Memoirs JournalsDiaries… Personal Narratives

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
Povide a variety of memoir-style novels for lit cirrcles. As students read these books, they can gather topics for their own memoirs while learning about the characteristics of this genre. Memoir Lit Circle Titles
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: Ideas to Launch a Memoir Unit 

This is a heart warming, true story of a soldier in Iraq finding a best friend. Animal lovers will connect to this one! The purpose of this lesson is to co-create criteria and play a game focusing on complex sentences. Writing Trait: Sentence Fluency

Nubs the True Story of a Mutt Marine

Inquiry:  Where do commas go anyway?:  Nubs the True Story of a Mutt Marine Comma Game

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  

Mattland Lesson

Granpa has magical explanations for ordinary things – a frosty window-pan, dewdrops sparkling on the grass, even his own bald head – and Granpa never lies. In this lesson, students listen for the kinds of details that writers include that other people tend to miss. Teacher and students co-construct criteria about adding details to a their writing. Writing Trait: Ideas

Grandpa Never Lies

When father and daughter go owling, they connect with each other and their environment. Jane Yolen uses vivid description to retell this event. In this lesson, students look at the author’s use of the senses as a means to elaborate … to add details. Writing Trait: Ideas

Owl Moon Lesson

When Amelia has to move, her mother gives her a notebook to record her thoughts and feelings in hopes it will make her feel better. Increase writing engagement by inviting students to doodle and add momentos to their own writing notebook ala Amelia.
A father retells a childhood event to his daughter. This book may be used to generate memoir topics – life’s lessons learned. Pages also contain clear examples of paragraphing. Have students use attached pages to write “When to start a new paragraph rules.” Writing Trait: Ideas

Use this book to brainstorm “life’s lessons learned.” This topic has the potential to fuel many memoirs.

Writing Trait: ConventionsWhen To Start a New Paragraph
Author Lois Lowry recalls the return of her father from the war. They spend a special day together getting to know one another and calling the crows. Don’t miss the picture on the last page. Great writing contains a mixture of short, medium and long sentences. In this lesson, students use Lowry’s text as a model and try some of their own. Writing Trait: Sentence Fluency

Crow Call  Sentence Length Awareness

Writing Trait: Word Choice

Crow Call descriptive words


During hard times, when Grandad moves out, Timmerman moves in. But is he trustworthy? When Timmerman is seen late at night, rumours start to fly. A surprising ending, reveals the answer. The lead sentence in this book creates a little mystery. In this lesson, students will learn a variety of ways to write lead sentences. Can leads become artful endings? Read through the lesson to find out! Writing Trait: Organization

Timmerman Was Here

Vivid description make this a must read memoir. In this lesson, sonsory descriptions are discussed so that students have a better understanding of how to make pictures for their reader. Writing Trait:  Ideas

All the Places to Love

 This is a delightful book filled with funny similes that entertain. In this lesson, students are taught how to write similes and encouraged to add these snippets of poetry to other pieces of writing.  Writing Trait:  Word Choice

My Dog Is As Smelly as Dirty Socks

Fletcher shares all sorts of suggestions to help writers tell their life stories. With quick lines such as, “Write small. I’m talking details here.” he shares humorous insights about his craft. A great read aloud during a memoir writing unit. Share knowledge of the writer’s craft. This book contains lots of ideas to turn into explicit mini-lessons. Collect family stories – page 10
Gather life’s artifacts – page 12Sketch a map of your neighborhood (pg.13) or your heart (pg. 18)

Find a focus – page 27

Write small – page 46

Inside/outside of a character – page 54

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 Lesson

Sophie Peterman Voice Rubric


The sights, smells and activities at Uncle John’s Farm are the focus for this memoir. Told in first person, Sally Fitz Gibbon uses poetic sentence structure to carry her message. In this lesson, students mimic her use of “ing” sentence beginnings to write complex sentences themselves. Writing Trait: Sentence Fluency 

On Uncle John’s Farm

On Uncle John’s Farm Graphic



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

Teacher Feedback:



This is another wordless picture book. It begins with a close-up view and gradually takes in more of the scene. When the pictures in this book are viewed backwards – from the last page to the first- it becomes a great zoom in on your topic lesson. Writing Trait: Ideas

Zoom In on Your Topic 

Told from the perspective of a baby who loves to write, this book will make you laugh! After hearing this book read aloud, students will write in role pretending they are a baby examining the world around them. Writing Trait: Ideas

Born Yesterday  lesson