Using Issues in Our Lives to Write Meaningful Memoirs

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SWBAT generate ideas from their own lives and turn them into small meaningful moments by concentrating on the descriptive details of dialogue and inner thinking.

Big Idea

Let's talk about our issues.

Lesson Opener

5 minutes

In my lesson openers I always have a "connect" in which I connect students' thinking about yesterday's lesson to today's lesson. I then have a "teach" in which I model for students the lesson of the day and also have them try it out. When I think about my modeling I use three categories; skill, strategy, and process. I model by stating the skill to the students, then giving them a strategy in which to use the skill, followed by the process to try out the strategy. Here is an example of this, explained by one of my students.

Teach: “If you noticed from the stories we have read over the past couple of days, the authors talked about issues that many of us can connect to in our own lives. In “Us and Them” David Sedaris talks about friendships. Geoffrey Canada in “Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun” talks about violence. In “Black Boy” Richard Wright talks about family relationships. I am going to practice the skill of using my background knowledge of issues many people have in their lives.

I am going to use the strategy of asking the people around me what issues they think are important in their lives. The process I will use as follows

1) Use the list the class generates

2) Ask myself: Do I have any experiences with these issues?

3) Jot down my ideas with a reflection.”

I will ask the class about issues they have in their own lives or ones they have seen in the world (classes usually come up with divorces, relationships, friendships, violence, etc.) and compose an Issues Anchor Chart. I will then take at least two issues and show how I organize my thinking into a four column chart: Issue/ Experience/What I Said/What I Thought. 

Active Engagement

5 minutes

Active Engagement: “Now you are going to jot down this chart in your notebook and generate at least three ideas.” I will check for understanding by asking every level of learner (at least 3 students-one who is at standard, one is approaching standard, and one who is above standard). Ensure that students are jotting down ideas that will help them write a meaningful piece.

Closing of Active Engagement: I will say, Remember writers, “successful writers practice the skill of using of using thier background knowledge of issues many people have in their lives. They practice the strategy of asking the people around me what issues they think are important in their lives. They then think of experiences they have had with these issues and what they learned from this experience. Finally they write those ideas down, concentrating on dialogue and inner thinking. 

Independent Practice

30 minutes

Independent Practice: Students will brainstorm for at least five more minutes until they land on a moment in which they have the “squeezy feeling in their heart,” one in which they really want to tell. You will then direct them to write out the moment and include dialogue and inner thinking (I will show them an example of your own writing where you have done this or have them use the mentor texts from the prior days).

They should write for at least 25 minutes if not more. They can write multiple moments within this time if they get stuck on one. As they are working independently and quietly, I like to play classical or smooth jazz for“writing”music. Putting on music is a cue to them that "quiet and independent time has started." It them learn a signal instead of me having to repeat the rules of quiet and independent work every day. I will confer with them about their writing using this chart

Partner Work:Students will be directed to turn and share one of the moments they have crafted. I will say, “Decide who will be partner A and who will be partner B. Partner A you will share the narrative you wrote or part of the narrative. Partner B, I want you to listen if Part A was using dialogue or inner thinking. I want you to use one hand for dialogue and one hand for inner thinking. As you are listening, I want to see your fingers raised (show them this and start with the thumb to avoid the wrong finger being put up first!) for every time you hear dialogue or inner thinking. Then you will switch. Give your partner feedback as to where they could add more dialogue or inner thinking. I should hear, "Maybe you could add...or I liked how you used...I will add something similar to my writing."

Allow time for students to revise their writing after partner talk. 



5 minutes

I believe that the end of the lesson should be an assessment of the days’ learning; therefore it should be independent work. I always end class with an “exit ticket” in which students write down the response to a question.

Closing: What small moment from your own life did you write about today? Jot down your best examples of dialogue and inner thinking.