Students are directed to interview someone, preferably a grandparent or someone older, and then write a paper about one aspect of the individual’s life. Possible ideas include happiest moments, the person’s youth, the hardest obstacle the individual had to overcome, etc. After interviewing the person, students must write a typed 5-8 page paper (double-spaced). I have assigned this essay in almost every English course I have ever taught, from eighth graders all the way to AP English students. The papers tend to be among the best papers that students write the entire year. The assignment will probably be done almost exclusively outside of class, and students will need 2-3 weeks to complete the assignment.
The four-page handout includes directions for completing the assignment, information explaining how informal character sketches differ from formal writing assignments, and a list of 25 possible interview questions.