Bellingham School District

The Biography Maker

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1. Questioning | 2. Learning | 3. Synthesis | 4. Story-Telling | Six Traits of Effective Writing
1. Questioning

A great biography is driven by great questions.
Boring questions produce boring answers.
Boring answers put
readers to sleep.
Simple lists of facts
are a bit like dry cereal . . .
no milk . . . no fruit . . .

no taste!

Step One

Decide whose biography you will write. Learn enough about the person to make a wise choice. You will be spending a good deal of time on this person, so his or her life better be pretty intriguing. Your teacher may give you a list or you may want to browse through this list to find someone worthy of your time. You may want to see if there is any good information readily available on your person and look ahead on this page to the questions to see which ones might be interesting to explore.

Step Two

Open a word processing file or Inspiration™ and type your person's name at the top of the page or in the center of a cluster diagram. Then save the file with an appropriate file name in your private folder.

Step Three

1. Browse through the following questions of import to see which ones seem worth pursuing.
2. Identify the 4-5 questions you wish to research.
3. Copy and paste your questions into your word processing file or your Inspiration diagram.
4. List 4-5 questions of import to accompany each of your major questions. Which related subsidiary questions will you need to explore to answer the questions of import?

Biography Questions of Import

  1. In what ways was the life remarkable?
  2. In what ways was the life despicable?
  3. In what ways was the life admirable?
  4. What human qualities were most influential in shaping the way this person lived and influenced his or her times?
  5. Which quality or trait proved most troubling and difficult?
  6. Which quality or trait was most beneficial?
  7. Did this person make any major mistakes or bad decisions? If so, what were they and how would you have chosen and acted differently if you were in their shoes?
  8. What are the two or three most important lessons you or any other young person might learn from the way this person lived?
  9. Some people say you can judge the quality of a person's life by the enemies they make. Do you think this is true of your person's life? Explain why or why not.
  10. An older person or mentor is often very important in shaping the lives of gifted people by providing guidance and encouragement. To what extent was this true of your person? Explain.
  11. Many people act out of a "code" or a set of beliefs which dictate choices. It may be religion or politics or a personal philosophy. To what extent did your person act by a code or act indepently of any set of beliefs? Were there times when the code was challenged and impossible to follow?
  12. What do you think it means to be a hero? Was your person a "hero?" Why? Why not? How is a hero different from a celebrity?

Step Four

Add to your word processing document or Inspiration™ diagram any important and intriguing questions which you have discovered yourself as you thought about your search.

Save your work. Move on to the Learning Page.

Some icons are courtesy of Jay Boersma's site
(http://www.re-vision.com/art/gifs/icons/).

Copyright Notice:
The copyrights for these materials are held jointly
by Jamie McKenzie, their author, and the Bellingham Public Schools.

© 1997 and © 2005

These materials may not be duplicated or published elsewhere, electronically or on paper or any other medium.


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