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A Year in Review: The Memoir

Grade Level: 9-12 grades

Subject/Content: English/Memoir

Summary of Lesson: Students study and write the memoir

Focus Questions: What is a memoir, and why is it an important genre of literature?

Resource(s): Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center, LitFinder

Procedures:

  1. Ask students what a memoir is. Ask them what the difference is between a memoir and an autobiography (a memoir focuses on a brief period of time or series of related events while an autobiography spans an entire lifetime). Make sure the following are covered in your discussion/teaching of what a memoir is:
    • Focuses on a brief period
    • Uses a narrative structure
    • Describes events and explains/shows the significance, usually of high emotional content
    • Centers on a problem and resolution
    • Remains in first person
  2. Introduce James Frey, author of A Million Little Pieces, and briefly explain the controversy surrounding his memoir. Direct students to Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Have them search "James Frey" and answer the question, "Is what James Frey did right or wrong? Explain." Instruct students to pick out specific examples or reasons from their search
  3. Once students have independently formed an opinion have them group into fours or fives. Instruct students to discuss their thoughts and research with their group members
  4. Reconnect as a class and discuss as a large group
  5. Have students find "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau using LitFinder. Instruct them to read all of "Walden" or a selection of it
  6. When they are finished discuss with students why "Walden" is/is not a memoir
  7. Assign the following prompt, "Imitating Thoreau's style, write an essay in which you describe a place you retreat to. Is its importance as significant to you as Walden was to Thoreau?"

Steps/Activities by Student(s):

  1. Using the Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center search "James Frey" and answer the question, "Is what James Frey did right or wrong? Explain." Pick out specific examples or reasons from your search
  2. Discuss your thoughts and research with your group members.
  3. Discuss with the class
  4. Find and read "Walden" by Henry David Thoreau using LitFinder
  5. Discuss why you think "Walden" is/is not a memoir
  6. Respond to the following prompt, "Imitating Thoreau's style, write an essay in which you describe a place you retreat to. Is its importance as significant to you as Walden was to Thoreau?

Outcome: Students will gain an understanding of the difference between memoir and autobiographical writing, the importance on the memoir, and the ability to write a memoir

Related Activities: Students write a memoir focused on an episode of their choosing

Standard Date: Approved 1998

Content Standard(s):

  • NL-ENG.K-12.1: Reading for Perspective
  • NL-ENG.K-12.2: Understanding the Human Experience
  • NL-ENG.K-12.3: Evaluation Strategies
  • NL-ENG.K-12.4: Communication Skills
  • NL-ENG.K-12.5: Communication Strategies
  • NL-ENG.K-12.6: Applying Knowledge
  • NL-ENG.K-12.7: Evaluating Data
  • NL-ENG.K-12.8: Developing Research Skills
  • NL-ENG.K-12.11: Participating in Society
  • NL-ENG.K-12.12: Applying Language Skills

Performance Indicators:

  • At Level 1, the student is able to:
    • Identify the key elements of a memoir
  • At Level 2, the student is able to:
    • Understand the importance of the memoir genre
  • At Level 3, the student is able to:
    • Write their own memoir

Computer Literacy and Usage Standards 9-12:

  • The student will demonstrate proficiency in the care and use of computer based technology
  • The student will develop skills using a variety of computer resources to increase productivity, support creativity, conduct and evaluate research and improve communications

ISTE NETS for Students

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving & Decision-Making
  • Technology Operations and Concepts

Information Power; Information Literacy Standards 1-4:

  • The student who is information literate accesses information efficiently and effectively
  • The student who is information literate evaluates information critically and competently
  • The student who is information literate uses information accurately and creatively
  • The student who is an independent learner is information literate and appreciates literature and other creative expressions of information
  • The student who is an independent learner is information literate and strives for excellence in information seeking and knowledge generation
  • The student who contributes positively to the learning community and to society is information literate and recognizes the importance of information to a democratic society
  • The student who contributes positively to the learning community and to society is information literate and practices ethical behavior in regard to information and information technology
  • The student who contributes positively to the learning community and to society is information literate and participates effectively in groups to pursue and generate information
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