Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Slice of Life - Graphic Memoirs Inspired by Slices of Life and Graphic Artists/Writers

I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.
     My students participated in the March Classroom Challenge.  It was such a rewarding experience for both my students and me.  That's not saying it wasn't difficult at times.  I know many of my students struggled, especially for writing ideas (which helped me know that I need to support them more with that next year), but it grew them as writers, gave them more confidence, and showed me their strengths and weaknesses.  Starting in April, I began a FAMILY/HOME literacy contract that featured text sets and a read aloud (The Crossover) around that theme topic, and a writing project on memoir.  I wanted to concentrate on the various memoir formats that are out there, so texts sets an included:
How I Discovered Poetry
Brown Girl Dreaming
Waiting to Waltz
Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me
El Deafo
The Dumbest Idea Ever!
The Boy on the Wooden Box
Twelve Kinds of Ice
Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life
Year of the Jungle
     We talked a lot about how memoir is different from autobiography or personal narrative.  A memoir is usually a group of memories around a certain topic or time period as opposed to an account of birth through current time, and a memoir has the extra component of a reflective quality.  How does that memory(ies) help make the author who he/she is?  This is the hardest part for young writers!  The Slice of Life Challenge helped tremendously with this.  We tried writing more specific slices that focused on one memory instead of a whole account of the day or a vacation, and we wrote about more meaningful topics and not just a list of what happened that day or weekend.
     After reading, writing Slices, and talking about the qualities of memoir, students wrote their own.  They were given the freedom to write in any format they chose: poetry, graphic memoir, narrative, or multi-format.  Students chose a good smattering of formats.  At least one student tried each one. I want to share with you some graphic memoirs.  My students LOVE graphic novels, so it was no surprise that they loved the graphic memoirs.  A few wanted to try that out. All girls.   I love that Raina Telgemeier and Cece Bell are role models for this generation.  I don't think there is any discrepancy now between girls and boys and the love of the graphic novel/memoir.  If there were any stereotypes in the past (I only remember boys reading comics), there aren't now!
Sorry about the color quality - my printer ran out of some color, and I can't figure out which one.  The real copies are much prettier!!  I included a typed copy of each story since it's hard to read.

ME, TOO by Jaidyn

On the trip to Tennessee...
"Momma, my tooth hurts."
"You'll be fine.  We're almost there."
"Yook at my tooth!"
"Jaidyn can twist her tooth!"
"Ewww!  Please make her pull it out!"
"Don't worry.  We are here!"
Inside my Nana and Papa's house...
"My toof!  My toof!"
"Ohh!  Your tooth!  Let me take a look at it."
"Which one is it?"
"It's right...oh no!  It's not there anymore!  Where did it go?"
"It's all gone!  He already took it out!"
"Are you sure he took out the right one?"
"I am positive."
Late that day, after my daily shower...
"Are you all clean?"
"Did you dry off your hair?"
"Yes!  Well, maybe..."
"HERSHEY KISSES!  My favorite!"
A few minutes later...
A week had passed, and we left Nana and Papa's house for Ohio.  About a few months later, we arrived in Tennessee again.
August 16th, 2010...
Dear Papa,
I miss you so much!  Please come back!  I love you more than the world!  Love Jaidyn
"Why did he have to go, Momma? "
"I don't know sweetie."
"Buy Papa wouldn't want you to grieve over him, right?"
"Always remember sitting on his lap, and him feeding you your favorite candy."
"I will."
"You are a beautiful little girl."
"You know, when I was around Papa, I felt loved.  I'm glad that we kept his spirit alive and that love has not gone away."
"Do you miss papa?
"Every day."
"Me too.  Me too."
Every time I read this, tears pop into my eyes.  My favorite thing about this memoir are the panels with tears running down her and her mom's smiling faces.  Smiling through tears.  Beautiful.

THE PIPE by Paige

"Your room is a mess!  Clean it up now!"
"But Mom!
Hey! My old memory book.  How did it get in here?
X-Ray: Paige's leg is fractured.
I remember that!
(I love how she used this structure - she borrowed it from The Matchbox Diary.)

It all happened at my grandparents' house in the yard!

"Do you kids want to play a game?"

"Yes, yes, yes!"


"Paige, take the medium sized rake.  Ryan take the little one, and I'll take the big one."



"Ok! We're going to race with our rakes to the end of the yard!  The rakes will be behind us. Who ever gets to the end of the yard wins!  On your mark, get set, GO!"

"Yay!  I'm winning!"

"You guys can do it!"

"NO! I'm losing!"

"I'm almost there!"



"OW! My leg!"

"Let me see!"

"I think it's broken!"

Scott is my dad.

"I'll be right over!"

"Scott, please come over right away!  I think Paige's leg is hurt really bad!"

10 minutes later...

"Let me see."

"Daddy, it really hurts!"

"You'll be fine.  Let's get your brother and go home."

"But Daddy, I need to go to the doctor!"

The next morning...


"What's wrong?"

"It's my leg!  I can't wait - it hurts so bad!"

"Ok, we're going to the doctor!"

