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How to Help Your Child With a Biography Assignment

by Oubria Tronshaw

Children with parents involved in their academic lives are more likely to get better grades, score higher on tests and go on to college, according to the Center for Public Education. However, just like other aspects of parenting, helping with assignments is a balancing act. Ensure that your child has enough time to write, revise and rewrite his biography assignment without feeling rushed, otherwise you might feel pressured to step in and help more than you should. Remember, this is your child’s assignment, not yours. While you can guide and give advice, ultimately you have to let him do it.

Keep up with your child’s assignments so you know about the biography project early on. Find out the due date, and the length and format requirements, and work together with your child to determine how much time he has to spend on each phase of the assignment. For example, if the paper is due in four weeks, schedule one week for research, one week for writing the outline and rough draft, and two weeks for rewrites and proofreading. Create an assignment calendar with your child so he know exactly what he should be doing each step of the way.

Talk to your child about the subject of his biography, to help get his creative juices flowing. Ask him what he knows about the person already, and what facts he finds interesting. Ask him what aspects of the person’s life he wants to know more about. This will help your child determine what he already knows, and exactly what else he needs to find out.

Help create a proper research environment, whether that means pointing out the best websites for credible information, or taking him to the library for some heavy-duty investigation. If he’s writing the biography of someone he knows, help him come up with a list of questions for a personal interview. Ensure that your child has a quiet, distraction-free area to review materials and take notes. As he gathers the information, help him arrange the subject’s major life events in chronological order.

Continue to initiate conversations with your child about his topic as he continues to research, to help him internalize the information. Ask questions such as “What do you think was the most important event of this person’s life?” or “What do you find most interesting about this person?” or “Are you finding that different sources have different points of view? What do you think about that?” Help your child understand that part of research is piecing together many different sides of the same story.

Read your child’s outline and rough draft and give helpful feedback. Once he has gone through revision and editing, proofread his final draft as well.

About the Author

Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.

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