Yr 8: Autobiography and Biography


Definition: is a recount or story on your life or somebody else’s that focuses mainly on them.

Biography: a recount or account written by someone else about a person’s life

Autobiography: a recount or account of a person’s own life written by themselves.


In partners, interview the other person about a significant event in their life.

Then write a 200 word biography about that event from that person’s perspective.

Afterwards, answer the following:

  1. How does it feel to become a biographer?
  2. How did it feel to be the subject of biography?
  3. What did your exercise show you about the truth, the power of the pen, and biographies and autobiographies?
  4. What do you expect from a good biographer?
  5. What would you be displeased with?
  6. What kind of accuracy are you expecting?

Biography Study: Shine

Although my exercises focus on the biographical film Shine, they can also be easily adapted to any biography.

Task 1: The Emotions

After watching the film, brainstorm your feelings for each character, indicating whether you sympathise with them or not.

  • David
  • Peter Helfgott
  • Gillian
  • Sylvia
  • David’s teacher in London
  • David’s mother

Next, consider why the directors may have wanted us to feel this way.

  1. Explain the significance of the acknowledgements at the end of the film. What effect does this have on the ‘truth’ of the film and the way we view it?
  2. That David’s sisters were angry suggests what about the nature of truth in biographies?
  3. Does this lessen the validity of the biography’s truth in any way?

Task 2: The Facts

Since our objective in reading or viewing biography is to find the truth, we should do our best to sift through and find the facts.

List all the facts that require no interpretation.

Next, construct a table with 4 columns set out this way:

  1. Column 1: subject (a particular scene)
  2. Column 2: film technique used
  3. Column 3: emotion evoked
  4. Column 4: how does this form our opinions.

For example:

  1. David standing outside.
  2. Film techniques: rain and contrast between outside/inside
  3. Emotion evoked: sorrow
  4. How this forms our opinion: tells us that David is an outcast and alone

Task 3: Discussion

  1. What did this task teach you about your emotions and director’s decisions?
  2. What did this task teach us about perspectives and biographies?
  3. Why does this unit force us to reassess our understanding of truth?
  4. What is truth then?
  5. How can we arrive at the truth?
  6. What is the role of emotions in truth?

Task 4: Essay Questions

Autobiography and biography are accurate. Discuss.

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