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Unit Learning Objectives

Cognitive (know/understand):
K1 – Students will know features of effective memoir writing

Performance (do):
D4 – Students will be able to reflect on the ability of personal writing to inform future adversity

D5 – Students will be able to write a memoir about a personal experience with adversity

SOL’s: [List with numbers portrayed in the SOL document]

8.7 - The student will write in a variety of forms


b) Use prewriting strategies to generate and organize ideas.

Lesson Objectives:
1. Students will understand how different components of memoir writing coexist
2. Students will know features of effective memoir writing
3. Students will gain experience writing in an effective memoir style.

Methods of Assessment:

Diagnostic Formative Summative

Title of assessment tool: Title of assessment tool: Mini Title of assessment tool: Exit
Entrance Card Memoirs Slip

Students will demonstrate Students will show their Students will ultimately be
what they already know progress toward knowing the assessed (today or in a future
about memoirs by filling out different features of memoir lesson) on the features of
the entrance slip at the very by writing mini memoirs that memoir writing by completing
beginning of class. I am practice each skill an exit slip.
curious as to what students
already know/think about Criteria: After learning about Criteria: I am curious to see
memoirs and writing the three features, students how students’ perception of
memoirs. These answers are will use what they just learned memoir writing has changed
an opportunity for me to to write mini memoirs. These since the beginning of class
activate my students’ prior will not have the focus of and if their understanding of
knowledge as well as see overcoming adversity yet, but the different features was
their opinions on memoir. rather just a time to practice achieved.
different memoir skills.
Criteria: I am looking for
what students already know How data will be used: I will
about memoirs before I teach How data will be used: I will use this data to ensure the
students about them in this use this data as a base point lesson was effective. If there
lesson. for my students’ writing. With are any remaining
these mini memoirs, I can see misconceptions, I will know
which skills stuck and which that I need to address them in
How data will be used: I will might need more practice. I future lessons.
use this data as the will implement future
framework for how this unit opportunities to practice these How students will receive
will unfold. If there are any skills that are not as developed feedback: I will speak to the
clear misconceptions, I will if necessary. class as a whole about what I
know that I might need to learned reading their exit slips.
add different components to How students will receive If there are any withstanding
the unit. feedback: I will collect and misconceptions, I will either
read all of these mini memoirs comment on the student’s
How students will receive but not offer a grade. I will writing or speak to the student
feedback: Students will provide written feedback in individually.
receive feedback during our the form of comments.
discussion of their responses.

Procedures/Instructional Strategies

Beginning Room Arrangement:

The room will be arranged in its usual set up and stay in this set up for the entire lesson.

[Changes in this arrangement that become necessary later will be noted in the plan]

1. [_10__mins.] Welcome/Entrance Card/Discussion

Welcome everyone! Today we are going to be learning about memoirs and memoir
writing because very soon you will all be writing your own memoirs! Before we get into
that though, I would like you all to fill out the entrance card (See appendix) that is on
your desk. Just answer the questions to the best of your ability. I am going to give you 5
mins. Get to it. (While students are working I will be walking around glancing at some
responses. I will primarily let the students write, but if I observe students not writing
when I walk around, I will maybe nudge them in the direction of the first question so that
they can think about and better answer the second question. I will give them a 1-minute
warning).

Thanks everyone. So why don’t we take a few minutes to turn to a partner and talk about
your answers. Are they the same? Lots of differences? Let’s take 5 minutes.

Ok great. So I am curious what you talked about with your partners. Lets get some ideas
out there. (I will pose the questions from the EC to the class to discuss for 5 more
minutes their findings. I won’t be pushing them too hard to follow up, I am more just
curious as to how they answered the questions). Alright, well thank you to everyone who
shared. Today we are going to get a firmer grasp on what memoirs are and what some
effective qualities of them are.

