Organizational Tools of Memoir Day 2: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Print Lesson


SWBAT recognize the organizational moves of memoir and analyze their rhetorical functions by closely analyzing excerpts from Cheryl Strayed's memoir "Wild."

Big Idea

Memoirs are highly structured, as writers organize their stories to create a desired central idea or series of ideas.


Mapping Evidence and Ideas

40 minutes

Today students will come in with an analysis of a chosen excerpt of the text.  In order to show them not only how the small excerpts are structured, but also how these excerpts build on one another as Strayed develops central ideas throughout the text, students will work in groups to share their analysis data, then take the next step of looking for patterns and shifts from excerpt to excerpt as they look at these chronologically and map the development of central ideas.  Additionally, in identifying evidence that supports their claims, they will also note the development and refinement of key terms by Strayed, particularly in how she uses natural imagery metaphorically.

Students will work in groups of four today so there are enough different excerpts to establish patterns.  To make the groups I will first go around the room and ask each student to state what their excerpt is.  This lets me check that everyone did the homework, and also lets me know if there are two people with the same excerpt, so I can put them in different groups.

Once students are in groups, I will ask them to first go around and each explain what text they chose, why they chose it, and explain their SOAPStone data (with evidence).    After they’ve shared, they will then discuss what patterns they see—what organizational moves are common, and also how the tones and subjects of the excerpts relate to each other, and also how they change and shift (this part specifically addresses Reading Informational text standard 3).  I will remind them of Cheryl Strayed’s statement that she was trying to keep the trail as a constant while she changed throughout the book so they can look at the content of their excerpts through that lens, and also see how the metaphor of the trail builds throughout the text.

 At this point I will also give them newsprint to map out their findings visually.  I haven’t done much of this yet this year, but now seems like a good time for it because I’m asking the students to connect multiple segments of text and analyze how they build on one-another—this is more complex work, so differentiating with a visual project will help the students see the connections more clearly.  It will also focus them on the task at hand—I have found that when I fall into a pattern of similar teaching strategies, such as the frequent seminar-type structure I’ve used in this class, the students can sometimes get a little complacent just because of the familiarity. So to spark things a little, I like to change tactics—do something different to re-focus the students.   Their instructions will be to visually show the sequencing of ideas—I will leave it up to the group how to organize it on the page.  The discussion of how to represent it will deepen their understanding of the content, because they have to discuss how the ideas connect in order to put it on the page.   As students work, I will circulate and enter their conversations to deepen their understanding of the connections between pieces and development of ideas.

Group Presentations

30 minutes

Students will present their findings to the class.  During their presentations, I will ask students to open their books to the excerpts (I may put the excerpts on the Smartboard as well, since I have a copy of the book in a Kindle App), and I will ask probing questions that push student to provide evidence, to look deeply into how the excerpts relate, and to show how the subjects and tones of the discussions, as well as the metaphors, change as Strayed gets deeper into her journey—how the words and voice become more confident toward the end, for example (referring to the excerpt I modeled).  

Next Steps:  We will likely not finish this today, so we will do any remaining presentations tomorrow.  Additionally, I will ask them to write their own personal narrative where they relate an experience in nature to their own lives as a way to practice this type of writing on their own, and for me to get a sense of how they write narratives so I can better write lessons going forward on the topic.