Encyclopedia Memoirs: What they are and why they are the BEST way to end a school year

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The end of the school year can be chaotic, so keeping students engaged and having fun is incredibly important. I have used the project detailed here every year I've taught and it never fails to keep students loving their school work and writing until the very end.  

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Click here to access all the materials you need for this project! 

 

Steps to get this project rolling...

 

1. Activate Prior Knowledge  

Explain that it is fun to get creative with writing genres by combining them! Remind students about the definition of a genre (book categories). Many new genres have been created through this genre/category combination process. Here are some examples of multiple genres morphing into one...the genre of graphic novels combines fiction and comic books and has even spun off into historical fiction graphic novels. Young adult literature combines children's literature with realistic fiction and has become one of the most popular genres today. Dystopian literature combines science fiction, horror, historical fiction and realistic fiction and is equally popular. All of these new genres have been created only within the last thirty to forty years!

Ask students what they know about the genres of encyclopedias and memoirs. Explain that for the next few weeks they will be combining the genres to write encyclopedia memoirs!

2. Introduce Forms of Writing 

For each letter of the alphabet students can choose to write in any form, here are just a few of the options you can provide students with: 

  • Poem
  • Paragraph
  • Song
  • Short story 
  • How-to 
  • Bulleted list 
  • Table 
  • Steps
  • Compare & Contrast
  • Sketchnotes 

Below you can find samples of some of these forms...

3. Show Samples/Mentor Texts

It is difficult to show samples of this project if you've never done something like this before. I highly recommend you create an encyclopedia memoir about you (your students will soak it up). If you'd like to go the super easy route and have a pre-packaged project at your fingertips then you should definitely check this out. Additionally, once you've done this with one class you can take pictures of stellar student work and use those as samples too.

Below are examples from the first encyclopedia memoir I ever created twelve years ago as a brand new teacher! 

4. Brainstorm/List 

Students need lots of time to do this project! Once they've seen lots of examples you can really just let them loose on the project. If you want to take a more systematic approach you can have students list the alphabet and brainstorm what they might do for each letter. 

5. Generate Entries & Collect Pictures

This is the fun part! You can have students do the entire project by hand (this will take a lot more time), all digitally or a combination of both. This is a project that incorporates writing, art and personality! I know your students will love it. 

About the Author

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Amanda Werner is a full time middle school English teacher in the Bay Area. She has been teaching for ten years and still feels like a novice. Every year is a unique and exciting challenge to inspire a new group of students in becoming avid readers and writers. Amanda reads educational literature voraciously and writes about the teaching of writing on her website amandawritenow.com. Amanda received her B.A. in English Literature with an emphasis in Humanities at Western Washington University. She has both an elementary and secondary teaching license and a mathematics credential. In her free time, Amanda loves being outdoors with her humorous husband and sweet and spunky three year old daughter.