Memoir Writing as an Education Tool: Implications for Student Voice and Identity
Memoir is a genre of writing often overlooked as a valuable pedagogical tool. Through employing qualitative research and methods, this study explored the potential benefits of teachers introducing memoir in their classrooms. Research questions included: How can memoir writing serve as a pedagogical tool to encourage students to write and care about their writing? In what ways does the memoir writing process support students in exploring their identities? How are students encouraged to discover their voices when writing a memoir? By implementing an eight-week memoir-writing unit in a seventh-grade classroom, the teacher-researcher collected data as students read, listened to, wrote, and shared memoirs to learn about and practice the genre. Data collection methods included open-ended in-depth interviews, student questionnaires, artifacts, participant observations, student journals, and the researcher’s journal. Analysis of these multiple data sources illustrated how students wrote memoirs to learn about themselves and their worlds, and appeared motivated when doing so. The findings also drew attention to the importance of teachers being writers, too, and instituting routines and rituals to help students see their lives as full of invitations to write. Not only did using “I” in their writing make writing enjoyable for the students in this study, but it also engaged even the most struggling of writers. Implications for teacher-researchers and teachers of memoir writing are discussed.