I got this great idea from an English teacher at our school! It’s called an “Alphabiography”.

The idea is to have students write their biography in small installments of 4-5 sentences, basing each installment on a word that begins with a different letter of the alphabet. This would make a very cool on-going focused free write!

Students begin by thinking of 15-20 words that (1) start with different letters of your target language’s alphabet and (2) have some significance to them. I allow several proper nouns as well, so that kids can talk about people/places/pets that are important to them. My brainstorm looks like this:

C – Cristo, B – Bebé, E – Esposo, V – Vaca, F – Familia, L – Libros, M – Música, P – Profesora, J – Jemma….etc.

The brainstorm itself is fun, because you find yourself thinking of creative ways to work a topic into your biography if it’s a duplicate letter (ex: C – correr and C – cantar both begin with C, so I could change Cantar to micrófono, or escuchar música, or something like that).

After that, students spend small amounts of time over a period of a few days or weeks writing ‘x’ number of sentences (4-5 is good) for each letter. Once they’ve written a draft for each letter, have them make a final copy poster or booklet with all of the writing pieces. (I would not recommend making them use every letter of your TL’s alphabet, but you could if you want them to REALLY be creative!)

Do you have any great “installment” writing pieces that you use in your classes? I’m always looking for new ones to meet our five-minute/class period fast-write requirement!

2 replies on “Alphabiography

  1. (Apologies in advance because I’m stuck on Scaffolding Literacy experiments):

    In SL, one of the stages after transformations (when you discuss your target sentence), is writing a new sentence based on the chunks of meaning in the target sentence. So in English class (I teach English, too), the first line from Stellaluna had been, “In a hot and sultry forest, far, far away, there once lived a mother fruit bat and her new baby.” We practiced re-writing that sentence in chunks of meaning that we’d already discussed (where–including what kind, story-telling element for where, when+story-telling element, who+description), and came up with “In an arid desert, light years away, there once danced a little gekko (sp??) and his goldfish friend.” We discussed how each word chunk has an effect on the rest of the story.

    If you were to take up that series of talk about a storybook you were reading, then one of your 5-minute writes could be to set up that sentence.

    Whew! Took a long time to get to the example, eh??!

    Then the next couple of days could be adding to that story. Obviously in beginning language class, you’d have to pick very carefully. I’m going to be trying this in different levels of Russian, so I’ll keep you posted as to whether it actually works. In a way, it’s just a more scaffolded version of giving the beginners three target structures for a free-write, or asking them to do a variation on a class story.

    1. I guess I am confused about what exactly the five minute write would look like to set up that sentence. Do you think you could give a quick example of a write that would lead up to that sentence?

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