The first aspect of the unit will focus on teaching the students what each of the five principles of writing a biography are then giving examples of the specific principle in a piece of text, and allowing for students to have both guided and independent practice identifying them and trying them out with each other in the classroom. Through sharing these exercises, the students can see if they can discover the principles on their own, or if they cannot, then how can their classmates help them look for the strategy that was taught in the examples provided to them. Students can highlight information and make notes that can be used for the independent practice part (homework). In every lesson, the teacher will model the strategy, then guide the students toward their own examples, and finally allow for independent practice (homework). One principle will be taught every other day, allowing a day in between to practice and master. Some principles will take a little longer depending on the speed of mastery within the classroom. The unit itself may take longer than a month, if the concepts are not mastered.
The second aspect of the unit will be for the students to begin reviewing the techniques of good writing. The students will have a general review of previously learned skills like the types of literary devices there are present within a good piece of writing, and the elements of a five paragraph essay. Students will look at how figurative language is used to convey powerful, visual images of people within the biographies we are reading and the students will look at how imagery provides a great foundation for the selective events chosen to explain the lives of others. Mini lessons will be weaved throughout these techniques to stress the importance of how all these techniques help to build a good, descriptive, engaging piece of writing.
The third part of the unit will focus on writing a biography or autobiography. This process will begin with student discourse. Student discourse will be the vehicle for plentiful discussions about each other, or the subject matter (text) being taught in the classroom. Students will come up with questions to ask other students whom they are interviewing, and will have a chance to draft ideas as to how the final project will look. Students will work in groups of threes or fours and will be given a guideline to follow that will incorporate all of the aspects taught throughout the unit. Students will begin the first drafts and continue to work until the final version is complete.
The writing process will involve three distinct parts: self conference, peer conference, and teacher conference. Students will read what they have written to the group (mixed leveled learners) and look for ways to make the writing more descriptive by using the TAG strategy, or (tell someone what you liked, ask questions to the writer, and give suggestions), one strategy for writing previously taught in the class. Then students will be given the checklist for them to see if the writing is clear, and concise to others. Next, the students will group conference through a pair/share, where another student will read the work of the other and provide help with mechanics. A higher leveled student should be paired with a lower leveled student to help ensure that assistance is given to the students who need it when I am unavailable to assist. At this time, they will look for errors like spelling, mechanical, or writing that is not clear to them. The checklist for writing will encourage students to check off the areas where the writing needs commas, punctuation, or a clearer topic sentence. There will also be a chance for students to check to make sure the writing is imaginative and engaging to read. Lastly, my role will be to discuss the writing with the students, prompt more ideas to be discussed with the classroom groups, and recheck for spelling or mechanical problems within the piece of writing. During the group discussions and conferencing, I will monitor, circulate, and offer feedback for discussions, making sure that everyone is an equal participant in the group process. I do not want one person to dominate the group while others do not get a chance to participate, or do not participate at all.