Mining Photos for Memoir Writing

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SWBAT develop arguments through personal experiences through reflection and analysis of photos.

Big Idea

Photos can provide the details that shape memories into compelling narrative.


Pre-Writing Activity: "What I See/What I Feel"

50 minutes

Before beginning the activity with their own photos, we will first look back at the particular segment of text where Donald Murray describes the context of the photo to show the structure of the writing, and what kinds of precise details he uses (see an explanation here:  Stranger In Photo Model.mp4).

Then I will ask them to make two columns on a piece of notebook paper, and at the top of the left column they will write “what I see.”   As a model, I will ask them to state some of the details Donald Murray saw from the passage we just looked at, and I’ll write them in the column as a demonstration—that these are the literal observations:  one shoulder lower, hand in pocket, etc.   Then, they will write “what I feel/connotations” for the name of the other column and I will explain that here is where they will write what the literal observation makes them think about, or the emotion it brings up—any reflective response, and I will write some of Murray’s observations, such as the “rakish disregard” he remembers about the hand in his pocket.  After checking that they understand their task by asking them to give me a couple other examples reflections from Murray’s piece, I will ask them to complete the “what I see” column for one of their photos, and then do the "what I feel" side (I will give the directions as doing all the observations first, but if some want to do the connotations right away for each, that is okay, too; I don't think there is any particular benefit for one way versus the other).

Focused Free-Write: Reflection on Photo

15 minutes

Once they have completed their chart, I will ask them to do a 15 minute free-write using their observations, with Donald Murray’s passage as a model.  This will likely bring us to the end of class, though if there is time, I will have the students share what they wrote (many of the students will likely do that anyway—they like to share stories about themselves!).

Next Steps:  We are off on our Thanksgiving break today, so students will complete this process two more times with two different photos by the time they get back so they have a selection of ideas to choose from as they begin writing their memoir essay in earnest when we return (I chose three for the repetition of writing about observations--I feel like with many skills, the 2nd time through you get the kinks out, then the third time you see how everything works).