1. Prologue (or Introduction): Explain
the significance of your title, making clear why it is relevant
to your life in particular. Introduce yourself gracefully to
your reader and capture our attention. Include a brief description
of this writing project and its purposes in your own words.
= Abstract Noun + IS + Concrete Example
2. What's in a
Name? Names are an integral
part of who we are. They shape our sense of who we are. Explore
your feelings about "the unity between [your]self and [your]
name." Are these the names you would have chosen for yourself?
Surname, middle name, Christian name? Is there a story behind
your naming? Someone famous, a family member, weird initials?
Does your name have symbolic meaning? Is it ethnic or historic
or literary? Did your parents consider other names? In short,
how do you live with your name?
3. Personal Alphabet:
Browse through a dictionary,
looking for adjectives to describe yourself. Know the meaning
of the words you select and be able to explain how each word
you've chosen fits you. Choose at least one adjective for each
letter of the alphabet. Be sure you choose the adjective form
of words. For example, "excite" is a verb and "excitable"
is an adjective. "Exciting" is a participle so it can
be used as an adjectiveBUT "excitable" and "exciting"
mean very different things.
4. Likes / Dislikes
two columns, one titled "Likes," the other "Dislikes,"
and list from ten to fifteen specific items in each column. Avoid
naming specific classmates and teachers by general-izing. For
example, "that mean teacher who's making me write an autobiography,"
not my name!
5. Sensory Experiences:
The five senses allow us
to perceive whatever is tangible, or concrete. A sensory experience
is something we can taste, touch, smell, see, or hear. For example,
ice-cold water-melon, hot dogs sizzling over a charcoal fire,
mosquito bites, fireworks, and the music of the ice-cream wagon
are sensory experiences I associate with a Fourth of July picnic.
Describe a specific time and place which recalls rich sensory
experiences for you. Include at least two details that appeal
to each of the five senses.
Definitions: This kind of definition helps make abstract
words easier to under-stand by giving a specific concrete example.
A famous metaphorical definition is "Happiness is a warm
puppy." For you, happiness may be something very different
a raise in your allowance, a banana split, a room of your own.
Write metaphorical definitions of ten different abstract nouns.
Your concrete example must be something specific that you can
sense taste, touch, smell, see, or hear. Your definitions should
follow the format below:
7. A Quality Personality:
In J. Ruth Gendler's The
Book of Qualities, 70 abstract qualities come to life,
walking and talking, borrowing Grandmother's shawl and telling
scary stories late into the night personification at its best!
Precise, specific images reveal each abstract quality as a vivid
personality. After you read samples in class, choose one quality
from the list provided. Check the dictionary and the thesaurus,
exploring possible meanings and hunting down synonyms.
are real people, with weird relatives, bad friends, unique clothing
styles, and strange stories to tell. Make your chosen quality
a real personality, too. Complete a sensory cluster for your
quality sight, smell, taste, touch, sound. Then write and carefully
polish a one-to-three-paragraph personification of your quality.
Make every word count on this one!
8. Color Your World: In color, and
about color, this assignment honors every crayon ever nibbled
by any kid. Although you don't have to use crayons, use the color(s)
themselves as part of your writing. You could write a poem about
the things you associate with a specific color, such as all the
blues there are! Or write an explanation of the colors you associate
with different emotions. Or make lists of best colors to wear
or drive in orYou have freedom with content here, since color
is the key ingredient. Maybe a myth about "How Pink Was
9. Room Sweet Room:
We are territorial animals,
instinctively seeking a place we can call our own. The rooms
we live in and how we decorate them are as revealing as our clothing.
Examine your own room and all the things that make it uniquely
yours. Describe the room, not just by listing the things in it,
but by conveying the feelings you have for the room and the items
10. Personal Metaphors:
Make a list of metaphorical
comparisons. Think, "If I were an animal, what kind of animal
would I be?" For each item, write the general label and
then your specific comparison. Be realistic, be somewhat honest,
and be able to explain your choices. Don't say you are a rose,
if you're really a daisy.
