September 6: Truth in Memoir

1. Truth in memoir. Students wrote for two minutes to the prompt, “What percentage of a memoir needs to be true? How much fiction is okay in a memoir?”

2. Students then put their name on a sticky note and placed themselves on a continuum of where a memoir belongs in veracity from “fiction” to “newspaper article,” from 0% truth to 100% truth. 

3. We watched two clips of videos related to how much of a memoir needs to be 100% factually accurate. First we watched Michael Moore talk about his memoir Here Comes Trouble with Stephen Colbert (start at 3:24). Then, we watched an interview with James Frey, author of A Million Little PiecesHere are some segments of that interview with Larry King (watch it all). As we watched, students took notes on the key phrases each memoirist said. After watching, students wrote for one minute to this prompt: James Frey says he stands by the “essential truth” of his memoir, even though there were embellishments and differences. How much of your memoir will be “truth” verses “essential truth”? We discussed our thoughts on truth. My goal here is to encourage students to be bold in their stories. When they don’t remember something it’s okay to invent, as long as you are being true to your experience.


4. Reading “Memory and Imagination” by Patricia Hampel. We began reading this short memoir in class as a group and in pairs. As students listened, they added annotations. To annotate well, write in the margin doing a variety of things:

Summarize each paragraph in a few words

Connections: make them between the text and your life, the videos we watched, or other texts you’ve read

Opinions: write your own down in the margin

Pose questions: about anything you don’t understand

Examine Patterns: anything that’s repeated is important — think about repeated words, ideas, or events

Here is the notes sheet we used for SCOPE: Close Reading and Annotation.

Then, as they finished reading, they summarized each paragraph in the margin of the reading in a phrase or two.

5. Change your position on the continuum, if desired. At the end of class, students reevaluated their thoughts on what percentage of memoir should be true. 


HW: Honors ONLY – Finish reading and annotating “Memory and Imagination.”