“Who am I?” This is the question that many adolescents ask during
the turbulent middle and secondary school years. In Worth Writing About: Exploring Memoir with Adolescents, Jake Wizner
addresses how searching for the answer to this question leads his students to
reflection, to reading and, ultimately, to deeper, more meaningful writing.
Based on his experience teaching Year 8 English for nearly two
decades, Jake believes that a well-designed memoir unit not only aligns with
curriculum standards but also forges community in the classroom, encourages
kids to read nonfiction and works wonders with students who struggle with their
writing – or with their lives.
Worth Writing About addresses the most common challenges
teachers face when teaching memoir writing: How do you help students who say
that nothing interesting has happened in their lives? How do you help students
balance what is meaningful with what is too personal to share? How do you help
students overcome the “I don’t remember” syndrome?
Jake – who has published two young-adult novels and often shares
his own writing with his students – also delves into the craft of writing, from
using mentor texts to crafting leads and memorable endings. He uses student
models from his own classroom to show the deep, important work his students
produce during the memoir unit.
The memoir unit gets kids to write about real stuff – the things
that matter to them. In the process, Jake believes, they learn more about
themselves, their relationships, the way they view the world and how they want
to move forward into the future.