1) Begin by asking each student to write down one thing about him or herself that not many people know. Students may share their ideas with the class or may keep them a secret. The point of this exercise is to show the students that everyone has things about themselves that others don’t know.
2) Then explain to the students that their assignment will be to go home and interview a parent or other relative with the goal of finding out things about that person that they didn’t previously know.
3) The class will brainstorm to come up with a list of questions that they may want to use in these parent interviews. These questions should be designed to uncover things about their subjects that they didn’t know because they had never come up. The goal is not to uncover personal or family secrets. Below are some questions the teacher may use to get the discussion started:
What extracurricular activities were you involved with when you were in school?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
What is your favorite movie?
Did you ever have any hobbies that you no longer do?
Who was your best friend when you were a kid?
Did you go to the prom?
What was you favorite vacation?
4) When an acceptable list of questions is compiled the students will interview their parents and use the responses to write a short biographical essay entitled “What I didn’t know about my __________.” The teacher may want to compose a letter to parents explaining the assignment.
5) When all biographies are complete, students may want to discuss what they've learned, compiling a list of similarities and differences in the answers to the questions they asked.
Bess W. Truman, by Margaret Truman, Jove; 1st THUS edition (July 1, 1987).
News article about the biography of Bess Truman.
Homework Center: How to Write a Biography.
This lesson was developed by Robert McClelland, Cleveland Municipal School District.