Mrs. Amanda Beckett started an autobiography project in her third, fourth and fifth grade ESL classes that gave students the opportunity to write about something significant that happened in their past. From what it was like for one student to have a liver transplant to the day another student met her best friend – each story was unique. Through this experience, the students learned that while they all have a different past, they all also add incredible value to their classroom, their school and their community. Each and every student is special in his or her own way.
Mrs. Beckett's students are English Language Learners, which can sometimes make it difficult for them to relate to their peers at school. Despite language barriers, Mrs. Beckett wants to ensure that all of students feel a sense of belonging. In order to do that, different cultures and backgrounds are celebrated in Mrs. Beckett's classroom. In addition, Mrs. Beckett is always coming up with different projects to help her students feel included in the school community. For example, her students learned a lot from the autobiography project. First, they had to read autobiographies to understand how they are written. Then they had to write their own stories in both English and their native language. After that, Mrs. Beckett interviewed each student about his or her story on video, so they could later watch themselves speak. Finally, the students read one another's stories so they could better understand what their peers have walked through in the past. "I want you all to learn from each other's stories. Our backgrounds are all so different! We've all experienced different things so far in our lives," Mrs. Beckett told her students. "But! Regardless of what we've been through, today, we are all here together at Chartiers Valley Intermediate School. What we all have in common is that our pasts have led us here today."
An autobiography project can be done in any classroom, in any grade level, at any school. Not only does the project promote literacy, it gives students the opportunity to have a voice. To tell their stories. And to celebrate their lives. Every child has a milestone they've reached in their lifetime – whether it be a positive or negative experience. Mrs. Beckett encourages students to write about something that had a major impact on their lives.