Keeping it real and Autobiographies

by becky on March 23, 2013


Hi Everyone! This particular post has been a long time coming, but I’ve had several personal distractions that have kept me from actually sitting down and writing it. I’m hoping that by writing about it, I’ll put good karmic vibes out and things will work out in a positive way. Recently my poor pup, Lillie (The dots behind Dots-n-Spots) has been having some pretty serious testing. For those of you who aren’t “dog people”, I apologize for this personal story.

Anyway, about two years ago (around the time I started this blog), Lillie and I were playing in the backyard with her basketball. She likes to pop them and them use them as a frisbee. :) Well, she caught her paw in a rabbit hole and broke her ankle. She had surgery and the ankle healed itself. Well, unfortunately, like a lot of dogs who have leg traumas, the opposite legs become high risk for problems because the animals begin to compensate on their “good” legs. Well, my girl did this and for a while she was doing water rehab and taking anti inflammatory medicine. If you have dogs on NSAIDs, then you know blood tests are required to make sure the liver continues to work properly. Well, over the past several months her liver enzymes have skyrocketed to the point of high risk for liver failure. I stopped with the NSAIDs and they continued to rise, I stopped giving her any extra supplements, and they continued to rise, she had an ultrasound of her liver, bladder, gall bladder, and everything looked fine. Then, it was finally time to biopsy the liver itself to see what is going on. In the meantime, she’s been feeling/acting fine but obviously something serious is going on. This past Wednesday she had the biopsy and an x- ray. The biopsy was of her liver and the x-ray was of her knee. I won’t find out the results of the liver until this upcoming week, but her knee shows a partial ACL tear. I honestly thought with how bad she’s limping and toe touching it, that it was a full tear.

Well, in the meantime, they sent my dog home and she has been a complete zombie. I guess I felt I wasn’t fully informed of what to expect from this procedure. She is so lethargic and sad. She  is not acting like herself and it’s going on 4 days. I feel like a horrible mom and just want her to feel better. The worst part for me is knowing that once the liver is figured out, she is going to have another procedure on her knee to recover from. I don’t plan to do the surgery until school is out, but if it gets any worse, I don’t know if I’ll be able to wait. If you can keep my pup in your thoughts, we would both appreciate it.

Speaking of appreciate, I want to truly  thank each and every one of you who has ever purchased a product or lesson plan from me. Just know that your financial support has helped me to be able to take care of Lillie the way she deserves. Without the income I’ve received from TpT, I don’t know how I would have been able to afford all her past (and future) expenses. I honestly look forward to the day that one of the checks I earn can be used for something fun. :) But, in the meantime, Lillie and I appreciate everything you have done for us.

If you read this far… you seriously rock. I don’t like to get too “real” on here because I know a lot of times people just visit blogs for ideas and not downer stories. But, like I said, we can take all the positive thoughts we can get.

Moving on… let’s talk Autobiographies! :)

Since Common Core now dictates the writing of autobiographies for 4th graders, I knew I had to figure out how I wanted to teach this. So several, several months ago, I was on TpT looking for Autobiography lesson plan ideas. I happened to come across this unit from the amazing Christi Fultz of Ms. Fultz’s Corner.  I loved how she had all the topics listed and included, and best of all that she was giving her unit away for free. As I sat down to plan out my unit, I tweaked her ideas a bit to fit my class’s needs, but essentially, my plans came from Christi. So, before I go on… THANK YOU, Christi! :)

Here is a breakdown of how I taught this particular unit in Writer’s Workshop.

First, I started with an Autobiography Anchor chart to get my kiddos familiar with the type of writing we were about to tackle.

We discussed how writer’s write stories about themselves when they feel they have accomplished something worth mentioning. (or they “think” it’s worth mentioning 😉 ) Then, we discussed how this is a form of nonfiction writing but has the storytelling aspect to it.

I explained that we were going to be writing our own Autobiographies in writing class and that at the end, we were going to put them together into a book. I’m not going to lie, at first, they were less than enthusiastic. Most kids realized how much writing they were going to have to do. But, once I told them they were going to be made into a book, the excitement got greater.

