Shoebox Autobiography

Building Classroom Commuity

An important part of building a sense of community in any classroom is taking time to get to know each other as individuals. Whether you are teaching kindergarteners or adult learners, every member of the classroom has a story to tell. When we take the time to allow each student to share their story, they begin to feel valued within that community.


I use an activity I read about in The Reading Workshop: Creating Space for Readers by Dr. Frank Serafini called the Shoebox Autobiography. I have used this idea successfully with middle grade readers and adult learners. A Shoebox Autobiography involves selecting items to put in a shoebox (or small boc) that tell more about your life. Because reading will be an important part of our community during the year, I always ask students to include a favorite picture book as one of their items.

My Shoebox Autobiography

More About Me

The other contents inside my box include favorite books growing up, passport, pictures of my family, pictures of me as a baby, preschooler, and 4th or 5th grade, cookbook, magazines I read that also reflect my interests, and pictures from some of my trips.

How does it work?

I always share my shoebox on the first or second day of school and then give students the directions and at least 5/6 (over a weekend) to complete theirs. Every morning during our Morning Meeting time, two students share their boxes. I take notes of interests, hobbies, family info, etc as they are sharing. These notes are very helpful as I start putting together each students learning profile and begin to think about titles I might recommend to them during the first few weeks of school. I also find time later in the day to read their picture book aloud.

Student Letter with Directions

About ME

Wife. Auntie. K-5 Literacy Strategist. Adjunct Instructor. Co-host of #MELit Chat. Avid Reader & Recommender. Devoted to inspiring life-long reading habits!