Dow English

Take an interest in the future. You will spend the rest of your life there.

Memoir Project

Choose an incident in your life that was meaningful, humorous, joyous, or distinguishable in some other way. Write a memoir based on that incident.

A memoir must incorporate all of the following:

  • First-person point of view
  • Have a beginning, middle, and end (like a story)
  • Your inner thoughts either at the time of the incident and/or as an adult now looking back on the incident
  • Literary language (metaphors, similes, symbolism, hyperbole, imagery, etc.—like a story)

It must be 2-3 pages, double-spaced, 1” margins all around, 11 or 12-pt. Times New Roman or Calibri or Ariel. [at least 2 full pages]


  • feel free to express your personal opinions and impressions (use for instance: to my mind, in my opinion, it seems, it turned out that, etc.);

  • good memoirs contain a lot of sensory details (for example, instead of simply stating that a girl had an angry look on her face, you can specify that her face reddened and her teeth were clenched – these are valuable observations, which can make your description more vivid);

  • write about memories which are important for you – it’s impossible to write a good memoir without feeling a deep connection between yourself and the situation which you describe;

  • be yourself when writing a memoir –  this type of work requires you to be honest and show your personal traits;

  • choose a proper tone and try to maintain it throughout your memoir essay – it’s an excellent exercise to develop your writing style;

  • do a research, even if you remember the situation, try to collect as much information as you could, including your friends’ commentaries, photos, blog posts – everything that can reveal more details;
  • take care about your memoir idea – whether your writing is funny, well-structured, or creative and unusual it means nothing if you don’t put a message in it.

Send it to me by 12/21.


1. Link to short memoir examples

2. Excerpt from Stephen King’s On Writing

My earliest memory is of imagining I was someone else— imagining that I was, in fact, the Ringling Brothers Circus Strongboy. This was at my Aunt Ethelyn and Uncle Oren’s house in Durham, Maine. My aunt remembers this quite clearly, and says I was two and a half or maybe three years old. I had found a cement cinderblock in a corner of the garage and had managed to pick it up. I carried it slowly across the garage’s smooth cement floor, except in my mind I was dressed in an animal skin singlet (probably a leopard skin) and carrying the cinderblock across the center ring. The vast crowd was silent. A brilliant blue-white spotlight marked my remarkable progress. Their wondering faces told the story: never had they seen such an incredibly strong kid. “And he’s only two!” someone muttered in disbelief. 18 Stephen King Unknown to me, wasps had constructed a small nest in the lower half of the cinderblock. One of them, perhaps pissed off at being relocated, flew out and stung me on the ear. The pain was brilliant, like a poisonous inspiration. It was the worst pain I had ever suffered in my short life, but it only held the top spot for a few seconds. When I dropped the cinderblock on one bare foot, mashing all five toes, I forgot all about the wasp. I can’t remember if I was taken to the doctor, and neither can my Aunt Ethelyn (Uncle Oren, to whom the Evil Cinderblock surely belonged, is almost twenty years dead), but she remembers the sting, the mashed toes, and my reaction. “How you howled, Stephen!” she said. “You were certainly in fine voice that day.”