For my hesitant writers and for general knowledge, I posted our “schedule” of topics.

I explained that I would be modeling each prompt for them before they began their own sloppy copies. I also explained we would never do more than one a day. This again seemed to relieve some anxiety.

Then, came the actual writing. I wish I had taken pictures of this part, but I completely forgot. :( But, basically, this is how it went. Each day, I would introduce a new topic/prompt. I would literally write my sloppy copy while they watched. I used this time to model what I was thinking while I was writing, how it’s okay to change your mind about a topic, and most importantly, how to start and finish the prompt. I really feel that taking this time each day to model is what helped my students to complete their prompts successfully. It did take a lot of time, but it also reduced the amount of comments such as, “I don’t know what to write about.” or “I don’t know how to start this.” that I usually hear during prompt writing.

To explain the “Must Haves” and “May Haves”, it goes like this… No matter what, each student will include an Introduction, Meet my Family, Memories, My Interests, and Future Goals section of their Autobiography. Then, they “may” choose the final two prompts they want to write about. They can choose from My Pets, My Best Friend,   a second Memory, or the Me Poem which I changed to the I Am Poem. This way they could feel more ownership of what they were writing and not feel like I told them exactly what they had to do. Even though their final copies didn’t include all 9 prompts, I still modeled each one so that they had an idea of the writing I was looking for. Again, model, model, model.

In the middle of this project, I began to think about all the editing that was going to need to happen. I immediately began to wish I hadn’t started this because I thought about all the work I was going to have to do clean this writing up. I ended up taking some of the pressure off myself and putting it back on the students. We took an entire writing session to reteach how to appropriately edit and revise our writing. Then, we  focused on Peer Editing. Lastly, I sent the prompts home for Parent Edit. I will admit, I was a little disappointed in how many of the papers came back without any corrections. Don’t get me wrong, many parents helped their child, but a scary amount came back untouched. I blamed myself though, because I should have sent home a checklist of sorts for parents to use to edit, but I didn’t think of this until they had brought them back. Side note question… Does anyone out there have a checklist like this that is geared towards parents? Would you be willing to share? Have you had success? Any thoughts/ideas are appreciated! :)

So, this is how I managed the overall editing of the prompts. As students finished their sloppy copies, they would keep them in their writing binders behind the “Genre Writing” tab. Every three prompts we would take some literacy time to edit/revise and peer edit the previous three prompts. Then, they had two nights to have a parent edit. This way, classmates and parents weren’t expected to edit all prompts at once. I was available while students were working for conferences/questions about grammar, word usage, and most of all spelling. We really put our “Have a Go” sheets to work for this unit.

Once we had cleaned up our writing and worked out the kinks… the fun really started. Each day students would recopy their drafts onto their final copy stationary. I really wanted to have them type them, but I think some of my kiddos would be typing until 5th grade. Plus, there is something about actually writing things out because when they are old like me, they can pull these out and look at their 4th grade handwriting. Idk, just seems more special this way.

To ensure quality effort, I again showed them how I transferred my sloppy copy version to my final copy. Then, (as you’ll see below), they needed to color their headings. They were told, and fully understood, that as the teacher I reserved the right to have them rewrite any/all pages that I felt were not up to their quality writing abilities. This meant, if they slopped it down in 2 minutes without using their neatest handwriting or they colored their headings without taking care, then they win the opportunity to write it all over again. I said all this in my happy teacher voice, but I did make one friend redo their introduction because he tried to see if I was serious. Yes, little man, I’m serious. After that one “incident”, all my friends really did do their absolute best. I was so happy to see the pride they were taking in their project. Here is a pictorial breakdown of my final project. I can’t seem to find my “Future Goals” Picture. I’ll take a picture on Monday and then update this post. :)

The Cover. I let each student choose their background for their story. I used black construction paper for everyone’s to give them a more uniform look.

The Table of Contents. My students completed this LAST. After we had glued absolutely everything else, I had them sit with me in groups of 6 and we filled out their page numbers and their topics.

My Introduction

Meet my Family

My Interests

Memories

My Best Friend

My Pets-I was at a training the day this prompt was presented. I actually asked the Guest Teacher to model her own story about her pets. Luckily, she had pets and she did write her own story. I’ve just not gotten my own written yet. Doh! Bad Teacher!

