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Author Bios – A Follow-up

I collected these papers 20 minutes ago, and I am smiling so hard that my second period class coming in asked me what was going on.

A few days ago, Amy wrote a post about students writing their own author bios. It was an idea that snuck up on me a few weeks back when Amy Poehler’s author bio made me laugh out loud.

Following much the same format that Amy detailed earlier this week, I introduced the idea to my students of writing our own author bios by reminding them of what they have heard from me one thousand times before over the course of this year:

“We are readers and writers.”

To reflect this persona, I shared with my AP Language students a quick writing prompt that is turning out to be one of the best writing assignments of the whole year.

When Brianna turned her piece in this morning, she had a huge smile on her face. “I had SO much fun doing this.” Brianna, as studious, driven, brilliant, and stressed out as they come, was beaming ear to ear. What a testament to the power of writing with self reflective purpose.

To facilitate this assignment we:

  1. Looked over several sample bios from our book club books, some texts off my shelves, and a few internet suggestions.
  2. Students talked at their tables and came up with a list of “look fors” in this type of writing. I was impressed by not only the length of the list, in terms of what they noticed, but some of the insight. “If you are going to write a funny book, be funny. If you’re writing about the Nazi’s, that’s not a good idea.” True, true. Style and form must match purpose. I love it.
  3. Students then drafted both a current and a future author bio. The future bios were far and away the best. Students really embraced how wildly accomplished they will be as readers and writers after college. Additionally, this group is apparently going to rule the world.
  4. Peer feedback came next, with an inclusion of Shana’s “Push and Pull” feedback strategy. It was wonderful to see the details and voice emerge from their pieces. Celina had a line about winning the Nobel Prize, an Oscar, and a Grammy. I suggested she tell us what she won the Nobel for, who she co-starred with for her Oscar win, and how many albums she sold for the Grammy. “Oooo! I helped kids in the Sudan by supplying them with books (Mrs. Dennis swoons), Brad Pitt came out of retirement to play my dad in the movie, and I sold a record to every high school student in America, Spain, and the Ukraine.” Yes, yes, yes!
  5. Students took the peer and teacher feedback, went off to polish one of their bios, get an author picture, and turn in a final draft.
  6. These are HOT off the presses and I am so proud of their voice and creativity.

If you only look at one example, check out this first one. Brianna had me laughing out loud. No wonder she was beaming ear to ear.

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From line one, this piece had me laughing out loud. Brianna could not be a more serious student, but this work let her voice shine. I LOVE it from start to finish. 

Connor is a pretty quiet kid in class. His writing fluency has improved A LOT this year. And look at that smile! 

Charlie just won the most prestigious scholarship Franklin offers, because of his service, incredible heart, academic achievements, and being an all-around amazing person. He really opened up in his one pagers this year. I could not be more proud of this young man. 

Tahseen is a very serious young woman, but the little quips in here brought out her true voice. 

JJ too had a ways to go with his writing fluency and voice development. I’m seeing it now! 

Errin is a young woman whose name you will know someday. I am SURE of it. She had this shirt on in class this morning. The picture was taken before 7:00am. 

Lisa Dennis teaches English and leads a department of incredible English educators at Franklin High School near Milwaukee. She delights in writing in the third person, claiming it’s akin to an existence in parallel universes. Follow Lisa on Twitter @LDennibaum 

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6 thoughts on “Author Bios – A Follow-up

  1. […] deeper learning for our students. Of course, this resonated. This is how we find mentor texts like author bios and user manuals. But Mr. Couros got me thinking about shifting the finding to my […]

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  2. […] thought about reading author bios and asking students to write their own. Lisa and I wrote about our successes with students writing author bios last year and even modeled writing author bios with our teacher […]

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  3. Amy Rasmussen May 27, 2017 at 11:30 am Reply

    Love, love, love! I cannot wait to spend more time writing author bios with students. We will do it at the beginning of the year, and then again at the end. When I did it this semester, my kids and I only wrote ours as quickwrites. One student even told me: “I need more time to write about myself!.”

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  4. Shana Karnes May 26, 2017 at 5:45 am Reply

    Brianna is my soulmate! I adore her opening line, of course!!!

    These are brilliant. Please applaud your students for me. Better yet, buy them donuts. IOU.

    <3<3<3 XOXOXOXOX

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lee Ann Spillane May 26, 2017 at 4:12 am Reply

    What fun! I love their smiling author pictures. I bet they had a good time talking to each other about all of the outrageous future details they included.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Erin Doucette May 25, 2017 at 10:09 am Reply

    These are so awesome! What a great idea! You’re brilliant 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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