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A Suggestion for Units on Writing Narratives/Memoirs
Teaching students to write about their own memories? Here's a mentor text suggestion:

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Here's an idea from a fellow teacher:

Memoirs about Pictures & Photographs

This review/activity was generously shared with us by Nevada teacher Deanna LayPort during an
NNWP-sponsored inservice class

on narrative and memoir.

There are many marvelous "mentor texts" that can be used when teaching a unit on narrative or memoir. The review of the book, Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl, and the activity on this page were written by a Nevada teacher during an in-service class for teachers sponsored by the Northern Nevada Writing Project.

Are you a fan of WritingFix? Use this link to purchase Boy: Tales of Childhood from Amazon.com and WritingFix will receive a small donation to help us continue posting free-to-use resources.

Washoe County teachers, click here to search for this title at the county library.


A Book Review & an Activity Suggestion:

In Roald Dahl’s memoir, Boy: Tale of Childhood, there are many tender and funny moments that span the author's life from age 5 to 20. My favorite multi-chapter storyline is about when Dahl and his friends go on a journey of getting even with an adult who doesn’t treat children too kindly. The journey starts with the chapter called “The Bicycle and the Sweet Shop,” the then intensifies with “The Great Mouse Plot,” leading to their eventual capture in “Mr. Coombes,” and the story concludes with the children's punishment in “Mrs. Pratchett’s Revenge.” Throughout these chapters, Dahl makes you feel as if you are there. The visualization of “the dead mouse lying in the wreckage and hundreds of many-coloured Gobstoppers littering the floor” is fantastic. All great story tellers can get their audience into a book through great descriptive writing, and Roald Dahl does a great job of creating a "movie in your head" with stories from his own childhood.

I used the chapters mentioned above to help improve my students’ ability to write with descriptive details that allow the reader to visualize in their head. I started by giving them each two sheets of white paper and having them fold both into four boxes. Before I began reading, I told them to draw what they saw as I read. After I finished the chapters, the students had four pictures that could easily tell the story. On the second sheet of paper, I then had them write 2-3 descriptive sentences in each box about the scenes they had drawn on the other sheet of paper. I asked them to consider how would they have described the scene? Then I had the students partner up and exchange just their written work, keeping their pictures hidden from their partner's eyes. Each student then had to read the new descriptions of the scene and create a new picture on the back of the box from their partner’s description. After both students had finished all four new drawings, their partner gave them their original drawings and let them compare. They then had to discuss what was good and bad about the description that led to the pictures being the same and what led to them being different. This was a great activity for all levels of students in my room.


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