Future Goals-To be posted

and last but not least… The Back Cover

 After they saw my finished project, they were so excited to put their books together. So, in groups of 5 or 6, I went through where to glue what topic. Then, I helped them number their pages and complete their Table of Contents. As I sat with each group I was able to ask them their favorite part of the project and most of them talked about their families or their memories. I can’t wait to finish reading all of them because I do feel like I’ll get to know my students even better. Here are few action shots of my hardworking Goobers! :)

A bit of helpful advice… have some extra glue sticks handy.

They will need a good amount to glue their whole project together.

Finally, we hung them proudly in the hallway. I’m so happy with how they turned out!

If you have read this post to the end… THANK YOU! Hopefully it has inspired you to tackle your own Autobiography unit with your students. But I’m not planning to post this in my store or on GoogleDocs,  as this was NOT my original idea, but Christi’s idea that inspired my project is available for FREE  here.

Here is what you’ll get…

Happy Writing!

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica March 23, 2013 at 7:22 pm

What a great idea! We are about ready to embark on reading biographies and I thought I’d first start with having them do little auto-bios but you’ve inspired me to really do it right. Thanks for the great ideas! I’d love to have a copy of this! :)

Best wishes,
Jessica

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Diane March 23, 2013 at 8:01 pm

This is awesome! I usually have my students write an autobiography near the beginning of the year. I like the idea of having them do it in the spring when they are better writers. When I’ve taught kids to edit/revise, I’ve told them to read their writing aloud while sitting on the carpet or somewhere away from others. It helps them to hear their writing. I have given them a list of things to check for such as spelling, words such as to/too/two, does it make sense, etc. I would love to have this Autobiography unit. Currently, I’m teaching first grade, but I am hoping to move back to fourth grade (my favorite grade) and would find this very useful.

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Shannon March 23, 2013 at 9:52 pm

I LOVE this, Becky!! What a fun topic that really touches on the entire writing process! When I teach revising and editing, I focus on the differences between the two using the Arms vs Cups method found on Pinterest. Arms (revising) is all about adding details, removing unimportant details, making changes to sentences, and substituting/changing words. Editing uses Cups, which is all about capitalization, usage, punctuation, and spelling. They peer revise, and I help with the editing part. It’s helped a lot this year! :)

I’ll be thinking of you and your sweet puppy! I hope everything works out well. :)

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EmilyK March 23, 2013 at 11:05 pm

So sorry to hear about the struggles you are having with your “furr baby,” that’s what I call my pets. Great autobiography idea!
Prayers to you and your dog!

EmilyK

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Ashley Reed March 23, 2013 at 11:09 pm

I love this! I teach first grade, and I have used the Teacher Wife’s biography unit. When it comes to editing and revising, it’s tough with firsties. I give them a list of basic conventions as far as the editing. (capital letters, end marks, commas for items in a series, etc.). They have to go through that checklist and add the missing pieces. As far as revising, we talk about stretching out sentences. I may ask leading questions to guide them in revising their sentences. I would love a copy of your unit! God bless you! ashleybowlesreed@hotmail.com

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Brenda Frady March 23, 2013 at 11:09 pm

GREAT post! I have started using editing circles at the bottom of their writing paper…..a circle for caps, ending punctuation, etc. They have to bubble in the circles after checking for that. BUT– what I found has worked the best…for punctuation especially, is letting them type in the writing to a voki. When the voki “speaks” their writing, BOY can they hear it!

primaryinspired@gmail.com

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Kathryn March 23, 2013 at 11:16 pm

I love your descriptions of how you got your students to the point of their final draft! I teach fourth grade and year after year I have students in my class who come in acting as they they have no clue how to write, so it takes a few months to get them up to par. We do a lot of peer editing and revising in my room with checklists, then after they have had a classmate’s help, I look at the writing and make suggestions. I keep this step really brief, otherwise I’d go crazy!

kjanebarnum@yahoo.com

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Rae March 23, 2013 at 11:24 pm

Love love love!!! This is a fabulous product!!

