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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:

Strong Memoirs Inspired by a Wimpy Diary

This review/activity was generously shared with us by NNWP Teacher Consultant Julie Leimbach 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, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, 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.

Two Book Reviews & an Activity Suggestion:

The chapter book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid written by Jeff Kinney, creates an interesting twist with journal writing. The main character, Greg Heffley, documents his experiences in a journal at his mother’s suggestion. He is mortified because his mom buys him a diary when he specifically requested a journal. Boys don’t keep a diary; that is a girly thing. Throughout his “journal,” Greg writes about things that have happened to him and his experiences at school.

I have found that my students can really relate to Greg and are always eager to hear his stories. For instance, on page 36, Greg sneaks down to listen to his brother’s CD and he gets caught by his dad. Greg finds himself in a heap of trouble when his dad calls him “friend,” which Greg knows is not a good sign. A memoir prompt for this part of the book might be something like, “Have you every done something you know you shouldn’t have and you got caught? What happened?” If students are unwilling to confess, then try, “Have you every done something that you know you shouldn’t have and you got away with it (didn’t get caught)? What happened?”

My students absolutely love this book and there are numerous memoir prompts that can be used to help students tap into their memorable moments. The series includes two other books that are chalked with many other “situations/experiences” that the students can also relate to and enjoy.

After reading and sharing a journal entry from the book, I have the students brainstorm their own ideas. To engage them further, I have the students share with a partner, group or whole group. I give them time to discuss their personal stories as part of the brainstorming session. Often, students will remember a story of their own by hearing the stories of others. I have them write two to four ideas during their brainstorming sessions. Once they have a few ideas, I have them choose one idea to transform into a longer piece or narrative writing. The students must make sure the writing piece has details that create an image and contain voice. The piece must sound like them and have their energy.

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

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