A year or so later, my mother, my brother, and I were in West De Pere, Wisconsin. I don’t know why. Another of my mother’s sisters, Cal (a WAAC beauty queen during World War II), lived in Wisconsin with her convivial beer-drinking husband, and maybe Mom had moved to be near them. If so, I don’t remember seeing much of the Weimers. Any of them, actually. My mother was working, but I can’t remember what her job was, either. I want to say it was a bakery she worked in, but I think that came later, when we moved to Connecticut to live near her sister Lois and her husband (no beer for Fred, and not much in the way of conviviality, either; he was a crewcut daddy who was proud of driving his convertible with the top up, God knows why). There was a stream of babysitters during our Wisconsin period. I don’t know if they left because David and I were a 19 On Writing handful, or because they found better-paying jobs, or because my mother insisted on higher standards than they were willing to rise to; all I know is that there were a lot of them. The only one I remember with any clarity is Eula, or maybe she was Beulah. She was a teenager, she was as big as a house, and she laughed a lot. Eula-Beulah had a wonderful sense of humor, even at four I could recognize that, but it was a dangerous sense of humor—there seemed to be a potential thunderclap hidden inside each hand-patting, butt-rocking, head-tossing outburst of glee. When I see those hiddencamera sequences where real-life babysitters and nannies just all of a sudden wind up and clout the kids, it’s my days with Eula-Beulah I always think of. Was she as hard on my brother David as she was on me? I don’t know. He’s not in any of these pictures. Besides, he would have been less at risk from Hurricane Eula-Beulah’s dangerous winds; at six, he would have been in the first grade and off the gunnery range for most of the day. Eula-Beulah would be on the phone, laughing with someone, and beckon me over. She would hug me, tickle me, get me laughing, and then, still laughing, go upside my head hard enough to knock me down. Then she would tickle me with her bare feet until we were both laughing again. Eula-Beulah was prone to farts—the kind that are both loud and smelly. Sometimes when she was so afflicted, she would throw me on the couch, drop her wool-skirted butt on my face, and let loose. “Pow!” she’d cry in high glee. It was like being buried in marshgas fireworks. I remember the dark, the sense that I was suffocating, and I remember laughing. Because, while what was happening was sort of horrible, it was also sort of funny. In many ways, Eula-Beulah prepared me for literary criticism. After having a two-hundred-pound 20 Stephen King babysitter fart on your face and yell Pow!, The Village Voice holds few terrors. I don’t know what happened to the other sitters, but EulaBeulah was fired. It was because of the eggs. One morning Eula-Beulah fried me an egg for breakfast. I ate it and asked for another one. Eula-Beulah fried me a second egg, then asked if I wanted another one. She had a look in her eye that said, “You don’t dare eat another one, Stevie.” So I asked for another one. And another one. And so on. I stopped after seven, I think—seven is the number that sticks in my mind, and quite clearly. Maybe we ran out of eggs. Maybe I cried off. Or maybe Eula-Beulah got scared. I don’t know, but probably it was good that the game ended at seven. Seven eggs is quite a few for a four-year-old. I felt all right for awhile, and then I yarked all over the floor. Eula-Beulah laughed, then went upside my head, then shoved me into the closet and locked the door. Pow. If she’d locked me in the bathroom, she might have saved her job, but she didn’t. As for me, I didn’t really mind being in the closet. It was dark, but it smelled of my mother’s Coty perfume, and there was a comforting line of light under the door. I crawled to the back of the closet, Mom’s coats and dresses brushing along my back. I began to belch—long loud belches that burned like fire. I don’t remember being sick to my stomach but I must have been, because when I opened my mouth to let out another burning belch, I yarked again instead. All over my mother’s shoes. That was the end for Eula-Beulah. When my mother came home from work that day, the babysitter was fast asleep on the couch and little Stevie was locked in the closet, fast asleep with half-digested fried eggs drying in his hair.




The Great Depression

Maycomb, Alabama (CH.1)

ACTIVITY: Maycomb [Complete Activities II A and III A  with a partner]

The South: 1920s-1950s


DAY 2: CH. 1:


first-person point of view

reliable/unreliable narrator

introduction of themes of coming of age, parental influence, nonconformity, and prejudice

Class Discussion:

Analysis of first paragraphs

Boo: parental influence; bias


HOMEWORK: read chapters 4-6 (voc.: unanimous, evasion, benevolence, uncompromising, inference); 

DAY 3: CH. 4-6

Boo: assumptions/reevaluations


Class Discussion:


ACTIVITY: Inference (with a partner)

ACTIVITY: small group: coming of age

HOMEWORK: read Chapters 7 & 8 (voc.: simultaneous, ruthless, , oppressive, coming of age)

DAY 4: Ch. 7 & 8

Boo--inferences about the truth


HOMEWORK: read Ch. 9-10 (voc.: inconsistent, proclaim, ethics, elude, speculation, tedious, tentative, defendant, prohibit)

DAY 5: Ch. 9 & 10

prejudice and nonconformity (Atticus)

themes of bias and misconception (Atticus)

Jem's coming of age

symbolism of the title

HOMEWORK: Read Ch. 11. (voc.: antagonize, benevolence, irk, transaction, inevitable)

Day 6: Ch. 11

Ms. Dubois

A Brief History of Jim Crow Laws

More about Jim Crow

Jim Crow Laws

ACTIVITY: in small groups: Discuss three of the Jim Crow laws and respond to the following:

  1. What do you think about these laws?
  2. Why do you think they were put in place?
  3. Considering the position of blacks in Maycomb, in what way do you see evidence of the effects of these laws in Maycomb?
  4. Jim Crow laws were officially abolished in the 1950s. Explain how you see evidence of their influence today.

