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Why Biographical Narrative?. Department of Secondary Instruction Fontana Unified School District Aug. 2010. 2010 District Writing Benchmark #1. The first district writing benchmark for grades 9 & 10 will ask students to write a biographical narrative

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Why Biographical Narrative?

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Why Biographical Narrative?

Department of Secondary Instruction

Fontana Unified School District

Aug. 2010

2010 District Writing Benchmark #1

  • The first district writing benchmark for grades 9 & 10 will ask students to write a biographical narrative

  • It will be administered on September 23rd & 24th

Why biographical?

  • The only form of narrative students will be asked to write on the CAHSEE is a biographical narrative

  • Since the district benchmarks are focused on preparing students to successfully pass the California High School Exit Examination, it makes sense that students are exposed to a formal, on-demand writing task of this nature. Other forms of narrative can and should be taught in the classroom at grades 9 and/or10 (personal, fictional and autobiographical).

From the CAHSEE prep document:

What exactly is a “biographical narrative?”

  • A biographical narrative is simply the recounting of a story from someone’s life.

  • The topic will generally give the student a general prompt in which they can choose to write about someone they know personally or from history.

  • Example: Write about someone who learned an important lesson from failure. How did he or she fail and what lesson was learned?

From CDE CAHSEE prep materials:

Whether writing a fictional or biographical narrative, the following things must be included in the narrative:

  • Relate a sequence of events and communicate the significance of the events to the audience.

  • Locate scenes and incidents in specific places.

  • Describe with concrete sensory details the sights, sounds, and smells of a scene and the specific actions, movements, gestures, and feelings of the characters; use interior monologue to depict the characters’ feelings.

  • Pace the presentation of actions to accommodate changes in time and mood.

  • Make effective use of descriptions of appearance, images, shifting perspectives, and sensory details.

SampleBiographical Narrative Prompt from CAHSEE

Sample essays and scoring commentary follows in the next three slides.

*Sample prompt and essay taken from CAHSEE ELA Released Test Questions 2008 (available online)

Example of an advanced student response



Scoring Commentary



Proficient (score 3) students response

Scoring Commentary

Score 2

(not proficient)

Scoring Commentary

The district benchmark will look like..

The district writing rubric is now aligned to the CAHSEE rubric and is based on a 4 point scale:

  • 4= Advanced

  • 3= Proficient

  • 2= Basic

  • 1= Below Basic (or Far Below Basic)

Sample Prompt #1

  • Write a narrative about someone who had to overcome fear in order to achieve a goal. It could have been the fear of something physical or a psychological fear. The person about whom you write might be someone you know personally, such as a family member; it could also be someone you have studied from history.

Sample prompt #2

Write a narrative about someone you know personally, or a historical figure, who discovered something new. It might have been a physical discovery, such as the location of a new place, or it may have been a personal discovery, such as the love for a new food or kind of art. What made the discovery important for the person and how did it change their life or the lives of others?


  • -share and discuss this presentation with your team.

  • -share and discuss it with your students.

  • -discuss the components of a narrative essay.

  • -discuss the differences between fictional, autobiographical and biographical narratives.

  • -review the way the district biographical narrative provides students with the chance to write about people from their own lives or from history.

  • -discuss this writing assignment with your students’ social studies teacher(s).

Questions or concerns?

  • Meet with your grade level or department to discuss and share ideas first.

  • If you still have questions, please contact:

    • Nazle Spence (bedrnm@fusd.net)

    • Daniel Todd (todddj@fusd.net)

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