Author/Student Bios: Inquiry-Based Genre Study and Student Introductions

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At the beginning of the year I have students study a collection of author bios. They use this text set to develop an understanding of this specific genre. Then using these as mentor texts, they write a bio of their own.

By the end of this lesson:

  1. They have engaged in close and critical reading.

  2. They have discussed texts without the using

  3. of comprehension questions.

  4. They have produced a short writing sample that tel

  5. ls me about them as individuals and about their basic writing skills.

Get the year started with an authentic way by engaging students in the inquiry process and preparing to write about themselves in a relatively safe and simple way that helps you get to know them as students and as writers.

This activity is most beneficial for the first week or two of school. Students will be engaged in reading, discussing, and sharing as they explore a unique genre: the author bio. They will then write a short bio of their own that fits the genre, reveals some basic information about who they are, and provides a finished writing product that can provide insight into their basic needs and abilities as writers.

What was great about this lesson:

  • It was simply complex. Genre study can be complex and inauthentic for some students, yet author bios are short and accessible, making it an easy genre study. Discussing what was included in an author bio began with the obvious, but different classes were able to make different observations. Beyond that, we were able to discuss the purposes of the genre, guiding students in their own writing.
  • It provided clear guidelines yet left room for some creativity. After our brief genre study, we had a pretty clear list of things for students to include in their writing. However, we also saw some deviation from the basic expectations that allowed, with my encouragement, students to make their writing unique to themselves as individuals.
  • It introduced just about everything I want to accomplish in a school year.
    • Getting students reading carefully and closely, not just for comprehension (the details of the bios are COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT, which is to say I would never quiz them on the details) but for details and characteristics that go beyond the details of the writing.
    • Gave me a sample of their writing that helped me get to know them as people and as writers (in other words, were there issues I noticed about the needs and abilities of certain students and were there trend I would need to address, such as series commas).
    • Showed students what inquiry would look like. There were no reading comprehension questions to answer, just a series of texts to study. Instead of worksheets, we used each other’s powers of observation to analyze the texts and learn about the genre.
    • Practiced routines that will be used throughout the year, including pair-share, small group discussions, reporting out.

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