Biography writing activity

Technologies: Blogs for writing autobiographical statements and for posting biographies, text chat or skype or video conferencing tools for interviewing the person who is the subject of the biography, and a wiki, googledoc, or website environment for posting final reflections, responses, and reactions to the biographies project.

The goal: For students to practice written communication skills, to present information and opinions about themselves and telecollabration classmates, and to share that information in writing with others.

Description in four phases:

Phase 1: Using a blog for weekly (or more frequent) compositions, students begin by composing a number of autobiographical entries that describe their interests and hobbies, important life events, future dreams and aspirations, and/or other self-selected or teacher suggested topics.

Phase 2: Students are paired with telecollaboration partners to write bibliographies of one another using the autobiographical blog entries as the primary data source. Using text chat or skype or video conferencing, students can also be encouraged to interactively interview the person they are writing a biography of in order to glean additional information. Once completed, the biographies can be posted as blog entries and all biographies can be read by both partner classes as a homework assignment.

Phase 3: An in-class follow-up activity involves the teacher asking factual and content questions of the whole class about the biographies. In class discussion can emphasize amusing content or serious life goals, any systematic similarities or differences within or between the partner classes, and can serve as a venue for students to share their observations.

Phase 4 (optional): Students in both classes compile their comments and reflections using a wiki, googledoc, or web environment. The documents from both classes can be combined as a summative conclusion to the project.

Institution reporting the task:

University of Groningen

Language of task instructions:


Target Group:

Foreign languages



References and acknowledgements:



Collaborative tasks

Estimated Duration:

4 sessions




collaborative writing
cultural comparison



Language Configurations:


Language(s) that the task can be used in:


Dominant language production:

Writing/reading asynchronous

Target Competences:

Language competence
Intercultural skills
Online communication skills

Specific pedagogical objectives:

Development of students interest in cultural similarities and differences

Suggested Communication Tools:

Collaborative tools

Suggested Resources:

Access to blogs, wikis, and text and/or video conferencing tools, all of which are freely available on the internet.


  1. Think up questions to ask students that relate to their personal experiences or opinions. These should emphasize autobiographical content and themes.
  2. Consider giving students specific autobiographical questions and have them write answers in their blogs, for instance: ” Describe one of your earliest childhood memories” , ” What is the most important thing that has happened to you in the last year?” , ” What do you aspire to be doing 5 and 15 years from now?” , and so on.
  3. Assign each student another student&#39 s blog to read. Students can be in pairs across the two classes (i.e. students A and B read each other&#39 s) or a chain (A reads B, who reads C, who reads D, etc.).
  4. Students should use the information in the assigned blog to write a biography about that student, and post this biography in their own blog.
  5. Read all the students&#39 biographies and note interesting points to discuss in class and document in writing in the final reflection activity.

Learner Texts:


Document related to the task:


Criteria for Completion:

Assessment can take the form of quality of the writing produced by students. Additionally, students can create a portfolio of written artifacts that emerge from the project, all of which can be evaluated by the instructor.

Comments and suggestions:



Steven Thorne, University of Groningen