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Laura March 23, 2013 at 11:35 pm

We did a lot of peer editing (when I taught fifth grade)! Now my first and second graders take a little longer. We spend a day checking for punctuation and capitals. Another day to check for word wall words. And a final day to partner read and see if it makes sense with one on one teacher time!

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Dawn March 23, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Love! One of the ways my students have been successful is by editing and revising with fancy, colored pens. They ADORE fancy pens. Highly motivating!

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Dawn March 23, 2013 at 11:47 pm

P.S. I really hope to win a set! We’re doing autobiographies soon!!

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Dawn March 23, 2013 at 11:48 pm

Eep! Last post. :) dawnmincher (at) yahoo (dot) com

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Jennifer March 23, 2013 at 11:55 pm

What a great idea! I always struggle with the best way to teach revising and editing. This year I have been using an idea I found on Pinterest. I have red, blue and green pencils that I labeled. The children use red for spelling, green for punctuation and blue for moving sentences.

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Jennifer March 23, 2013 at 11:56 pm

thought my email would appear! edmundsje@gmail.com

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Suzy March 24, 2013 at 12:12 am

Sorry to hear about your dog…I hope everything turns out ok and she is back to her happy, energetic self soon.

As far as editing, I never send things home. I would get parents rewriting things instead of helping with editing…so, we do it all at school. WHen I taught upper grades, we had a specific checklist and you and a partner had to initial each thing that was checked. (Hoped initials made you more responsible than a check, if that makes sense.) Now that I have younger students, we do a simpler checklist, but to be honest, they really aren’t very good at finding mistakes. (That’s why they make them!) I sometimes have a student help with the particularly needy ones…like the ones that write an entire page without capital letters or periods. Otherwise, I figure it is as good as it will get in second grade short of me doing all the corrections myself.

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Suzy March 24, 2013 at 12:14 am

Don’t know about my email address…typed it in the box but don’t see it with my comment… tokyoshoes (at) hotmail (dot) com

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Kristen March 24, 2013 at 2:08 am

Oooh, I would love to have a copy of this…we are about to embark on a “personal narrative” writing unit, and this autobiography project would be perfect. I am always looking for ways to effectively teach editing skills, too. My students seem to think that their writing is “perfect” as soon as it’s written! I’m eager to see if anyone has helpful comments on this…

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Kristen March 24, 2013 at 2:11 am

My email is kdahlhofer@gmail.com — I really hope I win a copy of your project!! :)

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Christi March 24, 2013 at 2:23 am

Love the post, Becky! I’m furiously trying to get that freebie updated to make it cuter, but I love that it sparked ideas for you.

For revising and editing, I try to focus on one revising skill and one editing skill at a time at the beginning of the year, so I might teach interesting beginnings and indented paragraphs in the first unit (it depends on what I notice the class needs). I expect them to master that in the first unit. Then in the second unit, we’ll keep those on our checklists but I’ll also teach one more. By the end of the year, the checklist includes ALL the important revisions and edits I expect. I also have them do their own draft as well as a peer’s because we’re better at picking apart writing that isn’t our own. They have to nicely defend/debate their checklists with each other.

I hope that made sense. Thanks for sharing my freebie.
Christi =)
Ms. Fultz’s Corner

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Peggy March 24, 2013 at 5:01 am

I am a dog person, too. I hope your fur baby gets better soon.
My dog has a back problem. The drugs she had to take were awful.
I love her so much I don’t know what I would do without her.
Even my skin kids know she is their sister!
I have a soft spot for fellow dog lovers, so I will be think of you!
oh- and I love your blog!!
Strong thoughts!
Peggy

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zenmyth March 24, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Your best friend sounds awesome!!! Hugs to Lillie, I hope she feels better soon!

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Lisa March 24, 2013 at 9:23 pm

So sorry to hear about your pup…we have a Lab with hip issues and I know how hard it is to know something is just not right with her and not know how to fix it. You’re both in my prayers.

Awesome post, as always! Thanks for sharing such a detailed description. This one is going on my wish list.

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Courtney March 25, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I’m so sorry to hear about your fur baby, I hope everything works out!

