Memoir Writing


Memoirs JournalsDiaries… Personal Narratives


Book Title/Cover Memoir Overview Objective Lesson Links & Black Line Masters  
Number 21 recalls an event in author Nancy Hundal’s life in which her Dad brings home a new truck. Readers are lead on a mini mystery as the truck is used in an unconventional way on a hot summer day. Well written memoirs are based on ideas that have a very tight focus. In this lesson, Nancy’s book is used as a mentor text to model the narrow writing focus we want our students to have. Generating memoir topics at the beginning of the unit

Writing Trait: Ideas       

Number 21: Ideas to Launch a Primary Memoir Unit

Number 21: Launching an Intermediate Memoir Unit

If You Find a Rock is one of those books that calms the soul and slows life’s pace to one of careful observation. Take kids outside … to the beach, a river bank or into the forest where they will choose a rock that speaks to them.

After outdoor exploration and locating a special rock, students will carefully describe its appearance, qualities and specific use.

Experiential writing should not be underestimated.  When we provide students with memories, they are ready to write!

Writing Trait: Ideas ~ adding details

If you Find a Rock ~ Play-Based Writing

Two very different friends explore what it would be like to be more like the other. The objective of this lesson is to have young students add details or elaborate on one idea.

Writing Trait: Ideas

Me and You Lesson

There are lots of new things in kindergarten. tiptoe into offers a glimpse into the first days of school when doing things with others may be a bit overwhelming. The objective of this lesson is to teach young children how to elaborate or add details about one topic using Lori Rog’s Five Finger strategy.

Writing Trait: Ideas

Tiptoe into kindergarten


While students and teacher walk to the park, the last child in the line sees something that no one else sees and the creativity begins. Students create their own squiggles using string or markers, then turn them into something imaginative.

Writing Trait: Ideas

The Squiggle Lesson 

In this video, Faye Brownlie shares an artful writing approach with a group of grade 1/2 students. The objective of this lesson is to use art and oral language as vehicles to develop story writing language. The Squiggle Lesson from SD 72  
Be careful with that stick… or is it a stick? This book provides creative inspiration. In this lessons, students think of different things that a stick might become. This is not a stick, it’s a magician’s wand!

Writing Trait: Ideas

Not a Stick Lesson 

During a walk you can see, hear and catch all sorts of interesting things. In this lesson, kindergarten children will draw pictures  with lables to represent seasonal, sensory items.

Writing Trait: Ideas

On My Walk

There’s something in the tackle box. Fly-fishing items are pulled out, described and illustrated in this snapshot. At the end, we find out what is being sought. Building memoir writing criteria together as a class is the focus of this lesson.

All Writing Traits

 A Good Day’s Fishing

A Good Day’s Fishing Primary

Eva’s teacher has asked her to write about what she knows, but nothing every happens on 90th Street. Or does it? As Eva searches for writing ideas, she is given advice from some colourful characters in her neighborhood. In this lesson, students listen for the pieces of advice Eva is given and record them on a black line master. After modeling how this advice is used, students do a quick write of their own.

Black line masters below are from      

 Writing Trait: Ideas       

90th Street Advice

90th Street Teacher Model

90th Street Quick Write

When Matt goes out to play in his new neighborhood, all he sees is a boring, empty lot. But with a stick, a little imagination and a few new friends, Mattland is born. In this lesson, students use the Show, Don’t Tell writing strategy to add details to their writing. Writing Trait: Ideas     

Mattland Lesson

Father and son watch machines at work while a new school is built. Getting young students to add details to their written work is the focus of this lesson.

Writing Trait: Ideas

Building With Dad

Vivid description make this a not to be missed memoir. In this lesson sensory descriptions are discussed so that students have a better understanding of how to make pictures for their reader. 

Writing Trait: Ideas

All the Places to Love

This is a delightful book filled with funny similes that entertain. In this lesson, students are taught how to write similes and encouraged to add these snippetts of poetry to other pieces of writing.

Trait:  Word Choice

My Dog Is As Smelly as Dirty Socks

Granpa has magical explanations for ordinary things – a frosty window-pan, dewdrops sparkling on the grass, even his own bald head – and Granpa never lies. In this lesson, students listen for the kinds of details that writers include that other people tend to miss. Teacher and students co-construct criteria about adding details to a their writing.

