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Bonnie Campbell Hill Award Recipients

2015 WA State Literacy Leader Award
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2015 National Teacher Leader Award
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Citation: Bomer, Katherine. (2005). Writing a Life: Teaching Memoir to Sharpen Insight, Shape Meaning - and Triumph Over Tests. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.


Title: Writing a Life: Teaching Memoir to Sharpen Insight, Shape Meaning - and Triumph Over Tests
ISBN:
ISBN-13:
Edition:
Year: 2005
Publisher: Heinemann
City: Portsmouth, NH
Medium: Book
Author(s): Bomer, Katherine
Grades: Fourth Grade to Eighth Grade
Categories: Personal Writing and Memoir
Annotation: Intermediate and middle school teachers will embrace the explicitness and detail of Katherine Bomer’s instructional model for memoir writing. Her strong belief that “reading and writing memoir can help create a better world” (pg. 2) is so evident throughout this book and will lead you to this same belief as you read a multitude of samples of memoir writing she has scaffolded for her students. But she also wants us to understand how we all want to remember. “We want to understand what our lives mean. And we want someone else to witness what life was like for us because it helps us feel real” (pg. xiii).

After convincing us to teach memoir, Katherine shares the big picture of a unit of study with week-by-week instructional foci. She shares a sample year long plan for writing instruction and how memoir writing would fit as a concluding unit. At this point, Katherine reminds us of the writing process and begins to explain the specifics of how the writing process for memoir is similar and different than other genres. A chapter is devoted to each stage of the writing process:
• reading mentor texts to uncover
• collecting ideas in a memoir’s notebook
• selecting, collecting, and layering thoughts to decide on the central idea of a memoir
• structuring the writing
• conferring with the student memoirist
• revising the text
• transferring memoir writing strategies and content into test prompt writing

In each of these chapters, Katherine gives specific prompts, graphic organizers, and tasks to guide students through that stage of the writing process. Sprinkled throughout each chapter are examples of published memoirs, both adult and children’s literature, to teach specific points. There are also numerous student samples as a result of the instruction using those mentor texts. The appendix has an extensive list of memoirs that can be used in instruction with different age groups. Reading Writing a Life will nudge you to begin your own memoir to share with your students. And you will soon experience personally what Katherine says we want each of our students to experience, that “writing the memoir is an act of discovering the self” and that you will “construct ideas about those facts (of your life) that lift them off the page and breathe life into them” (p. 85).