Tips for Organizing Biography Writing in Two Languages

by multilingualmania on September 30, 2010

in bilingual teachers, Culture, Instructional Strategies, Literacy and Biliteracy, Writing

This month in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month we are hosting a student writing contest. The following suggestions will assist students with enhancing their ability to write essays about important Latinas and Latinos:

1. Read a variety of biographies about an important Latina or Latino that has made a significant impact on society.

2. When teaching about the person, think of categories of information that you would like students to learn about such as: important details about the person’s life, obstacles that they overcame, social/political trends that influenced the person’s actions, contributions to society, personality traits, similarity or dissimilarity to other people, and other important categories.

3. Create a graphic organizer that students can use to categorize information when they are reading and learning about a certain person. One example of a graphic organizer that can be used when studying the life of the Latina activist Emma Tenayuca is:


    4. After reading a variety of books, model how to write a paragraph with one of the categories. After  modeling one paragraph, choose another category and solicit student input when writing a second paragraph.

    5. Have students write paragraphs about the important person by using the graphic organizer and teacher model to guide their own writing.

    6. If you would like to focus on biliteracy, additional important people can be studied in another language. In order to scaffold and mediate student learning, it is recommended that teachers use similar categories that were taught to students in English when learning about important people. For example, when learning about the personality characteristics of a person in English, students can study the personality characteristics of a different person in Spanish.

    7. Graphic organizers can also be used in the second language, using similar categories that were taught in English. Although this graphic organizer in Spanish is designed differently, many of the categories are similar to the categories taught when learning about Emma Tenayuca in English:


    By using similar categories on the graphic organizers when studying about important Latinas and Latinos in both English and Spanish, students will be better equipped to make connections between what is taught in English and Spanish and better able to organize their essays. The more that students organize information learned prior to writing, the more successful writers they will become in both languages!

    For additional information:

    Hispanic Heritage Student Writing Contest Sponsored by Multilingual Mania
    Children’s Books that Teach About Influential Latinas

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