3. Article of Clothing
4. Day of the Week
9. Type of Building
12. Geometric Shape
13. Piece of Furniture
15. Season of the Year
16. Television Character
17. Cartoon or Comic Character
18. Appliance or Machinery
19. Natural Phenomenon
11. Extended Metaphors:
Go back to your list of
personal metaphors. Choose five that you can extend by explaining
the comparison in detail. Write a paragraph for each personal
metaphor by giving four or five specific points of comparison.
For example, if you are like an alley cat, discuss four the characteristics
of an alley cat and explain the ways in which you have the same
12. The Ultimate
All-Purpose Excuse: Just in case you are tardy some day, write an
elaborate, exaggerated, fantastic excuse for yourself. Be as
creative as you can. In about 150 words, convince your heartless
English teacher that your excuse is a valid reason for being
Sentences: Complete each
of the following sentences by expanding them into short paragraphs.
As always, be specific.
14. Personal Symbols:
Write about any objects
that have special symbolic meanings for you. These might be a
gift from someone you love, a souvenir from a place you miss,
a childhood toy you still treasure, a family photograph, whatever.
Describe the objects, appealing to the senses as appropriate
and giving specific details. Also explain what each symbolizes
15. Map of Life:
Draw a stylized map, beginning
with your birth and ending with the present. Along the way, include
little labels or diagrams of what you remember as important events,
places, and people in your life. Keep all items in order, but
leave enough space between individual items to fill in as you
think of additional information. Write small since it must fit
on one page. If necessary to save space, you may use branching
paths or a legend.
|1. I usually
worry about . . .
2. I feel angry when . . .
3. I'm moody when . . .
4. I'm happiest when . . .
5. I feel confident when . . .
6. I feel frustrated when . . .
7. I feel depressed when . . .
8. I am comfortable when . . .
9. I feel nervous when . . .
10. I feel sentimental when . . .
16. A Mysterious Place:
Describe in a full page
some place that seemed mysterious, exotic, or fearful to you.
Concentrate on creating the same impression on your reader by
a careful selection of sensory details which recreate the setting.
Help us recognize what was special about this place. Or make
up a fantasy place that has these qualitiesjust describe it well
enough for us to believe in it too.
Synectics makes the familiar
strange and the strange familiar. It is the basis of all metaphor
and involves the process of creative problem-solving. Each of
the following sets of questions ask for choices between unrelated
answers answers which can be logically related somehow and yet,
there is no single correct answer. BUT correct answers would
rephrase the question as part of the answer.
about the choices offered, make a choice, and then explain your
reasons for choosing as you have. It is your explanation which
proves your answer "right" or "wrong." Answer
at least ten.
is wiser? a pen or a pencil?
2. Which is easier to forgive? a street or a sidewalk?
3. Which is smarter? a clock or a calendar?
4. Which is easier to teach? a question or an answer?
5. Which is like a contest? a cloud or a sunset?
6. Which is more fearful? new or old?
7. Which is like a promise? mathematics or science?
8. Which is more difficult? a dream or a nightmare?
9. Which is braver? an hour or a year?
10. Which has more pride? an entrance or an exit?
11. Which is easier to close? a road or a map?
12. Which is like a legend? a mirror or glass?
13. Which is more suspenseful? rain or snow?
14. Which has less charm? a signature or an autograph?
15. Which is more trustworthy? history or literature?
16. Which is more useful? a friend or an enemy?
17. Which is sadder? seek or find?
18. Which costs more? a home or a house?
19. Which is happier? music or art?
20. Which is like a valentine? the truth or a lie?
18. Telling Tales:
Think back to memories
you associate with family storytelling. You know, the ones you
hear over and over every holiday. Maybe these tales are the legends
that have given your family courage in hardship? Maybe they are
religious stories or goofy songs or true family history? Maybe
they all seem to be about what a bad kid you were? Embarrassing,
hilarious, unbelievable? Retell a story you remember as part
of your family's heritage OR makeup one you wish had been told
(and may tell in your own family circles later).
19. These Words
Belong to Me: Make a list
of words which have special power and magic. Think of common
words with uncommon meanings, or even strange new words which
allow you to think a new kind of thought. For example, do you
know what "serendipity" means? Find out why it's so
wonderful. What's ironic about a "scar"? List and define
at least ten words. For each word, explain why this particular
word belongs to you. Or perhaps give me a hint hidden in a question?
