As you may have read here, this half term we focused on the teaching of memoir.
In our first week we discussed the genre using our genre-booklets and this created a buzz for the rest of the project. Focusing on the genre and why people write memoir allowed the generating of ideas to happen fairly quickly.
We used around three techniques for generating memoir ideas. These included:
- Questions for memoirists – Children answer questions to jog their memories for potential memoir ideas (see our article about memoir writing).
- Using the ‘Michael Rosen’ effect. This is where children can take an otherwise ordinary moment and make it extraordinary. This can be an alternative to memoir writing for children who would much rather not write about anything overly heartfelt or emotive – which we can occasionally come across.
- Creating an Ideas Heart and allow children to add to it throughout the year.This includes: ‘What makes me happy, angry, scared or upset’ lists.
The children are well aware of these techniques which published authors often use to generate original writing ideas.
Here are some of the topics the children chose to write about:
- Meeting a new pet for the first time,
- Moments from holidays,
- The birth of siblings,
- Learning to do something new for the first time,
- The death of a loved one – including pets,
- Family separations,
- Meeting distant relatives for the first time,
- Special times spent with family,
- Meeting a hero,
- Taking part in sporting competitions,
Because we asked children to focus on just a small moment in time – what we call a ‘pebble moment’ (taken from Nancie Atwell’s book In The Middle) the drafting of these pieces came very quickly for the children. We suspect that this was also due to the fact that the children were writing on a topic in which they felt an expert.
Our writing-study lessons were a real success. We focused on how the children can use narrative devices to improve their memoirs. During the revision stage, we again used the genre-booklets and the children looked for opportunities to explore in more detail the following:
- Strong openings,
- Setting description,
- Character development,
- Poetic and figurative language to describe,
- Interesting endings which carry a message for the reader.
Again, we believe the children were able to take on this kind of linguistic burden due to the fact they were writing about a topic they were sure of. They could see where, when and how to use these devices in their pieces to good effect.
Our functional-grammar study was based on the use of time-openers and paragraphing as a means to move time forward and expanded-noun phrases to provide additional details for the reader.
Below, we are pleased to share a variety of different memoirs from across the year group. These were produce by children in year 5 (9-10 years old).
If you have liked what you have read here and would like to read more about our approach to writing which we call ‘Real-Word Literacy’, you can follow the link here. If you’d like to view our Genre-Booklets, you can follow this link.
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**By Phil Ferguson**