Memoir Writing

Memoir Journal .. Diary… Personal Narrative …

At the beginning of your memoir unit, have students write a memoir and assess using a personal narrative or impromptu quick scale (see assessment tab above for student-friendly rubrics).  Use this assessment to inform your instruction.  As you explicitly teach each mini-lessons like those below, assess again, providing students with descriptive feedback regarding their progress. When students see their progress on a highlighted rubric, they are motivated to continue.

Book Title/Cover Memoir Overview Objective Lesson Links & Black Line Masters
This beautiful book features the details in our world that we are thankful for. Students brainstorm places or items in their world, or in their local community for which they are grateful.  Writing Trait: Voice & Ideas

Thank You Earth Lesson ideas

Thank You Earth gr 2 examples and black line masters

Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela thinks her name is too long.  As her Dad tells the stories of how her name came to be,
Alma might just change her mind.
This story creates a perfect fit between the personal identity element of the core competencies and establishing an authentic purpose for doing some research and writing the story behind your name. Writing Trait: Ideas

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Author Louise Susy Framst shares lots of details about her walk.  This book sets the stage for  the use of poetic language and child-friendly ways of capturing outside noises. Teamed with the book, Step Gently Out by Helen Frost, students will be invited to notice ever so carefully as they go for a walk outside.  A class book is created using close-up, outoddor observations. Writing Trait: Ideas

On My Walk

Number 21 recalls an event in author Nancy Hundal’s life in which her Dad brings home a new truck. Readers are lead on a mini mystery as the truck is used in an unconventional way on a hot summer day. Well written memoirs are based on ideas that have a very tight focus. In this lesson, Nancy’s book is used as a mentor text to model the narrow writing focus we want our students to have. Generating memoir topics at the beginning of the unit

Writing Trait: Ideas       

Number 21

The Art of Clean Up: Life Made Neat and Tidy, by Ursus Wehrli is a visual masterpiece begging for conversation. In this lesson, simply turn each page and open minds through discussion, questions, and reactions.  After reading, encourage students to find objects, both inside and outdoors, that lend themselves to a playful “clean-up!” Writing Trait: Ideas   

The Art of Clean Up

If You Find a Rock is one of those books that calms the soul and slows life’s pace to one of careful observation. Take kids outside … to the beach, a river bank or into the forest where they will choose a rock that speaks to them. After outdoor exploration and locating a special rock, students will carefully describe its appearance, qualities and specific use.Experiential writing should not be underestimated.  When we provide students with memories, they are ready to write! Writing Trait: Ideas ~ adding details

If You Find A Rock

Graham isn’t too sure about school and reading is often difficult for him.  When he realizes that the 100th day of school falls on the same day as his birthday, he’s sure everyone will forget about his special day. Do they? In this lesson students will infer meaning from pictures by adding their brilliant thinking and co-create writing criteria. When the rules for writing come from them, our students are more likely to apply the criteria. The result ~ happy teachers and happy kids! Writing Trait: Co-create criteria 

Happy 100th Day!

Be careful with that stick… or is it a stick? This book provides creative inspiration. In this lessons, students think of different things that a stick might become. This is not a stick, it’s a magician’s wand! Writing Trait: Ideas

Not a Stick

There’s something in the tackle box. Fly-fishing items are pulled out, described and illustrated in this snapshot. At the end, we find out what is being sought. Building memoir writing criteria together as a class is the focus of this lesson. All Writing Traits 

A Good Day’s Fishing

To prevent his son from being injured, mother mouse wraps her son in cotton balls. Will this protective coating protect her son from injury. Adding details to a memoir about an “owie” is the objective of this writing lesson. After co-creating criteria about what to include when writing a personal story, the focus of the lesson and self assessment is about details. Writing Trait: Ideas

Cottonball Colin

Cotton Ball Colin black line masters for writing ~ (print on 11 x 17 paper)

When Matt goes out to play in his new neighborhood, all he sees is a boring, empty lot. But with a stick, a little imagination and a few new friends, Mattland is born. In this lesson, students use the Show, Don’t Tell writing strategy to add details to their writing. Writing Trait: Ideas  


Be sure to have a discussion with your students about the rich message conveyed in this relatively simple picture book. Students will be using their brain as they infer the author’s profound message. I’m always looking for books that allow kids to play.  This one is perfect in that regard!  After reading, have students build a device that would get a bird from one side of the river to another. Afterwards, have them write a memoir about their experience or do a procedural write in which they retell the steps they followed to build their contraption. Writing Trait: Ideas  & Organization

Ten Birds

I LOVE this book! By putting art first, students are motivated to write about a time they felt … happy, confused, furious, shocked, afraid, proud, jealous etc. Buy some vibrant chalk pastels, and raid your artroom for black construction paper and you’re set! In this lesson, you’ll share the book Happy written by Mies Van Hout, then students will create some vibrant pictures with fishy emotions, and write about a time they felt this way. I love reading about the lives of students and hope you will too! Writing Trait:  Ideas (details)


Organization (leads and endings) 


From the first line of text, you just know this book is loaded with voice! Sophie Peterman has a lot to say about baby brothers. Will her opinion change as she gets to know the newest member of the family? In this lesson, students learn about voice by assessing voice in sample pieces of text. Writing Trait: Voice

Sophie Peterman Tells the Truth

This is a wordless picture book with hilarious photos of food. Use the photos as a means to gather details in a kid-friendly way. Use the Show, Don’t Tell strategy to describe emotions. In this example “mad” is analyzed. Writing Trait: Ideas

Food Play Lesson

This book is about looking closely. Something as simple as a rock can come to life when a writer adds just the right details. In this lesson students play as they gather their rock collection! When back in the classroom, young writers are encouraged to notice what others might miss by adding details that describe characteristics of a specially chosen rock. Writing Traits: Ideas and Word Choice

If you Find a Rock