After winter break we started our memoir unit. It has been created using the Writer's Workshop model that I find to be fairly free and enjoyable for the kids. Using our writer's notebooks we were drafting and planning our memoir for many days before the students really realized what we were building up to. I kept the whole "big bad formal memoir" a bit of a secret for a while. No need to cause unnecessary stress at 11. Instead we wrote about our lives. Short little entries that resembled more of a journal entry. We wrote about family members, happiest moments, griefs and losses, we made lists about significant moments in our lives, etc. Modeling is huge in writer's workshop so I was writing in my notebook just along side of them. I enjoyed the process of really feeling the steps they were taking, and I know how critical these examples were in guiding them to success. After our initial writing we started reading several memoirs that allowed us to understand the difference between a journal write, a memoir, and the retelling of your entire trip to China last summer. I think the biggest challenge was when I reminded students that our memoirs were going to be focused on just one moment, and so it needed to be a good one (I gave them the guideline of an hour, the moment should be told in the confines of just an hour or less, most wrote about an event that happened in a matter of minutes).
Yesterday we had a celebration of their final memoirs. Of course that meant food and fun, and several volunteers reading their pieces to the class. They were amazing. I kept sitting there listening thinking, "wow, did I help them get here?!?". For some, their memoirs were amazing from many years of amazing elementary teachers who supported their writing skills. And no, I don't take the credit there. But when listening I could here those little elements we worked on come out. Figurative language, hyperboles, precise vocabulary, amazing character description. Yes. I had gotten them there too. And it felt really amazing. I must admit I'm actually kind if excited to read these, grading may not be the end of me this time. However, I did decide for good measure to let them marinate in all their goodness this weekend, and I'll get to them tomorrow.