Memoir Unit


Revision provides writers an opportunity to re-see their text. As with many genres of writing, revision in memoir often makes a work-in-progress "messier" for a short time. We must be willing to let go of our original vision, in many instances, to elevate our text to a more sophisticated level.

Poet and teaching consultant Georgia Heard reminds us that she has two goals in mind when she teaches revision strategies to students, no matter the genre:

1. to change students' concept of revision from punishment to a natural and integral part of the writing process
2. to change students' concept of revision from editing skills, practiced at the end of writing, to a process that occurs throughout all the writing stages." (The Revision Toolbox, 2)

Revision is not the same as editing, as we'll discuss later in this tutorial.

Revision minilessons might teach strategies that help writers continue trying to hone in on the true heart, or theme, of the text. For example, if Frank is writing about how hard it is to live up to others' expectations of him because he lives in the shadow of his big brother, we might teach Frank to write a portion of his text from his big brother's perspective, to see if that reveals anything new that belongs in his memoir.

Other revision minilessons can focus on  craft strategies like those described in the "craft/reading like a writer" page of this unit tutorial. Below, for example, is a video of our writer-in-residence, Julie Patterson, working with a grade 4/5 class on revising their memoirs by stretching out the most important part. She demonstrates how to brainstorm dialogue, facial expressions, and other details that they can weave into the important parts of their stories to make those parts linger in readers' minds.


Earlier we noted that craft strategies are often not unique to one genre. The same is true with revision strategies. If you've taught another genre that is largely narrative-based, such as a fiction unit, you might wish to take time to review a chart of your revision strategies from that unit, asking students to return to their touchstone texts in small groups to investigate which of the revision strategies they already know might also work in memoir.


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