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Autobiographies: A 'Jigsaw Puzzle' Prewriting Strategy

Subject: Arts & Humanities: Language Arts, Literature
Grades: 6-8, 9-12

Brief Description

A jigsaw puzzle provides a creative way to help students organize their writing.


  • Define the term autobiography.
  • Organize and write an autobiography.
  • Sequence events in chronological order.


autobiography, writing, Benjamin Franklin

Materials Needed

  • a sample of, or excerpts from, an autobiography, such as the autobiography of Ben Franklin, which is also available on audiotape
  • construction paper and scissors
  • computer for word processing (optional)

Lesson Plan

After reading aloud The Autobiography of Ben Franklin, we did the following activity:

  • Give each student a sheet of construction paper. Tell students to draw five jigsaw puzzle shapes, using the entire sheet of paper. Students should be able to cut out the pieces and put them back together to form a full sheet of paper. It is important that they only have five pieces for their puzzles.
  • Next, have students think about their lives and make a timeline of events. They can start with birth. Other ideas they might include: birth of siblings, moving to a new city, getting a dog, getting a driver's license. They should have at least five events on their time lines.
  • Students select five major events from their time lines. They write short titles to describe each of those events. Then they write the title of a different event on each puzzle piece, one event per puzzle piece.
  • Next, students turn over each puzzle piece and write five details about the event on that puzzle piece. For example, on the Birth puzzle piece, a student might list his or her birth date, place of birth, parents' names, doctor's name. When students have completed this step, they have actually completed all the prewriting for the writing assignment.
  • Students use the information on the puzzle pieces to organize and write rough drafts of paragraphs. When the drafts are complete, take the students to the computer lab to edit and print final copies of their autobiographies.


    I graded this activity on following directions, grammar, and content.

    Submitted By

    Carla Kinnard, Greenville Christian School, Greenville, Texas

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