2. [_30__mins.] What is memoir? / First Effective Feature

a. What is memoir [2 mins]


So class, I think it would be helpful to get a working definition of what a memoir is, just so
we are all on the same page. For the purposes of this class, we are going to define a memoir
as, a narrative composed from personal experiences (I will write this definition on the
board). So this is definitely a piece of personal writing, and narrative implies it is going to be
telling it as a story, and potentially a bit more informally. So that is the definition we are
going to be working with. Are there any questions so far?

b. First Feature Explanation [10 mins]

Now there are three distinct features of memoir writing that we are going to be learning
about, and with each, we are going to do a little free-writing of some mini memoirs. The first
feature is to sort fact from truth. Since memoirs are written about past experiences, it would
be very difficult to remember every single detail about what happened during that
experience. Even if what you are writing about didn’t happen THAT long ago, it will still be
challenging. What were you wearing? What were your thoughts in that exact moment? What
exactly did your dad say to you? There are infinite questions about infinite specific details.
So, because of this challenge, we must sort fact from truth.

To better visualize this, think about your first day of middle school. At the time, that was a
pretty big deal, right? (Call on a student) Do you remember what you wore to school that
day? How about what you ate for lunch? (Both of these answers will probably be no)
Exactly, but that doesn’t make the event any less significant.

At the same time, we have to be careful between sorting fact from truth and telling lies. So
how could we tell an untruth in this first day of school example? (I will call on a student or
two. Examples I am looking for include, “saying you had lobster for lunch that day or that
you wore a suit”). Exactly! So we definitely want to avoid that. Instead maybe you could
describe an outfit that you remembered liking in 5th grade, or a special PB and J with no
crusts that you often brought for lunch.

We need to approach memoir writing with the understanding and acceptance that our
memory is imperfect. And that’s okay, because when we tell our stories, our goal is not to get
everything exactly “right,” but rather to recreate our past experiences in a way that reveals
larger truths about our lives and about who we are. We cannot view this as a limitation, but
rather, an opportunity to shape our stories how we see fit.

SO, with this new knowledge of being able to sort fact from truth, we are going to try writing
a mini-memoir. I want you all to think of an experience from your past where you maybe do
not remember every detail, but it was meaningful in some way for you. What are some
examples of these events? (I will call on students and write examples on the board so students
can have them as prompts. Examples could include, first day of school, a fun day with a
family member, learning to do something, etc.) Great! So I want you to pay attention to how
you sort fact from truth in these events and we will talk about it after. I am going to give you
around 13 minutes. I am also going to be writing a mini-memoir, but if you have any
questions feel free to come ask me. Lets get started.

c. Writing time [15 mins]

(Students will write in their notebooks. During this time I will also be writing a mini-memoir
so I will not be walking around. I will give the students a 5 minute and 1 minute warning).
d. Discussion [5 mins]

Excellent everyone! So how did it feel to be writing like this? Was it challenging? Fun? I
would like to hear your thoughts. (During this time [5 mins] I will call on a few students to
share what their writing experience was like [not what they wrote about]. Based on the
comments, I will either steer the conversation back to the memoir feature itself, or ask follow
up questions for students to go more in depth). Thank you to those who shared. Ok, let’s
move on to our next feature of effective memoir writing.

3. [_20__mins.] Second Effective Feature

a. Second Feature Explanation [3 mins]

So our second feature that we are going to focus on today is telling the understory. What this
means is that every successful memoir is really about more than the events it recounts. For
example, in college I wrote a memoir about a cross-country road trip that I went on. While a
lot of the memoir was about my travels and what I saw, the understory was about me
learning valuable life lessons and learning I wanted to become a teacher. A helpful way you
can think about this is in terms of books you have read in school and their themes. I know
you all read “The Outsiders” last year which is about two rival gangs, but it has a theme or
an understory too. Can anyone tell me what the theme was? (Students will share answers. I
am looking for “coming of age”). That’s right! So for memoir writing, this is critical. When
we balance the story with the understory, we not only open a window into our lives, but also
illuminate something deeper about who we are.

