Teaching A Memorable Memoir Unit

Our last writing workshop unit of the year was our memoir unit. This is probably one of my favorite units to teach to the students. One of the reasons I enjoy this unit is that I can really see the growth of my students as a writer from the beginning of the year. Also, I love that memoirs are a reflective piece that digs a bit deeper than our personal narrative units (first unit of the year). It’s always amazing to see how fifth graders can reflect so deeply about their life at 11 years of age. I’ve had a range of writing pieces in this unit, from memoirs about a sleepover, insect obsessions, passing away of a grandparent, moving to a new school and country, reflections on fifth grade and more.

During our memoirs unit, these are the mentor texts we used:

  • Excerpts from Ralph Fletcher’s, Marshfield Dreams 
  • Short stories from Sandra Cisneros’, The House on Mango Street– Hairs, My Name, Papa Who Wakes Up Tired in the Dark
  • Short story from Cynthia Rylant,  “My Grandmother’s Hair”
  • Picture book from Cynthia Rylant, When I Was Young and in the Mountains
  • Moon Soup by Janet Wong

In addition to creating a mentor text packet with memoirs for my students to have as a reference, I like to teach them how to write 6-word memoirs. This is where they tell their own story in only 6 words. Then, I made a really simple movie with their 6-word memoirs afterwords. I had the students write in big letters their 6-word memoir on a sheet of white copy paper, then, I piled them together and voila: Team Inspire’s  6-word memoir movie

Here is Ernest Hemingway’s famous 6-word memoir: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” 

My 6-word memoir: Summer in NY means endless possibilities.

What is your 6-word memoir? Please leave yours in the comment section! 🙂

west harlem sunset

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