Living Memoirs: A Biography Project


How do you teach the biography genre without it being boring and mundane?  You have students choose someone they are passionate about…someone who has made a difference…someone that will keep them engaged for a trimester long project.  You also have them become the person, become a journalist, as well as a designer.

The living memoir project was created to cover a variety of writing skills for seventh grade.  The following are the components of the project:

  • Research:  Students use noodletools to collect information about their person from websites, books, magazines, newspapers, videos, etc.
  • Diary Entries:  In order to make the memoir seem authentic, students write 3 diary entries from 3 different times in their life.
  • Friendly Letter & Business Letter:  Research is vital to writing these letters.  Students need to decide who they are writing to and why while following strict letter writing guidelines.
  • Newspaper Article:  Students learn the parts of the newspaper, how to write a newspaper article, and how to format it properly.
  • Epitaph:  Students use their imaginations to create a “gravestone” along with an epitaph that has a quote that represents their person.  Yes, even if they aren’t dead yet, they get an epitaph!  Some students write the date of death in the year 3000 because they don’t want to “jinx” them!
  • Obituary:  Students hone in on those journalism skills they learned when they were writing their newspaper article to create an obituary that includes a charity their person would have wanted donations to go to.
  • Commemorative Stamp:  Students have fun designing (and pricing) a commemorative stamp that the US Postal System would be happy to use!
  • Photos and Captions:  Every memoir needs photos along with a description of the event.
  • My Contributions to the World:  This is an essay written in first person, as their biography choice, that describes what contributions they have made to the world.   It is a traditional 3-5 paragraph essay.
  • Dear Reader Letter:  This is a reflective piece written by the student to anyone that reads their project.  It is their chance to explain why they chose their person, some interesting facts that they learned, as well as the time and effort spent and if they would do anything differently if they were to do it again.

The students are given the components, they are taught the skills necessary to complete the assigned parts, but they are not told how to present their project…it is totally up to them!  This year I had a bicycle tire, a powerpoint, a fish tank, a bike, several old trunks, scrapbooks, pamphlets, and even a larger than life Cat in the Hat!

I believe by giving students choice with some guidelines as well as having an open ended design, it allows students the freedom and flexibility they need in order to be engaged.   Student engagement is essential to the learning process…it is actually the bottom line…if you don’t have student engagement, how do you have effective teaching and learning?

Click here for supporting files.

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34 thoughts on “Living Memoirs: A Biography Project

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Living Memoirs: A Biography Project | middle school 101 --

  2. Hattie DeRaps

    Very interesting–It’s a bit of a multigenre take on an old sort of project: The dreaded research paper! I love the examples you’ve provided. They show that students have taken this idea and made it their own. I can’t get enough of the fish tank! Thanks for sharing.

    1. mrspal1 Post author

      Thanks Hattie! I was just admiring your summer reflection/blogging assignment this morning! Funny…there was a fish in the tank, and he died. So, he put another fish in the tank, and he died, too! I told him that I couldn’t handle another fish funeral, so the tank remained empty. Too bad I didn’t get a pic when the fish were in it! The kids amaze me with their creativity! I love when they design something that I couldn’t have possibly imagined!

  3. Kelly

    What a wonderful project! I love that it integrates so many writing genres. As a unit of study, it lends itself to so many of the minilessons I teach in writer’s workshop.

    I teach sixth grade in an elementary setting but would love to adapt the project for my age group. Do you have an outline of what you present to students posted anywhere? I’d love to see an example (although I could also adapt the outline you posted).
    Thanks for your innovative ideas!

  4. Julie

    I love this project!! Would you mind if I used this with my seventh graders? If so, is there anything more you could send me on it. I would really appreciate it.

    Thanks so much


  5. JoAnne

    I love all your ideas!! Would love to use them with my 7th graders. Could you send me an outline of what you present to students or any other materials that would make it helpful for my students? Thanks so much!


  6. Lauren Stone

    Wow! This is just what I have been looking for in a bio project. It sounds fantastic! I teach sixth grade at the elementary level as well, so anything additional you can provide is greatly appreciated. I will definitely be checking out your blog more often. Bravo!

  7. mrspal1 Post author

    Thanks for all the great comments! I’ve created a shareable pdf file on gdocs for this unit and have sent it to those who expressed interest for creating their own units. All I ask is that credit is given to me for my work. Have a great day!

    1. stacydowner

      Hi Mrs. Pal!

      I am a grade 6-8 ELA teacher in Ann Arbor, MI. I am very impressed with your biography unit and how much richer of an experience it will provide students than just simply writing a research paper. I am hopeful, I too, am able to get the pdf file you mention above. I will definitely give you all of the credit, as you deserve it! Thanks!
      My email is
      Stacy Downer
      MS Teacher

  8. Christy Medley

    What a fantastic unit! I am very impressed. I am just about to teach my seventh graders a unit on memoirs and this would be perfect. Any information you could send me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much for your hard work and preparation.


  9. Christine

    I stumbled across your project while looking for ideas to update the biography project I inherited from another teacher, but don’t love. I’m really excited about incorporating some of the components of your project! Wondering if you can either send me the PDF you created or help me figure out how to access it on GoogleDocs. I tried searching, but am coming up blank. Thanks so much for sharing your work!


  10. ekablis

    I love the idea of this project, and am thinking of using it in my middle school classroom. Could you possibly send me any further information you have to help guide me? Thanks a ton!

  11. maria73

    Hi Megan,

    I love this idea and would love to adapt it for my grade 7 class. I was wondering if you could send me the pdf you created for the project and the rubric. I will of course give you complete credit.

    Thank you


  12. kristincvogel

    Hi Megan, I just found this project and would love, love, love to use it with my 8th graders in the next few weeks. Would you mind sharing the googleDocs with me?

  13. hduquaine

    I am so excited to try this out! Could you please send me the PDF/Google docs that you were talking about? I really appreciate it! I will certainly give you credit where credit is due. Thanks a ton!

  14. farvour07

    Being new to teaching 8th grade I am always looking for ideas, and this unit would be perfect. I would appreciate your blessing in using this with my classes. Any additional information you would be willing to share is appreciated.

  15. saglidian

    This would be an excellent project to use with my sixth graders during our biography unit. Would you mind sharing with one more teacher??
    Thanks so much!

      1. stacydowner

        I left you an earlier request for this and wanted you to know I was able to get your shared info at the link you provided. Many appreciations!!!

        Stacy Downer
        MS Teacher

  16. languageartslori

    Hi Megan! I love your project idea. I’ve been looking for a fun way to teach biographies, and this is perfect! I am planning on doing this with my 7th grade class. Do you have any outlines, requirement explanations that you can email me? Thanks so much!!

  17. coker102

    Hi Megan,

    I too love your biography project and would love to incorporate it into my 6th grade curriculum. I would love any materials you are interested in sharing.

    Thank you!

  18. dbacon

    Hello! I love your idea! Both for the Who I Am project and the Biography! Right now we are looking for an interesting way to for the kids to synthesize everything they have learned in our Who Am I unit, and this seems to contain all the elements that we need! I would love to peruse any outlines or additional information you may have and would be more than happy to credit you! In fact, I’d like to share the unit with my whole department! Thanks!

  19. kschein

    Hello, you are amazing to follow. I am going to start a modified…6 week Identity unit with my 8th graders. I have looked at your links to support some of the projects, but I would love whatever you could send to me…and of course you will be recognized at the author of all the documents I can use.

    Hope to hear from you soon!


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