words. For example, in Excerpt 1, the author says, “But something inside Maria made her determined to see the world. . .” The author refers to the main character as Maria (rather than “me”) and calls Maria “her.” The storyteller and the main character are not the same person, so I conclude that Excerpt 1 is written in third person. It is therefore a biography. In the second excerpt, I notice that the sentence, “I was surprised to hear that Aunt Aileen had discovered my wintery secret,” includes the clue words “I” and “my” which indicate that the point of view is first person. Maria is speaking, so Excerpt 2 must be an autobiography.
Ask: "How did I distinguish between an autobiography and a biography?" Students should answer that you identified who the story is about and who is telling the story. You looked for clue words related to first and third person point of view. You also looked for clues that show the story is about the writer of the story or someone else.
will read two short excerpts about the life of Devon Johnson. Each excerpt is either an autobiography or biography. (See For the Love of Animals: Autobiography or Biography? Handout.) To figure out if each excerpt is an autobiography or biography, we will first ask, "Who is our main character? Who is this story about?" We can determine from the title and from clues in the text that the main character is Devon Johnson.
Next, we will use clue words to identify the point of view. We will specifically look at a sentence in Excerpt 1, “I did not laugh with them. I understood that dog. I knew what it was like to struggle on these streets.” We will conclude from the use of “I” that the author is speaking in first person, and that the author is Devon Johnson. We will conclude that Excerpt 1 is an autobiography.
In Excerpt 2, we will examine the sentence, “Devon had a hard time hiding the rescue dogs from his family. . .” We will note the clue word in this sentence, “his” and that someone else is describing the main character Devon. We will conclude that Excerpt 2 is a biography.
will be reading a book about someone who really existed, but you will need to figure out whether the book is an autobiography or a biography. You will receive a Student Packet to complete while you read your book. You will start by determining the genre of your book by completing the Jackie Robinson: Biography or Autobiography? Worksheet in your Student Packet. (See page 2 in the Student Packet.) First, you will identify the main character that the book is mostly about. Then, you will determine the point of view using clue words. Finally, you will classify the genre of the text as either autobiography or biography.
will come together to share whether the text is a biography or autobiography and how we figured this out. We will share our excerpts and explanations. In preparation for the next lesson, we will discuss why an author might choose to write about someone’s life. Ask: "What can the life of a person show the reader?" We also might discuss how a person’s life might be told differently in an autobiography versus a biography. For example, how does the perspective of the story affect the story itself?
Texts & Materials
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