Resource 4: Preparing lessons on life stories

Background information / subject knowledge for teacher

  1. Collect the resources that you will need. This may take some time, but the newspapers, magazines and comics that you collect could be used for many different kinds of language lessons in addition to those on reading and writing life stories. Some pupils may be able to bring newspapers and magazines from home, so ask them to ask their families for permission to do so. Ask your colleagues and friends to contribute newspapers and magazines that they have finished with. In some countries, newspaper and magazine publishers may be prepared to donate copies to your school. Some NGOs also have excellent publications. For example, in South Africa, comics about Nelson Mandela’s life are available from the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the NGOs ‘Soul City’ and ‘Love Life’ also have useful magazine materials.
  2. Before you begin these lessons you must have enough reading material about a range of well-known people for each group of pupils to work with.
  3. Copy on to large sheets of paper or cardboard or on to your chalkboard the life story of Hugh Masekela (biography below) OR another life story of your choice that is written in fairly simple language.
  4. Make a list of common features of life stories to discuss with your pupils. These include:

    • usually telling the story in a time sequence from early years to later years in the person’s life;
    • highlighting the special achievements of the person’s life;
    • details of something particularly interesting or amusing about the person’s life.

Now you are ready to begin the lesson!

Guiding pupils while they write life stories

While pupils are working in their groups, move round the room to check that they understand the task and are able to find articles to use. You could write a ‘checklist’ on the chalkboard to guide pupils in their writing. For example:

  • name(s) of the person;
  • place of birth;
  • family details;
  • ‘history’ – school days, first achievements, later achievements;
  • interesting/sad/amusing things that have happened in the person’s life.

Encourage pupils to think about the order in which to write the information about the person and to use some of their own words. They should not just copy from the articles.

Hugh Masekela’s life story (biography)

‘The magic blower – Hugh Masekela’

Hugh Masekela’s love for music started when he was a naughty boy at school. At school Hugh had problems. He was not very interested in his studies. He spent his time playing soccer and dreaming about music.
One day there was an important soccer match at his school. Thanks to the goals scored by Hugh, his school won. His team was so pleased that they rewarded him with some ‘sqo’ (sorghum beer). He was very sick from drinking too much ‘sqo’. His teacher, who liked Hugh very much, became worried about his behaviour and spoke to the local priest, Father Trevor Huddleston.
They asked Hugh what he wanted most in the world. ‘A trumpet,’ Hugh answered. Father Huddleston organised a trumpet for Hugh. Shortly afterwards, Hugh and some other musicians formed the Huddleston Jazz Band. From that time he never looked back.
Hugh left South Africa in 1960 with the musical show King Kong. He did not return because the racist laws made it very difficult for black musicians to earn a living. Although he was overseas Hugh did not forget his mother country. He continued to write songs about South Africa and the problems of its people. He was very well known as a jazz musician overseas.
Now, Hugh is back home in South Africa, welcomed by all. As well as performing music, he is involved in educating children and adults about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse and in raising money to help people who have drug or alcohol problems.
Hugh Masekela’s life story (biography) The magic blower – Hugh Masekela.

Adapted from New Successful English, Learner’s Book, Grade 5 (2001), p.19 (Cape Town: Oxford University Press). ISBN: 0 19 57433 4

Resource 3: Praise poems and stories

Resource 5: Questions for pupils – to think about how to improve (craft) what they have written in their first draft