What makes a life worth writing about?

In their current English unit, MYP 2 students are exploring an important question: What makes a life worth writing about? Students are learning the difference between biographies and autobiographies, how to identify the conventions of a biography, and how to effectively write a biography that captures the key aspects of an individual’s life story. Further, students are exploring why we should read and write biographies and what we can learn from them (i.e., what is the purpose of reading and writing biographies?).

The unit will culminate in an individual project in which students will write a short biography– approximately 1000 words– about a famous historical figure who lived during the Middle Ages, as this topic links directly to our current Individual & Societies unit (“What was life like during the Middle Ages?”). Students will write biographies about notable historical figures such as Marco Polo, Dante Alighieri, and Tomás de Torquemada.

In addition to writing their own biographies this unit, students are reading an award-winning autobiography titled “I am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban”. This is a powerful, eye-opening autobiography and “a remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons” (Source).

Malala, the author and protagonist of the book, is an educational activist fighting for women’s educational rights in Pakistan, her home country, as well as other regions around the world in which women do not yet have the same right to education as men. For her dedication to this cause, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. At age 17, she became the youngest person in history to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. While accepting the award, Malala made a point to mention that “This award is not just for me. It is for those forgotten children who want education. It is for those frightened children who want peace. It is for those voiceless children who want change” (Source).

For me, the purpose of introducing this book into the MYP program is to show students that it is possible for just one individual to inspire so much change in the world, and at such a young age. Malala provides a perfect answer to the unit’s guiding question: What makes a life worth writing about? A life worth writing about is a life focused on change, progress, and challenging the status quo.

Next month I will post an update about MYP 2’s biographies, including some notable extracts for you to read 🙂

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