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Move from Personal Narratives to Memoir Writing
december 23, 2008
At the secondary level, consider moving beyond traditional narrative writing and try memoir writing. This genre doesn’t cover an entire life, like writing an autobiography. And unlike a personal narrative, it goes beyond just retelling a single event or moment.
A memoir is more insightful. It includes a combination of retelling a significant memory of a person, a place, or an event and then interjects the author’s reflections. It digs below the surface and incorporates the significance or impact the event had on the author personally. Its purpose is NOT to provide the reader a detailed list of WHAT happened. Memoirs focus on HOW the author felt about the moment.
When asking your students to write a memoir, they need to identify poignant times in their lives. This could be accomplished by creating a life map. Or, create a Character Life Map.
Then, consider adding an element of technology to the pre-writing activity. Use this video to show students how to create their own digital life map and search for a memoir topic or theme.
Writing a memoir requires finding a “destination” worth writing about–or finding several destinations that reveal a common theme.
Creative Writing Now offers interviews, tips, and ideas on memoir writing.
After students dabble with their own memoir writing, conclude the unit with a new twist on this genre—6-word memoirs. Have them synthesize their pieces into a single thought. This newly popular writing is fun, yet challenging. It might even make for a great title to their full-blown memoirs.
Check out the website for more 6-word memoirs.
Here are some 6-word memoir examples:
- Pessimist out loud; Optimist at heart.
- I’ve learned more than I’ve taught.
- Always the last in from recess.
- Center of attention. Spotlight too bright.
- Nine years old. Can’t do anything.
- Constantly hoping to like myself soon.
- Wanted a pony, got a goldfish.
- They say I’m like my mother…
- Autism taught me not to judge.
- I’m middle-aged… at 13 years.