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Lesson Plan

A Biography Study: Using Role-Play to Explore Authors' Lives

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Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Seven to ten 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Carol S. Anderson Gibson

Phoenix, Arizona

Debra J. Coffey

Knoxville, Tennessee


International Literacy Association



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



Dramatizing life stories provides students with an engaging way to become more critical readers and researchers. In this lesson, students select American authors to research, create timelines and biopoems, and then collaborate on teams to design and perform a panel presentation in which they role-play as their authors. The final project requires each student to synthesize information about his or her author in an essay.

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ReadWriteThink Timeline Tool: This interactive tool can be used with any lesson requiring students to create a timeline.

K-W-L-S Chart: Students can use this chart to help guide their inquiry process in a variety of different lesson types.

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Erb, S., & Moore, N. (2003). A taste of Chautauqua: Historical investigation and oral presentation. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 47(2), 168-175.

  • Role-play is one technique that has the potential to generate excitement and engagement as students explore the past.

  • The process of studying a person's life story and performing as if one were that person is rooted in the institution of Chautauqua. The Chautauqua institution began as an adult education movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

  • The role-playing technique used in this lesson is an excellent introduction to Chautauquan tradition, as it uses a similar, but less arduous process of historical investigation and presentation of biography.


Daisey, P. (1996). Promoting literacy in secondary content area classrooms with biography projects. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 40(4), 270-278.

  • Biographies can provide role models for learning new attitudes and behaviors. They can help promote an appreciation of diversity, giving students a renewed inspiration to promote equality and justice.

  • Biographies provide an interesting way to practice interpreting data for biases, embellishments, or deletions. Students learn to assess the quality of a biography by noting if it has sufficient and trustworthy references, a balanced portrayal of the subject, and an explicit identification of which parts are true and which parts are fictionalized.

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