The One Page Memoir

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SWBAT exchange their one-page memoir drafts with a partner for final draft feedback.

Big Idea

Students learn to maximize narrative technique in just a page.

Vocabulary Nine Review and Quiz

20 minutes

Before my students take Vocabulary Quiz #9, I begin class by giving them an opportunity to share their homework notes  with the class on the document camera as a form of last minute review (Sample Student HS Note 1Sample Student HS Note 2).  These are notes written as the young Walter Dean Myers to his high school, explaining why he has stopped coming to school.  My students were to use a minimum of five vocabulary words in their notes, but will receive a bonus point for each additional Vocabulary #9 word they use beyond the required five.

The review also gives me a chance to correct any misuses of the words for the benefit of the whole class.  Because vocabulary development is such a key element in my classroom, as well as a key Common Core shift, I try to exploit any opportunities to coach my students on how to own and properly use the words we learn.

When all students who desire to share have done so, we transition into Vocabulary Nine Quiz.

A One Page Memoir by Walter Dean Myers

20 minutes

After the vocabulary quiz, I instruct my students to return to the memoir writing they began in their spiral notebooks.  They should have developed their writing to one-page, albeit very, very rough.

I have decided to limit their final memoirs to one typed page, thereby keeping the assignment small and focused.  Because they have already written a narrative essay (Another narrative?), I want this memoir assignment to serve as a smaller, second formal dip into narrative, one in which I am able to keenly focus in on their technique and strategy.  At this point in the year, we have covered voice, tone, mood, diction, syntax, and figurative language.  Through this exercise, we will add the term "sensory details." 

In order to introduce them to the concept of a successful memoir happening in just a page, I have isolated a familiar section of Bad Boy to serve as a model (One Page Memoir).  I distribute a copy to each student and ask a student volunteer to read it aloud.

At the conclusion of the reading, I ask my students to tell me the five senses.  As they do, I list them on the white board.  I then ask them to revisit the Myers excerpt and highlight examples where the writer has used one of the five senses in order to convey his description.  They should be able to find examples of sight, touch, and sound details.  As they share their findings with the whole group, I point out how the inclusion of such details contributes to a more vivid fleshing out of the memory the writer is describing.

Partner Work

30 minutes

From the exploration of the Myers excerpt, I then instruct my students to select a partner and exchange memoir drafts.  For this assignment, I allow them to choose a partner rather than assign them a partner, recognizing that some students may be sensitive about the memories they have chosen to write about. 

I call their attention to the One Page Memoir powerpoint I have developed and walk them through their first task, which is to exchange papers with each other, performing first a highlighting task, and then an oral reading to each other.  Both of these tasks are designed to receive a fresh perspective about their work from each other, in order to produce a second/final draft that reflects improvement. I have also forgone a peer response form for this exchange, instead allowing my students to demonstrate their expertise in knowing what a good narrative needs, based on the lists they generated, without the prompting of a peer-response form.  As my students complete this task, I am able circulate the room, making sure partnerships remain on-task and productive.

When the partner exchange has concluded (about 20 minutes, 10 minutes per paper), I advance the powerpoint to the second task, which centers around making revisions to their writing in order to identify the message of their memoir and to incorporate sensory details and reflection (this is assigned as homework).  With limited time left in class, I review and explain the directives on this and the remaining slides with my students.