Next Term at Primary Matters


“Each time I study memoir with a group of students I am convinced of the genre’s power to transform learning and lives.”

K. Bomer: ‘Writing a Life – Teaching Memoir to Sharpen Insight, Shape Meaning and Triumph over Tests.’

‘The memoirist does not settle for the surface images, no matter how vivid, but questions the self that lives inside the memory, asking, ‘What kind of person would do that thing, say that?’

Isabel Allende, My Invented Country

In this course students will attempt to discover more about who they are as people, and they will develop their writing skills in ways that will surprise and delight parents, teachers and students themselves. For our younger students, the memoir course will mean that they begin to develop a ‘writer’s voice’ and that they learn to write effective, well structured, chronological pieces about the experiences of their lives.

For our older and more able students, they will be asked to draw upon everything they already know about narrative writing and will be taught how to interpret their experiences through older, wiser eyes, as well as to see important life events from the points of view of other people.  They will learn that in memoir there is always a now and a then – and that these particular stories are told to make sense of past experiences. We will teach students to use strategies and skills that will lead to deeper, more insightful writing.

These older students will be expected to investigate what makes them ‘tick.’  They will be encouraged to stretch themselves to write with honesty and precision and will be expected to produce three or four ‘polished’ pieces of writing.

It is important to note that on Webb’s hierarchy of intellectual thought, memoir writing qualifies as belonging to the highest category since it requires reflection, synthesis and critical thinking.

Writers’ Notebooks

All ‘real’ writers keep a writer’s notebook. In this course students will be asked to do likewise and write in it as often as possible; this notebook forms a major part of the course and notebook entries (which support the writer in his/ her thinking and the formation of new ideas) will be used to develop drafts which will be extended into longer, more focused pieces of writing.

The following skills and strategies will be taught this term:

1) How to find important ‘life topics’.

2) How to write ‘small’ about ‘big’ topics.

3) How to choose and develop a ‘seed’ idea.

4) How to structure memoir by studying published texts.

5) How to write a chronological story.

6) How to reveal his/her own true character by using internal thoughts.

7) How to write with detail, image, voice and depth.

8) How older, changed, individuals look back on their experiences with new insights.

9) How to use metaphor to enrich their writing.

10) How to use emblematic details to paint a portrait of the writer.

11) How to angle a story to show the big idea.

12) How to become reflective thinkers.

13) How to revise effectively.

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