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Everybody Has a Story


Unit Summary

After listening to and reading several biographies, both in books and magazines, elementary students brainstorm about what makes a biography interesting and what makes a person important to answer the Essential Question, How are we all unique? They then interview the residents of a local nursing home to find out what makes the person unique and write articles about them. After students receive feedback from their peers and participate in student-led conferences with the teacher about their writing, they work in a group to compile the articles into a magazine. In a final celebration, the students share their publication with the senior citizens who they interviewed.

Curriculum-Framing Questions

  • Essential Question
    How are we all unique?
  • Unit Questions
    What makes a biography interesting?
    How is my life like the lives of others?
  • Content Questions
    What is a good interview question?
    How do I punctuate quotations?

Assessment Plan

This timeline shows in chronological order the different types of formal and informal assessments that occur during the unit. The table below explains how each assessment is used and who uses it for what purpose.

Assessment Timeline

Before project
work begins
Students work on projects
and complete tasks
After project work
is complete

  • Discussion
  • T-Chart
  • Journals
  • Practice Interview Feedback
  • Interview Checklist
  • Magazine Article Feedback
  • Individual Writing Conference
  • Peer Writing Feedback
  • Magazine Checklist
  • Magazine Rubric
  • Magazine Article Rubric
  • Magazine Rubric
  • Final Reflection


Assessment Process and Purpose of Assessment
Discussion    Students read biographies and discuss what makes a person important. The teacher uses the information from this discussion to guide students as they plan and conduct their interviews.
T-Chart  The teacher uses students’ contributions about what details were selected for the biographies they read to plan instruction to help students choose what to include in the biographies they write.
Journals  Students write in journals about what makes the person in the biographies they are reading interesting and important. The teacher uses this information to plan mini-lessons during the reading and writing stages of the project.
Practice Interview Feedback Form (doc)
Pairs of students role-play an interview in front of a small group of their peers who fill out this form to give them feedback about their interviewing techniques.
Interview Checklist (doc)
Before students conduct their interviews, they use this checklist to help them prepare for a successful interview.
Article Checklist (doc)
This checklist reminds students of what they need to include in their articles while they are writing.
Magazine Article Rubric (doc) Students provide suggestions for what makes articles interesting and their thoughts are included in a rubric for the magazine articles. Students use the rubric as they write to help them produce high-quality writing and to give feedback to their peers in writing groups. The teacher uses the rubric to assess the individual articles in the magazine.
Writing Conference Preparation (doc)
Students use the Magazine Article Rubric, and think about their past writing, to prepare for their writing conference with the teacher. The teacher collects information from the student during the conference in order to provide appropriate individual instruction and to determine classroom trends and issues to inform future teaching and learning activities.
Peer Writing Feedback (doc)
Students meet periodically in small groups to share their writing and to use the Magazine Article Rubric to provide feedback about content, organization, style, and conventions.
Magazine Checklist (doc)
This checklist helps students manage their time efficiently while they are putting together their magazine.
Magazine Rubric (doc) In groups, students use this rubric to help them create a magazine that meets high standards of quality.
Final Reflection (doc)
When the magazine is completed and shared, students write a metacognitive reflection in which they describe what they learned about writing and interviewing and set goals for their next writing project.


A teacher contributed this idea for a classroom project. A team of educators expanded the plan into the example you see here.


At a Glance

Grade Level: 3-5

Subject(s): Reading, Writing, Oral Language

Topics: Biographies 

Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Metacognition, Making Connections

Key Learnings: Interviewing, Narrative Writing, Biographies 

Time Needed: 40 minutes a day for 2 weeks