Writing Trait: Ideas

 Grandpa Never Lies

When father and daughter go owling, they connect with each other and their environment. Jane Yolen uses vivid description to retell this event. In this lesson, students look at the author’s use of the senses as a means to elaborate … to add details. Writing Trait: Ideas   

Owl Moon Lesson

When Amelia has to move, her mother gives her a notebook to record her thoughts and feelings in hopes it will make her feel better. Increase writing engagement by inviting students to doodle and add momentos to their own writing notebook ala Amelia.  
A father retells a childhood event to his daughter. This book may be used to generate memoir topics – life’s lessons learned. Pages also contain clear examples of paragraphing. Have students use attached pages to write “When to start a new paragraph rules.” Writing Trait: Ideas

Use this book to brainstorm “life’s lessons learned.” This topic has the potential to fuel many memoirs.

Writing Trait: Conventions

When To Start a New Paragraph

Author Lois Lowry recalls the return of her father from the war. They spend a special day together getting to know one another and calling the crows. Don’t miss the picture on the last page. Great writing contains a mixture of short, medium and long sentences. In this lesson, students use Lowry’s text as a model and try some of their own. Writing Trait: Sentence Fluency

Crow Call Sentence Lesson

Writing Trait: Word Choice

Crow Call Word Choice Lesson


During hard times, when Grandad moves out, Timmerman moves in. But is he trustworthy? When Timmerman is seen late at night, rumours start to fly. A surprising ending, reveals the answer. The lead sentence in this book creates a little mystery. In this lesson, students will learn a variety of ways to write lead sentences. Can leads become artful endings? Read through the lesson to find out! Writing Trait: Organization

Timmerman Was Here

Fletcher shares all sorts of suggestions to help writers tell their life stories. With quick lines such as, “Write small. I’m talking details here.” he shares humorous insights about his craft. A great read aloud during a memoir writing unit. Share knowledge of the writer’s craft. This book contains lots of ideas to turn into explicit mini-lessons. Collect family stories – page 10

Gather life’s artifacts – page 12

Sketch a map of your neighborhood (pg.13) or your heart (pg. 18)

Find a focus – page 27

Write small – page 46

Inside/outside of a character – page 54

From the first line of text, you just know this book is loaded with voice! Sophie Peterman has a lot to say about baby brothers. Will her opinion change as she gets to know the newest member of the family? In this lesson, students learn about voice by assessing voice in sample pieces of text. Writing Trait: Voice

Sophie Peterman Lesson

Sophie Peterman

Sophie Peterman Voice Rubric

The sights, smells and activities at Uncle John’s Farm are the focus for this memoir. Told in first person, Sally Fitz Gibbon uses poetic sentence structure to carry her message. In this lesson, students mimic her use of “ing” sentence beginnings to write complex sentences themselves.

Writing Trait: Sentence Fluency  

On Uncle John’s Farm Lesson

On Uncle John’s Farm


This is a wordless picture book with hilarious photos of food. Use the photos as a means to gather details in a kid-friendly way. Use the Show, Don’t Tell strategy to describe emotions. In this example “mad” is analyzed.

Writing Trait: Ideas

Food Play Lesson

This is another wordless picture book. It begins with a close-up view and gradually takes in more of the scene. When the pictures in this book are viewed backwards – from the last page to the first- it becomes a great zoom in on your topic lesson. Writing Trait: Ideas

A few Zoom pages

Each chapter of Fletcher’s memoir, tells a story of his childhood. This is a great read-aloud during a memoir unit. Photocopy one of the shorter chapters and have students, with rubric in hand, search for writing skills worth imitating.

Writing Trait: Ideas

Marshfield Dreams Lesson Link (from


Told from the perspective of a baby who loves to write, this book will make you laugh! After hearing this book read aloud, students will write in role pretending they are a baby examining the world around them.

Writing Trait: Ideas

Born Yesterday RAFTS lesson 

Given a classrooom writing assignment, all the other students seem to have things to write about. Author Janet Wong shares ideas to turn everyday events into personal stories worth telling. Use as a read-aloud. Writing Trait: Ideas

Simply create a class chart listing some of Wong’s advice.