It’s happening again. You are grading your students’ memoirs, and they’re all lacking…well…memories.
Instead, it’s just a long list of everywhere they went one summer, or everything they did one day at the beach/park/fill-in-the-blank.
It’s time to talk about seed ideas.
Seed ideas are the tiny moments that allow you to “live” in the feelings and senses of ONE event.
That means just talking about the first time you rode a wave in on your boogie board at the beach… not waking up, AND walking along the shore, AND building a sand castle, AND getting a sunburn, AND catching a crab, AND riding that wave. (Sound familiar?) Every single one of those events could be a “seed” that you could write into a narrative memoir.
If You Find a Rock is a great book to read at any time of the year, but it’s a really good one for getting seed ideas at the beginning of the year. I also had my students create memory jars as a keepsake for their seed ideas and writing pieces.
Read the mentor text, If You Find a Rock, aloud to students.
As you read, have students relate each page to their own memories and jot them down in their notebook. It might be a place or event connected to that page, or maybe a person or item that makes them feel the way the book describes. For example, the page that talks about the resting rock might help them connect to a place they like to go to be alone, which may remind them of a time when they went to that specific spot.
In another lesson, have students identify two or three memories that they could expand into narratives, or memoirs. Allow students time to really dive into feelings surrounding the memory, people who were there, and details of that one specific memory. (Remind them… this should be a seed- one tiny moment that we are stretching out to make the reader feel as though they were there in the moment.) I like to have students get with a partner and talk about it first before beginning to write. Sometimes talking through things helps them get more out, and their partner can ask questions that will help think more specifically.
This project is totally optional, but really helps the students get excited about their memories.
You can ask students to bring in a clean pickle jar or mason jar, or buy some mason jars. You can find river rocks at the Dollar Tree, or grab these rocks perfect for “writing on” from Amazon. I also grabbed some floral moss while at Dollar Tree, but you can find floral moss here on Amazon as well. For a little bit of color, grab some craft fabric squares to put in the lid of their jar!
Students choose a few of their seed ideas they have compiled. Use a permanent marker to write a word or two that sums up each memory on the river rocks. Put a little floral moss in the bottom of the jar, then add their rocks. This became their memory jar!
On To Writing!
Now for the writing piece to go along with it! The students choose just one of their rock memories from their jar to start. Just as the book did a wonderful job describing the rocks and the feelings that go along with those treasures, encourage the students to write that way, too!
Make sure students describe the setting and parts of the main event using sensory details so the reader will feel like he is there.
Once students have finished editing and revising their drafts, I give them plain white paper that is cut in half vertically (think long and skinny!), and the students write their final piece on this paper, roll it up like a scroll and tie a piece of yarn around it, then put it in their jar with their rocks! (Collect them first to read them yourself before rolling them up, or you’ll be opening a lot of jars and scrolls…)
Continue with this method for all the rocks in the jar if you’d like! It can be like a mini-portfolio in a jar! My students were very excited to show their jars and their awesome writing to their parents at Open House. I had a student come back the next year and tell me she kept adding to her memory jar over the summer and wrote more scrolls, too!
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