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Fifth Grade Memoirs

WritingSome of our fifth graders at Graham & Parks recently worked on a special writing project: memoirs. A memoir is a deeper kind of personal narrative, one where the writer speaks to the reader. The students worked on this project through a series of steps, from concept to finished writings – and then they went to a media lab to record their memoirs!

Background Info  
  • Students began by brainstorming topics: life changing moments, moments in which something was learned, moments that made you realize something important. 
  • They then wrote short narratives about those moments, and selected one story to write deeper, interweaving the external story (what happened) with the internal story (how they felt). 
  • Students read memoirs by other authors to get a sense of how the genre often switches back and forth between expository and narrative styles, and then they wrote expository introductions and conclusions to their narrative pieces.
  • After a lengthy revision and editing process, we began rehearsing the memoirs to read aloud.
  • Marco Werman from PRI's The World visited and gave us some pointers on "radio voice."
  • We traveled to the Media Arts Studio at CRLS – such an amazing resource for CPS students. The sound technicians there helped us record the memoirs in the recording booth.
  • One of the parents from our classroom is a sound software engineer, and he helped edit the recordings to smooth out any bumps.
  • We created the website and uploaded the recordings with help from the district IT specialists.
  • We held a publishing party for our friends and families in the computer lab at Graham & Parks. People used headphones to listen to the different recordings, and then we had a celebration in our classroom.

Listen to Memoirs

Q&A with the Authors

After the project was completed, we sat down with the authors to learn more about their experience. Here's what they had to say...
  1. What is a memoir?
    –A memoir is a piece of writing about a life changing experience.
    –A memoir is like a story, but it's mostly focused on what you're feeling.
    –It's like a deeper personal narrative.
  2. How did you decide what to write about? Was this a tricky process?
    –Yeah, it was a tricky process because you had to think about what you needed to write about and the details.
    –It was difficult because you had to find a piece of writing where you were really feeling a lot of stuff.
    –It was really hard, especially for me, because I kept on putting down my ideas--I didn't think they were good enough at first.
  3. While you wrote, what kind of emotions did you feel?
    –I felt stressed because it was so hard deciding what words to put down.
    –It's kind of fun to go back to that moment and try to think of everything you thought of, and remember how everything's kind of a happy recollection.
    –I also felt when we were in the revising process I had to go back to it a lot of times which was tiring, but at the end I felt good because the writing came out the way I wanted. 
  4. Did you learn something about yourself during this project? What?
    –I learned that I have a really good memory.
    –I learned that if I work on something really hard and remember it, it comes back to me more.
    –I learned that not everything's going to be perfect.
    –I learned that I can write a lot better than I thought.
  5. What was the most interesting thing about the media lab?
    –That it was a fun place where we could eat in the little kitchen.
    –We got to listen to our memoirs when we were done reading them.
    –It was really fun to go in that little recording room and record our memoirs because it felt like we were on the radio.
  6. Were you nervous about being recorded?
    –I was really nervous because I really don't like to hear myself get recorded because it's kind of annoying to hear yourself, you don't know if you're going to sound bad or good.
    –I was nervous because I really don't like to read out loud, I just like to read in my's so much harder to read aloud!
    –It was kind of weird because my voice kind of alters into an Alvin the Chipmunk voice.
    –At the recording studio, I wasn't that nervous, but when were listening to our memoirs in the lab I thought my voice sounded really weird like a dying chipmunk. 
  7. Did anything funny happen during the recording sessions?
    –I messed up!
    –I kept on making funny mistakes and then I would have to restart it 15 times.
    –I kept sneezing and sweating.
    –I sounded a lot like a zombie for the beginning, and I was just like "oh my gosh, I'm going to sound terrible!"
    –I laughed!

Listen to Memoirs