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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:

about Photographs

This review/activity was generously shared with us by NNWP Teacher Consultant Kelly Nott 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, Looking Back: A Book of Memoires by Lois Lowry, 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 Looking Back: A Book of Memories 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.

Three Reviews & an Activity Suggestion:

In the Lois Lowry memoir Looking Back, the author guides us through her family history through family pictures, memories, dates, and quotes. She explodes these captured moments in time that made her life, inspired her writing and reflects on each one. Each section begins with a quotation from one of Lowry’s books that somehow relates to the subject of the photograph. Each photograph awakens a memory that is captured in a short paragraph or collection of paragraphs no more than a couple of pages long.

In the Nickelback song Photograph, the lyrics look back at the adolescence of frontman Chad Kroeger, who was responsible for writing the song. These lyrics capture “snapshots” of this time in his life descriptively and with humor and melancholy. The upbeat music appeal to many and the lyrics seem to reach a wide variety of listeners…even elementary students. You picture through the lyrics, photographs spread out…the singer longingly looking through them, wishing to go back in time and what he remembers most about that time.

And finally, the song In Color by Jamey Johnson, helps the listener imagine the songwriter sitting with his grandfather looking over old black and white photographs…while the grandfather shares snippets of what was really happening at that time…but reflecting that “you should’ve seen it in color” or lived it to know it.

After sharing the lyrics, music, videos, and the book Looking Back, I have the children bring in a photograph of a special early memory (if possible) and a current photograph of a special memory now (at this point in their lives), or I take a picture of them in my classroom. Then, using the frame for the song Photograph, I have the students write about each as a brainstorming tool…almost becoming a compare/contrast piece of writing.

Finally, I would have the students develop these into a longer piece, poem, or vignette filled with feeling, description, and voice…closing with the date and a quote encapsulating that moment in time.

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

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