In the 3rd grade world, my students use different colored (fun) pens to edit and revise. We have a checklist if things we must look for, and I require that my students peer edit with 2 friends before they conference with friends. We also have a word book/personal dictionary so if a student is always misspelling a certain word, I will have them put it in their dictionary for future use.

Thinking of you and Lillie!

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Amanda March 25, 2013 at 3:51 pm

I love reading about myself in your autobiography. :-) Good to know you’re still a fan of the Parthenon!

(Sloppy) Kisses to Lillie from Yoda and Hunter!!

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Heather March 25, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Love this lesson!! I’ve been looking for something like this for my kiddos for some time. Are you sure you don’t want to sell it on TpT?? :) Pretty please!!

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hj March 28, 2013 at 3:20 am

Pleeeeeease make this available!! This is awesome :) Hmorse@kings.k12.ca.us

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Tara April 1, 2013 at 11:06 pm

How much do I love this idea!!! Really wanting to do this….hoping after the state tests are done:) Pinning it now:) Love

4th Grade Frolics

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Wendy April 1, 2013 at 11:38 pm

Please make this available! I am out of my classroom for the next month or so due to a broken ankle and meniscus tear that occurred while we were on a field trip, I haven’t seen my students since the injury and have been writing all theplans for my sub. I will not be with them when they complete the state assessments this year and am looking for some fun writing for them to complete while I’m out! Please, Please, Please put this on your TPT!!!

Thank you so much for all you do!

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Carolyn Gieszl April 3, 2013 at 3:55 am

I really love these templates! Is there any chance of you making them available? This would be so much to do!

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Tiffany Heath April 3, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I absolutely love this unit!! I think it would be great to use after our testing is complete as an end of the year activity! Thanks so much!

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Annie April 4, 2013 at 2:50 am

We went through that ACL surgery with our Dal. It is not fun but pretty cool that fishing line can do what the muscle is supposed to. Surgery isn’t cheap either! Praying she feels better soon! Love the autobiographies as well!

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Meredith April 8, 2013 at 12:05 am

I love this! I am going to start autobiographies with my 2nd graders. I love your stationary! Editing and revising can be tricky for 2nd graders but we practice all the time. The conventions are easier to fix, but the revising part is tough for them. I constantly model editing and revising my own writing and then they practice on their own. I also use sample editing paragraphs from superteacherworksheets.com for morning work sometimes. I would love a copy of your unit!!

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Kristi April 8, 2013 at 1:32 am

I am not sure if I am too late for your contest, but this was just too good to pass up! My email is kris_321@hotmail.com.

When I edit with my kidlits, we use the letters MCPSN to remember all the pieces to edit for.

M: Meaning
C: Capitals
P: Punctuatuation
S: Spelling
N: Neatness

I hope this helps :)

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Andrea April 12, 2013 at 6:44 pm

I hope Lillie is going well. I absolutely love this unit, and all the units you have created. My studnets and I all loved the Because of Winn Dixie unit. I am a new 4th grade teacher and go to your blog to get ideas. I hope you make this unit available or sell it on TPT. If you are able to share my e-mail address is andrea.pruett@gmail.com

Thinking of Lillie!

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Carolyn Gieszl April 14, 2013 at 5:34 am

Still no plans to make this available? I love it and would love to be able to do it with my kiddos before the year ends, after testing next week! What a great end of the year activity.

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Megan April 15, 2013 at 7:02 pm

PLEASE change your mind about selling this! I absolutely love YOUR version of it. I can picture it already hanging in our hallway.

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Casey Judice April 16, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Hello! I know I’m not one of the first 10 to resopond to this post, but I absolutely love your final copy stationary and would love to have a copy! I am a third grade teacher in Louisiana. We have been using your photos in our class to serve as models each day as we write our autobiographies. Please consider sharing them once again…they are great!
Thanks a bunch!
Casey Judice

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Casey Judice April 16, 2013 at 2:46 pm

My email address is : cjjudice@lpssonline.com

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Tricia April 17, 2013 at 12:55 am

I absolutely love this!! It would be the perfect end of the year writing assignment. Please reconsider making it available!!

