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Alphabiography Project: Totally You

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Alphabiography Project: Totally You

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Storm Fink

Lisa Storm Fink

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



In this lesson plan, the traditional autobiography writing project is given a twist as students write alphabiographies—recording an event, person, object, or feeling associated with each letter of the alphabet. Students are introduced to the idea of the alphabiography through passages from James Howe's Totally Joe. Students then work with the teacher to create guidelines for writing their own alphabiographies. Students create an entry for each letter of the alphabet, writing about an important event from their lives. After the entry for each letter, students sum up the stories and vignettes by recording the life lessons they learned from the events. Since this type of autobiography breaks out of chronological order, students can choose what has been important in their lives. And since the writing pieces are short, even reluctant writers are eager to write!

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Sample Alphabiography Entry: Use this example to guide students in their alphabiography projects.

Alphabet Organizer: Students can use this online tool to publish their alphabiography.

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To engage adolescent learners, teachers must create classroom environments that are stimulating, varied, and most importantly, that connect to students' daily lives. The importance of these connections is reiterated in the NCTE Guideline on Adolescent Literacy, which states: "All students need to go beyond the study of discrete skills and strategies to understand how those skills and strategies are integrated with life experiences. Langer, et al. found that literacy programs that successfully teach at-risk students emphasize connections between students' lives, prior knowledge, and texts, and emphasize student conversations to make those connections." This lesson plan invites students to write about what they know-themselves and their lives. In this way, the lesson focuses on the one subject that is most likely to generate successful student engagement and learning.

Further Reading

National Council of Teacher of English. May 2004. A Call to Action: What We Know About Adolescent Literacy and Ways to Support Teachers in Meeting Students' Needs. November 2009. Web. http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/adolescentliteracy

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