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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:

Childhood Artifacts to Inspire a Narrative

This review/activity was generously shared with us by Nevada teacher
Jill Bayliss
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, Knots in My Yo-yo String by Jerry Spinelli, 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 Knots in My Yo-Yo String from 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 Review of this Book & an Activity Suggestion:

Knots in My Yo-yo String: the Autobiography of a Kid by Jerry Spinelli is an absolutely charming book. Jerry Spinelli is a favorite author of my middle school students, and I they buy right in to the effortless, storytelling style of this book. It weaves together the pieces of his childhood into a clear picture of what he felt like growing up. It does not delve into his life in college or beyond. The fact that it concentrates so clearly on the evolution of his childhood through being a young adult is very powerful. “Lash La Rue,” my favorite chapter, tells about how as a child you realize you need to grow up to be something, in Spinelli's case a cowboy, and how you eventually realize that maybe that isn’t as easy as it appears.

My favorite teaching point from this book is its details. Details are such an important part of writing a memoir. It is imperative to bring your reader into the moment. A good memoir makes the reader think of the author's memory as their own, and they can see, touch, hear, smell and taste (if appropriate) the moment as their own.

I love to have my students use pieces of the "Lash La Rue" chapter to model their own memoirs' descriptions. I have them to bring in a picture of a costume they wore, or a piece of artwork they can remember doing and why they drew it, or I have them think of a time when they were really excited about something that did not turn out the way they had built it up in their minds. Providing students choices allows them to really connect with their writing and this alone will bring richer images and detail to their pieces. Then read the whole chapter (or excerpts from the chapter.) Have the students close their eyes and visualize the details while listening. Then students use their artifact or memory to create a detailed description. Finally, have them trade artifacts and papers so that students can provide each other feedback.

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

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