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, articles about Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s life are available from different Nigerian newspapers and the NGOs ‘Millenium Hope’ and ‘Child Care Trust’ also have useful magazine materials.
    • 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.
  2. Copy on to large sheets of paper or cardboard or on to your chalkboard the life story of Oliver de Coque (biography below) OR another life story of your choice that is written in fairly simple language.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Oliver de Coque’s life story (biography)


Oliver De Coque is a household name in Nigerian music circles. De Coque, who started music 39 years ago with Ekpili at the age of 17, hails from Ezinifite, Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State. His real name is Oliver Sunday Akanite.

In 1976, at the age of 28, Akanite made a remarkable impact with his universally accepted lyrics and rhythms, which he created through Ogene Super Sound of Africa. The albums he has released in the past 26 years to date are hits to the extent that his greatest hit; ‘Ka anyi bili be ndu’ sold two million copies. Following his astounding musical performance, he started receiving awards, and honours from Nigeria and beyond. Ten years ago, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, crowned him the King of Highlife music.

In 1994, in America, he was made an honorary doctor of letters in Music at the University of New Orleans. At home, the highest title in his land, Ikemba, a similar title that was bequeathed to the Biafran warlord, Dim Emeka Ojukwu, was given to Akanite in his town, Ezinifite.

In Highlife music, Akanite has carved a niche for himself with his Ogene brand. His is a highlife that will keep the fans awake as long as he plays. With his training spanning three masters, he can confidently play the guitar and use this to back up any musician.

‘I started first with Igbo music called Ekpili at the age of 17. That was in 1965. We were only two, Alexander Emelumonye and myself. We used to feature every weekend on Channel 4 of the Nigerian Television Authority, Ogbor Hill, Aba. I also learnt shoe trading, while we waited for weekend performances.

In 1970, after the civil war, I travelled back to Aba in search of a job. I met a good friend, Obed Okoroafor, from Mbaise. He is a good congarist. I was a good guitarist and vocalist. I decided to stop local music entirely and look for something bigger than Ekpili music. So, both of us were looking for what to do. We met a musical band, Sunny Agaga and his Lucky Star Band that came from Lagos to play in Aba.

They were about to perform and I approached the bandleader, Sunny Agaga. I told him that we would like to feature with them, and that if possible, he could employ us, (Obed as his congarist and myself, the guitarist). He said he would not answer me but that I should come when they are ready to perform. When it was time we went there. He gave me the guitar, I started backing them up, then as the music changed I followed up and Sunny automatically employed me. Because he had good drummers, he did not want Obed, but I pleaded with him. He agreed to employ him, then after the tour, we proceeded to Lagos. I had never been to Lagos before and when we arrived, I saw electricity everywhere, even on the streets. We went to Alara Street, Onike, Yaba, behind QueensCollege. There was no show for about three weeks. I was worried, until we performed somewhere. I told myself that these people are not businesslike.

I started looking for another band. Luckily, I met Jacob Oluwole and his Friendly Unity Band. I went to them at Oshodi. I was interviewed and got employed. They also got me an accommodation. At that time, they were preparing for a recording with the title, Agbasisi. We recorded it and it became a hit and the talk of the town.

Later, I started noticing that they were not as friendly and united as their name implied. They quarrelled, argued and fought a lot. I do not like people who are quarrelsome, because music does not go with fighting and disunity. As a musician, your duty is to entertain people. I started having a change of heart as to my stay with them. Luckily, I met another musician, Sule Agboola and his Moonlight Star Band. They were preparing for a summer tour of Europe. This was in 1973. They got me an international passport and visa. We left Nigeria on July 13, 1973. We were in London and only performed at the weekends. So I was able to secure a part-time job that I was paid 80 pounds a week. We were in London for four months. I used the money I earned from my job to buy two guitars, two amplifiers, and a set of drums. This was in preparation for my own band. When we returned, I told the bandleader that I had to be on my own, but that if they had any show or recording, they should call me to assist.’

Taken from original source:

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