Friday, January 3, 2014

My fave stories for Teaching Memoir in the Writing Workshop

A few days ago I wrote a post about getting kids to love writing through memoirs and literature and list making. You can read that post here. At the end, I said I'd be back with my favorite picture books to spark ideas for here you have it!

Just a sidenote - I used all of these with seventh and eight graders, but since I've become a Literacy Coach, I've used them with almost all grades K - 5 as well. You might think it would be weird to have middle school kids gather on the rug in the center of our room, but that was a ritual that we developed, and they loved it after they got used to it! And, it totally works with primary as well - they just need *lots* of rehearsal. With K-1 - lots of drawing and talking about what they drew! After all, telling stories is the precursor to writing, right?

Anyways, onward with the books.... Enjoy!

I first heard this story during my Master's Program for my Reading Specialist certificate. I can't remember if a teacher read it to our class or another student in class did, but they did this super snotty voice for Lilly, the big sister to Julius. She's such a pain, and does some awful things to her baby brother, but then she learns an important lesson. This is one of my favorites to read! If you want to have your students write small moment stories about their brothers or sisters, this is a perfect read.

Well clearly there's a pattern here, because the teacher in my Master's Program who read this book to our class also did voices. (I highly encourage them - even with middle school kids!) Anyways, this is a story about the most unexpected friendship that forms between Amos, a mouse, and Boris, a whale. Boris helps Amos out in his time of need, and then wonders how Amos could ever repay the favor. Read to find out how a squeaky mouse does so, and to show a beautiful friendship that forms. Then, ask your students to think of, rehearse, and then write about small moments of friendship with their besties.

I found this book recently in Fletcher's Craft Lessons book. It's the story about all different kinds of courage - the courage to eat your veggies before you eat the part of the dinner you like best, courage to talk to the person who no one wants to... I actually modeled a Writing Workshop session with our Writing Core Facilitator and read this book to my staff. We then asked them to write about a time they had to use courage - and the stories that were composed would bring a tears to your eyes. This would easily work with all kids as well!

This book is stacked with beautiful language and a sweet memory of a child who is finally old enough to do that special activity (in this case going owling) with his or her mom (with both third grade and middle school kids we've looked closely to determine if this child is a boy or girl - this is great for inferring, too!) In addition to the beautiful language, the pictures are gorgeous and the owls are heard with their, "Whoooo, whoooooo, whooooooo-ing." Your kids, young or old, will love this, and then love to write about the special things they get to do with their parents, great aunt, cousin, or abuelita.

Ever had a teacher or another special adult help you learn something or grow in a particular way? Such is the story in Thank you, Mr. Falker. He helps the young girl to learn to read after he notices how she has such a difficulty with it. There's no doubt in my mind that your students have someone special who helped them out at some point. Word to the wise though: This particular book is pretty long - will probably need two sessions to get through.

Ohhhh I love this one, and Cynthia Rylant. This is a collection of short stories all about animals in some way or another. In the stories, the people help the animals, but the animals also help the characters learn to love and appreciate the blessings in their lives. Great stories to inspire writing about the special pets or other animals in our lives.

Well, this story is cute and will illicit stories for sure - but they really might turn out about enemies. (Hey, writing is writing, right?) In the story, the boy hates this enemy who lives down the street, so the boy's dad tells him that he will make "Enemy Pie" for him. The dad asks the boy to invite the enemy over and says he'll make the pie while they play for an hour or so. I'm sure you can guess what happens :-) Perhaps this book will inspire stories about unexpected friendships!

Well, those are just a few. My bookshelf is at work and so I'm struggling to remember others, but this is a good start at least.

Your Turn!
Do you have any other great literature you read with your kiddos? Please share with me...I'd love to add some more titles to my collection!

And now, I must go clean and take down the Christmas tree. No fun.....

Happy Friday!


  1. Thank you for these! It's an activity my kiddos do in the spring and now I have a great list of mentor texts for it! :)


  2. Some of my fav books! In my 6th grade LA class, we analyzed children's book to see how much critical thinking actually goes into writing them, then they had to make their own picture book. They went nuts for Skippyjon Jones when I read it aloud to them! Great post :-)

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