HOMEWORK: Read Ch. 12 up to the line "While she was shelling peas, Calpurnia suddenly said, 'What am I gonna do about you all’s church this Sunday?'" Read 13-14 (voc.: coming of age, justification, contradict, antagonize, perpetuate)

DAY 7 & 8: Ch. 12-14

themes of prejudice and nonconformity

HOMEWORK: Read Ch. 15 (voc.: vengeance, aggravate, apprehension, acquiesce, unanimous); JOURNAL ASSIGNMENT: Describe some incident of a mob you witnessed, participated in, or something you saw in the media. Reflect on the mob's influence on the mob itself and on others.


themes of prejudice and nonconformity

HOMEWORK: Read Ch. 16; voc.: accommodate, assurance, testimony, inference, inconsistent)

DAY 10 & 11

Analyzing the testimony of Ch. 17-19

HOMEWORK: Read Ch. 20-21  (voc.: inevitable, inference, verdict, acquit, unanimous, vicious); JOURNAL: Write a letter to Tom Robinson expressing your opinion about the trial and verdict. End with some advice you would give him.

DAY 12:

The Verdict

Research: Scottsboro Boys Scottsboro Boys

themes of parental influence, nonconformity vs. conformity; bias

HOMEWORK: Read Ch. 22-23; 

DAY 13: Ch. 22-23

themes of coming of age (loss of innocence), parental influence, nonconformity, bias

HOMEWORK: skip Ch. 24; Read Ch. 25-27; 

JOURNAL ACTIVITY: Look at the last paragraph in Chapters, 22, 25, and 27. Come to a generalization based on what these paragraphs have in common and explain why you've come to this conclusion.

DAY 14: Ch. 25-27

themes of prejudice, coming of age

foreshadowing (Ch. 27)

HOMEWORK: finish novel

DAY 15: Wrap-up

MAJOR ASSIGNMENT: Integration of quotes into a written analysis.

Due date TBD

For each theme, write a concise analysis about each theme. [250-300 words per theme]

Instead of proving that the theme exists in the novel, you will assume it does exist. You will focus on one aspect of the theme in one scene and examine it, coming up with your unique perspective that you prove by incorporating evidence from the novel.

For example, you might focus on:

  • one scene as the most powerful example of parental influence or bias or coming of age or nonconformity and prove why it is the most powerful example, concluding with what this example indicates about parental influence in the real world.
  • how a character usually viewed by the reader as being biased/unbiased, nonconforming/conforming, etc. shows traits of the opposite in the scene. [A character who seems extremely prejudiced actually shows evidence of not being prejudice]

  • incorporate quotes.

The Glass Castle


  1.  Characteristics and purpose of a memoir
  2. Is a memoir true?
  3. first person pov/adult as narrator [comparison to Scout
4. Analysis of the title and the opening quote.
5. Read through to p. 5
6. CHAPTER JOURNAL ENTRY: Respond to the opening chapter.

HOMEWORK: Read pp. 9-50
CH/JOURNAL ENTRY: Write about how the young Jeannette views her father and her mother. Use quotes and make inferences based on the text. (voc.: 

DAY 20: pp. 9-50

  • Small group discussion: parents: how do you view the parents? Why? How is this different from how Jeannette views her parents?
  • laissez-faire culture (nonconformity)
  • The Glass Castle plans

HOMEWORK: Read pp. 51-93




DAY 21: pp. 42-72

Literary Analysis Essay


  1. First sentence: Begin with one of the following:
    1. A quote by a famous person that relates to your chosen topic/thesis/theme. [Notice how the quote has a context.]
      1. How to find an appropriate quote:
        1. Google search: famous quote about your topic. Example: famous quote anger
        2. Search for a short quote that perfectly expresses your thesis/theme.
        3. Ways to incorporate quote:
          1. “Blah, blah,” physicist Albert Einstein said after the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima.
          2. After the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima, physicist Albert Einstein commented on the resulting devastation by saying, “Blah, blah.”
    2. A quote and/or situation in the story that instantly illustrates your thesis. [Either have to be set into the context of the story.]
      1. How to find an appropriate quote:
        1. Search for a short quote that perfectly expresses your thesis/theme.
      2. Ways to incorporate quote [notice that the name of the author and title of story are included in the first sentence to make it clear who Joe Smith is.]:

