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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 with Strong Word Choices

This review/activity was generously shared with us by Nevada teacher
Fran Lanae
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, When I Was Your Age, edited by Amy Ehrlich, 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 When I Was Your Age 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.


Two Book Reviews & an Activity Suggestion:

Editor Amy Ehrlich compelled ten well-known children’s authors to write narratives, and she compiled these memoirs in her book, When I Was Your Age. The collection includes a narrative by Susan Cooper who writes about England during World War II. It also contains the recollections of Walter Dean Myers when he lived in Harlem during the 1940’s. I find that students are often fascinated by the memoir of their favorite author, and the students are surprised they can easily relate to the narratives. The collection of narratives varies, but an underlying theme is the way in which children gain strength under adverse conditions.

I have found students really respond to the narrative called “Why I Never Ran Away from Home” by Katherine Paterson (author of Bridge to Terabithia). It’s a story about Paterson and her siblings. After reading the passage aloud to the students, we focus our discussion on the importance of word choice, specific nouns, and words that can be used to replace “said” in dialogue. I pair the students and ask each group to fold one sheet of paper into three sections. They title one section, “Instead of Said”, the next section “Interesting Word Choice”, and the last section “Specific Nouns”. As the pairs go through the story a second time, they record words Paterson uses that meet each of the three criteria. I ask the students to compare their lists with another group.

Instead of said
Interesting word choice
Specific nouns
promised burst Shanghai
warned solemnly American School
offered swallowed Lizzie
muttered looted Sonny
announced crushed Hawaii
yelled terrified Pastor Lee
called whined Judy Garland
hysterical Patty Jean White
"Wizard of Oz"

Students can then prepare to write a narrative about a time they found strength or found themselves in an adverse situation or circumstance. They should be encouraged to use interesting word choices, especially specific nouns and synonyms for dialogue verbs.


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