So for your next mini-memoir, I really want you to focus on developing and telling the
understory. This will occur throughout your memoir but will especially be noticeable by the
end. You can definitely write about the same moment as your last mini-memoir, but if you do
that, I do want you to start over with this new focus in mind. Okay? So I am going to give you
all 15 minutes again, and again, I will be writing one as well. Let’s get to it.

b. Writing Time [13 mins]

(During this time I will also be writing a mini-memoir so I will not be walking around. I will
give the students a 5 minute and 1 minute warning).

c. Discussion [4 mins]

Excellent everyone! So how did it feel to be writing like this? Was it challenging? Fun? I
would like to hear your thoughts. (During this time [4 mins] I will call on a few students to
share what their writing experience was like [not what they wrote about]. Based on the
comments, I will either steer the conversation back to the writing style itself, or ask follow up
questions for students to go more in depth). Thank you to those who shared. Ok, let’s move
on to our next feature of effective memoir writing.

4. [_20__mins.] Third Effective Feature

a. Third Feature Explanation [4 mins]


Ok, so the last feature of memoir writing we are going to look at today is atop the mountain,
into the sea (as I say this, I will draw a mountain overlooking a body of water, with one
person on top of the mountain and one in the water). Now you may be thinking, what does
this have to do with memoirs? Well before we look at it that way, I want you to consider how
these two people view the sea. How does the person in the sea view the sea? (I will call on
one or two students, looking for an answer along the lines of, “well he is in the sea so he
views it as his only surroundings”). That’s right, the person in the sea only knows of the sea,
the sea is his immediate surrounding. Now how does the person on the mountain view the
sea? (I will call on one or two students, looking for an answer along the lines of, “well he is
much higher up so he can see the whole sea, the big picture). Yes, that’s right! The person on
the mountain sees the big picture.

So for writing memoirs, you want to be both atop the mountain and in the sea. We want to
zero in on the sights and smells and sounds and feelings of past moments in such detail that
our readers can fully experience these moments for themselves. At the same time, we want to
zoom out from these moments and reflect on how and where they fit into the grand scheme of
who we are and the lives we’ve lived. Atop the mountain, into the sea.

So you have sort of already practiced both of these styles. Sorting fact from truth gives us the
perspective of in the sea, while telling the understory gives us the perspective of atop the
mountain. But the challenge is balancing these two perspectives into one story. We are going
to try that now with our third mini-memoir. Again, you can use the same experience, but I
want you to star from scratch with this new mindset. Lets get to it.

b. Writing time [13 mins]

(During this time I will also be writing a mini-memoir so I will not be walking around. I will
give the students a 5 minute and 1 minute warning).

c. Discussion [3 mins]

Excellent everyone! So how did it feel to be writing in this style? Was it challenging? Fun? I
would like to hear your thoughts. (During this time [5 mins] I will call on a few students to
share what their writing experience was like [not what they wrote about]. Based on the
comments, I will either steer the conversation back to the writing style itself, or ask follow up
questions for students to go more in depth). Thank you to those who shared.

5. [_5__mins] Closure and Exit Slip

Wow, excellent work today everyone! You blew me away with how much writing you did and
how well you seemed to understand the different features of effective memoir writing. I know
you have written a lot today and I appreciate it, but I am just going to ask you to write a tiny
bit more for me. Right now I am passing out your exit slip. There are two short questions on
there. Please just take 3 minutes or so to answer them briefly for me. Thank you so much for
a great day of writing, and I hope you will be looking forward to more about memoirs in the
coming weeks.
Materials Needed (list):
Entrance Card
Exit Slip

Materials Appendix: (e.g., supplementary texts, Ppts, overheads, graphic organizers,


handouts, etc.)

Entrance Card:

1. What is a memoir?

2. Have you ever read or written a memoir? If so, what about it made it a memoir?

Exit Slip:

1. How did your perception of what a memoir is change today?

2. What is one thing you learned about writing memoirs that will be helpful to remember
when writing your own?