Assignment Biography: Student Criteria and Rubric for Writing

Researching an Individual Aligned to Common Core Writing Standards

Writing a biography means a student has to tell an individual's life story. Imagezoo/GETTY Images

The genre of biography can also be categorized in the sub-genre of narrative nonfiction/historical nonfiction. When a teacher assigns a biography as a writing assignment, the purpose is to have a student use multiple research tools to gather and to synthesize information that may be used as evidence in a written report about an individual. The evidence gained from research can include: a person’s words, actions, journals, reactions, related books, interviews with friends, relatives, associates and enemies.

The  historical context is equally important. Since there are people who have influenced every academic discipline, assigning a biography can be a cross-disciplinary or inter-disciplinary writing assignment. 

Middle and high school teachers should allow students to have a choice in selecting the subject for a biography. Providing student choice, particularly for students in grades 7-12, increases their engagement and their motivation. According to by Judith L. Irvin, Julie Meltzer and Melinda S. Dukes in their book Taking Action on Adolescent Literacy:

"As humans, we are motivated to engage when we are interested or have real purpose for doing so. So motivation to engage [students] is the first step on the road to improving literacy habits and skills" (Chapter 1).

A student should prepare a biography by researching the facts about an individual, and then by analyzing these facts in presenting an individual's feelings and motivations.

Students should know that a good biography includes more than a timeline of just the birth or birth-to-death. The student should have a purpose for researching another individual's life. The purpose for a student to research and write a biography can be in a response to the prompt:

 "How does this writing this biography help me to understand the influence of this person on history, and quite possibly, this person's impact on me?"

The following standards based criteria and scoring rubrics can be used to grade a student-selected biography. Both criteria and rubrics should be given to students before they begin their work. 

Criteria for a Student Biography aligned to

Common Core State Standards

Biography Details

CCSS Anchor Writing Standard(s)

Facts:

Birthdate /Birthplace;
Death (if applicable)
Family Members;
Miscellaneous (religion, titles, etc).

Education/Influences:

Schooling;
Training;
Work Experiences;
Contemporaries/Relationships.

Accomplishments/ Significance:

Evidence of major accomplishments;
Evidence of minor accomplishments (if relevant);
Analysis that supports why individual was worthy of note in their field of expertise during his or her life;
Analysis why this individual is worthy of note in their field of expertise today.

Quotes/Publications

Statements made;
Works published.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7

Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.8

Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9

Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

 

 

 

 

Biography Organization

CCSS Anchor Writing Standard(s)

Purpose of each paragraph (introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion) is clear;
Clear relationship between topic sentence(s) and paragraph(s) that came before;
Transitions are effective in assisting reader understand shifts;
Ideas within each paragraph fully developed;
Evidence to support each point;
Evidence is relevant;  
Important terms explained for reader.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.2

Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Standards of English: (by grade level)

CCSS Anchor Writing Standard(s)

Grade 7:*

Write simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences as a way to differ relationships among ideas;
Place phrases and clauses within a sentence;
Use a comma to separate coordinate adjectives;

Grade 8:*

Write in both active and passive voice;
Use punctuation (comma, ellipsis, dash) to indicate a pause or break;
Use an ellipsis to indicate an omission.

 Grades 9-10:*

Correct use of  phrases and clauses to convey specific meanings and add variety and interest to writing;
Use a semicolon to link two or more closely related independent clauses;
Use a colon to introduce a list or quotation.

Grades 11-12*

Observe hyphenation conventions;
Vary syntax for effect;

*Spell correctly.

 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1

Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.2

Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

 

Grading Rubric: Holistic Standards

with Letter Grade Conversions

(based on extended response Smarter Balanced Assessment writing rubric)

Score:

4

Letter 
Grade:

A

Student response is  thorough elaboration of the support/evidence on the topic (individual) including the effective use of source material. The response clearly and effectively develops ideas, using precise language:

  • comprehensive evidence (facts and details) from source materials are integrated;
  • relevant, and specific  clear citations or attribution to source materials;
  • effective use of a variety of elaborative techniques:
  • vocabulary is clearly appropriate for the audience and purpose; 
  • effective, appropriate style enhances content.

Score:

3

Letter
Grade:

B

Student response is an adequate elaboration of the support/evidence in the biography that includes the use of source materials. The student response adequately develops ideas, employing a mix of precise and more general language:  

  • adequate evidence (facts and details) from the source materials is integrated and relevant, yet the evidence and explanation may be general;  
  • adequate use of citations or attribution to source material;  
  • adequate use of some elaborative techniques;
  • vocabulary is generally appropriate for the audience and purpose; generally appropriate style is evident.

Score:

2

Letter
Grade:

C

Student response is uneven with cursory elaboration of the support/evidence in the biography that includes uneven or limited use of source material. The student response develops ideas unevenly, using simplistic language:

  • some evidence (facts and details) from the source materials may be weakly integrated, imprecise, repetitive, vague, and/or copied;
  • weak use of citations or attribution to source materials;
  • weak or uneven use of elaborative techniques;
  • development may consist primarily of source summaries;
  • vocabulary use is uneven or somewhat ineffective for the audience and purpose;
  • inconsistent or weak attempt to create appropriate style

Score:

1

Letter
Grade:

D

Student response provides minimal elaboration of the support/evidence in the biography that includes little or no use of source material. The student response is vague, lacks clarity, or is confusing:

  • evidence (facts and details) from the source material is minimal, irrelevant, absent, incorrectly used, or predominantly copied:
  • insufficient use of citations or attribution to source material:
  • minimal, if any, use of elaborative techniques:
  • vocabulary is limited or ineffective for the audience and purpose:
  • little or no evidence of appropriate style
NO SCOREInsufficient (includes copied text)  In a language other than English;  Off-topic;  Off-purpose

 

 

 
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Your Citation
Bennett, Colette. "Assignment Biography: Student Criteria and Rubric for Writing." ThoughtCo, Feb. 21, 2017, thoughtco.com/biography-assignment-criteria-and-rubric-4083704. Bennett, Colette. (2017, February 21). Assignment Biography: Student Criteria and Rubric for Writing. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/biography-assignment-criteria-and-rubric-4083704 Bennett, Colette. "Assignment Biography: Student Criteria and Rubric for Writing." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/biography-assignment-criteria-and-rubric-4083704 (accessed January 17, 2018).