As the fastest growing genre of the 21st century, memoir is important for students to study during writing workshop in the upper elementary grades. Because every memoir includes a reflection on the writer’s life, moving through this study helps students learn about each other, and strengthens your classroom community. Although a memoir unit can be a great way for students to learn about one another, it requires more “soul searching” than a personal narrative, so it may not be appropriate for the beginning of the year, especially if students are new to writing workshop and/or the classroom has not yet been established as a “safe” community for sharing. Wherever you place it in your year-long curriculum, a memoir unit will enable students to study living authors and write about things they know well.
Included in this module you will find video resources, sample lesson plans, sample minilessons, and other handouts that will support you in teaching a memoir unit. These resources can support you in thinking about your own teaching in memoir, but they aren’t meant to become THE writing curriculum for your classroom. You are encouraged to use aspects of this module that will work well for your students, and adapt the unit to best suit their unique needs. “Teacher Try-It” activities throughout this unit tutorial are provided to help you create your own notebook entries and drafts to share in minilessons and conferences as you scaffold learning for students. A sample memoir unit of study is also included, but again is not intended to be followed exactly. Rather, teachers should look at it as a loose guide for how they might structure a memoir study.
Like all genre studies, the memoir unit guides students through a writing process that resembles the work that professional writers do. The graphic below is a loose outline for how we replicate this process in the classroom. The inside of the blue oval represents what students are doing during the unit. Outside the blue oval are the things a teacher is doing to support students’ work.
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