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Sharon Evans May 23, 2013 at 10:38 am

Wow! What an amazing resource. Today is they first time I have seen your blog and you have really inspired me in so many ways. I love to make things fun and engaging for my students and your autobiography unit is a perfect way for students to share about themselves whilst creating a keepsake for their parents. I would love a copy if you are still willing to share! Keep up the great work.

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becky June 14, 2013 at 12:59 am

Thanks Sharon,

You are so sweet! I’m not planning to post this in my store or on GoogleDocs, as this was NOT my original idea, but Christi’s idea that inspired my project is available for FREE here http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Autobiography-Project-for-Writing-Workshop-258129

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll find some other ideas helpful!
Becky :)

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Jes August 10, 2014 at 8:01 pm

This is a great lesson plan! Thanks for posting/blogging about it and where you found it. It is no longer FREE at Christi’s TPT store, but it is inexpensive ($5) and so worth it!!

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Ipolito May 25, 2013 at 6:32 am

What a great resource and I love your formatting. I was just hired as a third grade teacher and I am stocking up resources for next year. I hope you make this available to download…even if I have to pay for it! Looks like I am too late to get a copy, but if you change your mind it’s maloyj@eou.edu

Thanks!

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becky June 14, 2013 at 12:58 am

Hi There!
I’m not planning to post this in my store or on GoogleDocs, as this was NOT my original idea, but Christi’s idea that inspired my project is available for FREE here http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Autobiography-Project-for-Writing-Workshop-258129

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll find some other ideas helpful!
Becky :)

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Tessa May 28, 2013 at 6:52 pm

I love love love this! My room is dots too!

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Molly June 14, 2013 at 2:29 am

Becky,

You always have the cutest ideas!! Love this and definitely want to do it with my kiddos next year!

Molly
Lessons with Laughter

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Jada Gilleylen May 6, 2014 at 3:42 am

I know you said that you wouldn’t be selling your version of this autobiography unit…but I’d love a copy to use in my classroom. My 3rd grade writers struggle with organization (among other traits) and would greatly benefit from the layout of the unit…I LOVE the decor! If nothing else, please tell me what font you used! Thanks for your contributions to our profession!

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Brenda MacNeil November 17, 2014 at 12:05 am

I have been trying to get the free pages for the autobiography but it keeps taking me to the TPT page. It says they cost $5. Are they not free anymore?

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Aly Schweitzer September 12, 2015 at 6:35 pm

I absolutely love this project! I am a first year teacher at a brand new project-based school and I would love to do this with my third graders! If there is anyway I could get my hands on the template for this it would be GREATLY appreciated!

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Shelley McGehee December 30, 2015 at 5:24 pm

These are awesome ideas. Our school just implemented Google Chromebooks in the classrooms, and I plan to take your ideas to make sloppy copies, Must Haves and May Haves. In the end I plan to have the students create the story in digital form using Google Slides. I’ll let you know how it works.

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Mikaela Maroudas January 5, 2016 at 5:45 am

Is it still possible to be a sent a copy of the docs you used?

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Lisa Ligers January 25, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Hi there! I’m wondering if you sell a copy of your autobiography templates that you show in this blog post? I love the look of them and am finding it challenging to create a similar looking document.
Thanks!
-Lisa-

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Kelly March 15, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Hi there,
So my question is about formatting. Where did you get/how did you get the pages to look so cute?! I often see things on teachers pay teachers that I like and wonder how I can make my assignments look so lovely. Is there a program that you bought that gives you templates that you type your information into? This is such a “newbie to tech” question I know but I’ve been dying to ask someone (and you seem so sweet that you won’t ridicule my un-tech-y-ness).

Thanks!

Kelly

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Soraya March 17, 2016 at 6:48 pm

I love this autobiography! The borders are too cute! I tried to make my own but would love a copy if you wouldn’t mind.
Thanks so much!
Soraya
wittgal5@yahoo.com

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Andrea Henson February 7, 2017 at 6:56 pm

Hello,

I tried to find the freebie however the link was redirecting me to an unknown link. It kept crashing on me. I am starting this unit so I would love to have this resource!

Thanks!
andreahenson11@gmail.com

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