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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 a thoughtful idea from a fellow teacher:

Christmas Memories with a Relative

This review/activity was generously shared with us by Nevada teacher Katherine Hoffman 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, A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote 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.

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

A Review of this Book & an Activity Suggestion:

A Christmas Memory reflects Truman Capote’s childhood experiences in Alabama during the 1930s. His character, a 7-year-old boy named Buddy, lives with distant cousins, one which he has a soulful connection with. As Miss Faulk, an elderly cousin with mental limitations, and he exist in a stoic household, they find amusement in the simplest kindnesses that unfold in their lives. Truman paints a picture of a memorable Christmas season ritual in which the two main characters fundraise, plan, and bake fruitcakes to give as gifts. Miss Faulk’s enthusiasm for the November “fruitcake weather” is contagious as both characters search for the perfect ingredients for their cakes; ingredients that taste so sweet years later as Buddy reflects on the festive heartfelt moments created by two souls, one young, one old, both looking for acceptance and their place in life.

Lesson ideas for reading:

  • Read A Christmas Memory with the students as a read aloud. Students will pick out some of their favorite descriptive passages. With the students, analyze what makes the passages come alive. Study the figurative language that is woven through the story. Students will analyze what is meant by “It’s fruitcake weather!” and how Capote ties that in with the passage of the seasons. Lastly, study Capote’s use of commas, colons, and semicolons. (The buggy write-up on page 5 has a good example of commas, colons, and semi-colons.)

Lesson ideas for writing:

  • Students will brainstorm and write a draft about a Christmas memory with an elderly relative.
  • Revisit using the text as an example and have teams of students take various passages to study how Capote uses descriptive words and figurative language.
  • Students will harvest words that can work in their story. Encourage them to balance their words using a variety of the 5 senses. (Use a graphic organizer – What I see, hear, smell, taste, feel)
  • Students will use at least one simile or metaphor in their writing.
  • Revisit Capote’s use of commas, colons, and semicolons. Have the students lengthen their sentences using this internal punctuation.
  • Students will revise their short descriptive paragraph tying in figurative language and new punctuation skills.
  • Students will edit their writing and then share.
  • A final copy can be made and given to their special relative as a gift!

Looking for complete writing lessons based on picture books? Have you seen WritingFix's Picture Books as Mentor Texts Collection?

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