Teacher Sign Up
Sign In
Write a Memoir

Students will understand what a memoir is and how it differs from a biography or autobiography. They will use what they learned to write a brief memoir about their lives.

PROCESS:

  1. Prior to conducting this activity, gather several age-appropriate memoirs to share with the class. If necessary, ask your school librarian for help in selecting books.
  2. Inform students that there are three main types of nonfiction books written about people's lives. An autobiography is a chronological story that someone writes about his or her own life. A biography is much the same, but the author writes about someone else. A memoir is different. Instead of following a timeline, the author writes about key events in his or her life. All of those events are linked to a central theme. 
  3. Invite students to examine the books you collected in small groups. Rejoin as a class to identify additional characteristics of a memoir. For example, a memoir is always written in first person. Memoirs also contain a variety of sensory details.
  4. Instruct students to identify an important or interesting time in their lives. Then have them make a list of events that led up to or are somehow connected to that time. Challenge students to make note of what they saw, heard, felt or even smelled during each instance.
  5. Encourage students to incorporate as many details as possible as they write an interesting, factual and creative memoir about their lives.

ASSESSMENT: 

Invite students to share their memoirs with the class. As a class, identify the key events and central theme in each story.  

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:    

Grades 3-4:
Explain to the class that a story written in first person uses the word "I." In a memoir the author is the main character. The story is all about that person and how they viewed something that happened to them. Provide suggestions as students write their memoirs. Encourage students to include dialogue and descriptions as they develop their stories. 

Grades 5-6:
If necessary, remind the class that a story written in first person uses the word "I." In a memoir the author is the main character. The story is all about that person and how they viewed something that happened to them. A memoir doesn't contain every single detail about what happened. But it does contain enough details for readers to understand what's going on and for the writer to tell an exciting tale. Encourage students to include dialogue and descriptions as they develop their stories. 

Grades 7-8:
Inform students that memoirs do more than state the facts. They also build an emotional connection between the author and those who are reading about his or her life. Instruct students to identify the emotion they want others to feel after reading about their lives. Challenge them to write a memoir filled with dialogue and details that help them achieve this result.

Grades 9-10:
Inform students that memoirs do more than state the facts. They also build an emotional connection between the author and those who are reading about his or her life. Sometimes that connection is light-hearted. Other times, it can leave the reader in tears. Instruct students to identify the emotion they want others to feel after reading about their lives. Then have them identify the audience for whom they are writing. Instruct students to select their words carefully as they write a detailed memoir suitable for this audience.