"Here we are."

"I will get you with the doctor right away.  Please take a seat."

"Ok.  Thank you."

"We are ready to take you now."

"Please lie down on the table."

"Please hold still while the machine takes a picture of your leg."

5 minutes later...

"We have the results of the x-ray.  Paige's leg is fractured.  That means you cracked your bones."

"Will she be ok?"

"She will be fine.  Just try not to put any pressure on it for awhile."

On the car ride home...

"Paige, I'm so sorry for not believing you on your leg."

"It's ok, Dad, I love you."

"I love you too!"

At my grandparents house

"Stupid pipe!"


"Be careful!"

"Let me help you stand."

"What happened to the pipe?"

"I cut it out of the ground so nobody, including you, gets hurt again."

"I love you, Grandpa!"

"Hey Paige, do you want to get something for lunch?"


"I was just reading about the time I broke my leg."

"I am still very sorry that I didn't take you to the doctor right away."

"Actually, you made me a much braver person in life.  I love you so much and thank you for always being there for me."

"I love you too!"

I love how Paige told a lot of the story through facial expressions!



 My parents say I was a happy kid.
Maybe it came slow...
Or it might have just poured in, all at once.
Now I'm doing all I can to get out of this miserable state.
Gymnastics, school/homework/friends - My worry list
5th grade...
2 gifted classes...4 teachers...Lots of homework!
I know I don't have much homework, but it's hard with 17hours of gymnastics a week!  I wish I could be free...
But then I feel guilty...sigh...
What was I supposed to do?  I was STUCK!
My mom had some ideas...
"_______, I'm taking you to the therapist on Thursday!"
That Thursday...
"Hello, _______, call me Linda!"
But then it got better.
"What would happen if you NEVER did this?"
"Nothing, I guess."
The therapist helped, but I'm still at battle.
Now I'm taking a 3 week break from gymnastics.  Just to see how I like it.
But the universe found its way of getting me ANYWAY.
My friends were mean...
"She kicked me out of my own seat, just so she could sit next to ____________!  I had to sit on the floor!"
I had never felt so alone.
I'm not going to name the people who were mean, though.  School was going down also.
SS Text 83%  Science test 90%  Ugh...
Should I quit gymnastics?  I'm doing horrible in school!  I need to calm down!
Then something happened that changed my life.
I agree we should call her DARCY.
We got a PUPPY!
She waited for me to get home.  She CHANGED my life!
When I'm nervous, I go to our puppy.  She helps me calm down.
My sisters were a big help.  When I was down, they asked me to come play.  SISTERS.  I really loved them even though we sometimes fought.
Crafts make me happy.  I want to live my life more...moment by moment, and I just want to have FUN.
I want to feel less alone.  I want to be original.
I want to explore.  To be on adventures.
Deep inside I know I truly can do it.  I can stay strong.  I can't wait to take my place on the Earth.
I am improving.  I'm doin' good!
I am ___________ and  there is ONE THING I KNOW FOR SURE.
So powerful and honest. 
I enjoyed seeing how these authors/illustrators used what they learned from the mentor graphic memoirs and incorporated those techniques in their own writing and illustrations.  Each one has a reflective quality, so they got the concept that memoir is supposed to help make sense of the world and themselves.  I loved the energy, emotion, and expression in each one.  Thank you, Raina, Cece, and Jimmy, for giving us wonderful examples of quality graphic memoirs so my students could learn from you!




  1. These are amazing! I love the idea of exploring the different formats for memoirs by using the mentor texts you chose. Thank you for sharing these incredible stories and your lesson ideas.

  2. These are amazing! I love the idea of exploring the different formats for memoirs by using the mentor texts you chose. Thank you for sharing these incredible stories and your lesson ideas.

  3. What a wonderful resource. When I was teaching middle school I tried Writer's Workshop with my Special Day Class. It would have been wonderful to have know about your site and others like it.

  4. What a talented bunch, Holly - your mentor work really paid off. I loved the Worrywort - such sly humor!

  5. What a talented bunch, Holly - your mentor work really paid off. I loved the Worrywort - such sly humor!

  6. Oh my goodness!! Once again, I am speechless. I LOVE the way you approached this and the work you got from your students. I am saving this post. Brilliant!!! You are BRILLIANT!! :)

  7. This is an amazing post Holly. Such a brilliant way to engage readers and writers in memoir. This is going to be a great resource for all of us. We cannot wait to share it. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful post.
    Clare and Tammy

  8. I am saving this post as a mentor text for memoirs. I love these. Such strong voices!

  9. So, so much support on the journey to these final ones, Holly. They are wonderful, & I can clearly see the effects of both Raina Telgemeier and Cece Bell. What a complex unit you crafted, & the results are spectacular.

  10. Fabulous writing by your students! Wow!
    I so enjoyed reading your post. Thank you for sharing.
    You are dazzling!

  11. What fun your students had crafting and sharing their own stories. I love how you supported them with books and gave them choice in terms of slice and format. Such good work, Holly. I can hear their voices emerging!