20. In Other Words:
Try expressing yourself
through someone else's words. Select at least ten "Quotable
Quotes" which express your philosophy of life. Choose quotations
which represent your thought on several aspects of life not only
love, but also faith, success, integrity. character, friendship,
etc. List the ten you have selected, including attribution (who
Make a list of objects,
places, ideas that could stand for your younger self, symbols
for the way you used to be. Then make a contrasting list that
could stand for your current self, symbols that represent the
way you are now. Sort of an "I used to bebut now I am"
kind of chart. Use these contrasting lists to write a free verse
poem on your transformation.
If you could relive one
day or experience in your life, what would it be? You might choose
to relive this time because it was so wonderful you want to experience
it again, or you might choose a day you want to change in some
way. Identify the day or experience, tell why it was so important
to you, and explain what reliving it would accomplish.
of Things Present: In twenty
years you will have forgotten most of the things that fill your
life now. What are the things about who you are now, what you
enjoy and value, what you do with your time, and so on that you
want to remember twenty years from now? Imagine what will be
important to your memory of yourself later on. Write these things
24. As Time Goes
Bye-Bye: Carpe diem (or, Seize the day!). Before time passes you
by, what things do you want to do? What one thing do you most
want to do by the time you are thirty-five? Why? What have you
already said good-bye to people, places, ideas, stages in your
life, hopes, dreams, sorrows? Reflect on those good-byes and/or
grand plans. Make a list with short explanations, or concentrate
on explaining one specific goal or farewell in depth.
25. My Own List
of Lists: Now in its third
edition, The Book of Lists, lists facts from history,
literature, science, entertainment, etc. For your list of lists,
I have selected more personal topics. Write the general label
for each category and underline it. Then list from six to ten
specific items under each category. You may write in two columns
to save space.
|1. People who have influenced
2. Places that make me happy
3. Places I would like to go
4. Things in people which I like
5. Things in people which I dislike
6. Things that worry me
7. Things I would like to know how to do
8. Things that have moved me
9. Ideas that intrigue me
10. My personal favorites
26. A Day in the Life:
Write about a part of your
life as if it were a passage from a novel. Refer to yourself
in the third person not "I woke up" but rather "she
woke up." Exaggerate, elaborate, and prevaricate if you
wish there's truth to be found in fiction, too.
27. Cheer Yourself
Up!: Got the blues? Down
in the dumps? Make a list of crazy things you could do to distract
yourself from your troubles. Some possibilities Play Frisbee
with your old, worn-out records, smile all the way through class
and make your teacher wonder what's going on, or cover your front
teeth with foil to look like braces. Think of your own ideas,
both sane and crazy. You might want to draw cartoons to go with
some of your ideas.
28. Picture This:
Find an acceptable visual
image that you can actually include in your portfolio a photo
of friends, a copy of a well-known painting, magazine clipping,
original artwork, etc. Paste it on the page with identification
(caption, title and artist, bibliography, etc.) Then write a
response, clearing stating your opinion of the work and supported
by details from the work. Sound familiar?
29. Lessons I Learned
After It Was Too Late:
It seems that we always learn the
most important lessons the hard way, usually when it's too late,
when we've already made our big mistakes. Look back over your
life and write approximately a page on the lessons you learned
after it was too late.
Five Free Choice
Assignments: Each should
be a significant piece of work, not one haiku, but a page full.
If you use assignments from previous years or earlier this year,
attach a note explaining why the assignment belongs in your autobiography.
In other words, what does the work show about you.
30. Free Choice
#1: Titled and included in the Table of Contents.
31. Free Choice
#2: Titled and included in the Table of Contents.
32. Free Choice
#3: Titled and included
in the Table of Contents.
33. Free Choice
#4: Titled and included in the Table of Contents.
34. Free Choice
#5: Titled and included in the Table of Contents.
35. Epilogue: Imagine that a complete stranger just picked
up this portfolio. The stranger reads it from page one to page
thirty-nine. How would this stranger conceive of the author?
What kind of person appears to have filled these pages? Write
a character sketch of the person captured in these pages from
an outsider's point of view. Refer to specific pieces of writing
to support the stranger's impression of the author (you, of course).