          1. “Blah, blah,” Joe Smith says in Jack London’s short story “To Build a Fire” after getting lost in the forest while the temperature is dropping.
          2. Lost in the forest with the temperature dropping, Joe Smith in Jack London’s short story “To Build a Fire” comments sarcastically about his situation: “Blah, blah.”
    3. An historical reference that illustrates a real-world example of your thesis/subject/theme. [Again, when incorporating into your essay, the context must be evident.]
      1. How to find an historical reference:
        1. Google search: historical incident about your topic. Example: historical incident riots
  2. Next: In one or two sentences explain the quote in terms of how it relates to your thesis/subject/theme. Example for: Lost in the forest with the temperature dropping, the man in Jack London’s short story “To Build a Fire” thinks to himself about his situation: “I’m a man. I’ll be fine.” Ironically, it is exactly these kinds of feelings of self-importance that has gotten him into this predicament in the first place.
  3. Next: In one or two sentences begin to discuss the topic you will explore in this story. Relate it to your opening sentences as well as your theme. Continuing from the example in #2: The man has found himself slowly freezing to death after ignoring advice not to travel through the Alaskan woods alone during the depths of winter, yet he refuses to believe he has made a mistake. Instead, he goes deeper into the forest with his only companion--a dog he mistreats—to meet his own death.
  4. End with thesis statement. Continuing from the example above: Through the man’s inner thoughts as he ignorantly journeys to his death (1), London reveals that man’s sense of superiority, despite evidence to the contrary (2), can lead to fatal miscalculations (3).

Body Paragraphs (3 total) format:

  1. Topic sentence (1, 2, and 3 in your thesis statement [above] will be the basis for each topic sentence.
  2. Reason why you think the topic sentence is true. [Using the above example, for topic sentence of Body Paragraph 1, why do you think he ignorantly journeys to his death?]
  3. Evidence from the story that proves your reason. Use both quotes and paraphrasing.
  4. Explain fully how/why the evidence proves the reason.
  5. Concluding sentence: Now that you have proved your topic sentence, explain how part of your thesis is proven. Ex.: The man’s refusal to listen to the experts and instead rely only on his own belief that he can easily make it to his destination is ultimately what kills him.

Conclusion: Now that you have proved your thesis, it can be considered to be a true statement (no longer just your opinion).

  1. First sentence: Don’t just plop in your thesis statement. Instead, restate it as a fact. Example: The man in London’s story is trapped by his own erroneous beliefs about himself, a reliance which leads him to ignore all reasonable warnings about the error of these beliefs.
  2. Next: Restate your concluding sentences from each body paragraph that led you to conclude this.
  3. Next: A sentence that continues the thesis, but also transitions to your view. Example: The result of this kind of ego can be deadly.
  4. Next: Broaden out your discussion about this topic, while still relating it to the story. Example: The man in “To Build a Fire” gives up his life rather than ever admitting he was wrong from the very beginning.
  5. Next: continue the discussion. Example: Furthermore, he never even thinks it is possible he is wrong.
  6. Last: A strong statement or quote from the story that emphasizes the significance of what you’ve concluded. The statement does not have to mention the story or character. Examples:
    1. #5 could continue with: even as he is dying in the snow.
    2. In the end, the dog, who has no ego and whose instincts have warned it all along about the danger, is the one who survives.
    3. His thoughts when he first set out: “I’m a man’s man and can survive anything because I believe I can,” prove to be his undoing.

Written Assignment: 


The following NY Times resources:

The New Yorker: “Homelessness in New York: The Other Millennials” (video):

Newsweek: “Homeless Millennials Are Transforming Hobo Culture”

12/4 Assignment

  1. For each of the following thematic subjects, come up with a theme for both TKAM and GC.
    1. Parental influence
    2. Coming of age
    3. Nonconformity
    4. Prejudice/bias
  2. For both books, record three examples from each TKAM and GC and explain how the example supports the corresponding theme you’ve written.

The examples must be specific. NOT: Jem comes of age in TKAM. A specific example and explanation of how that example shows Jem coming of age.



All assignments must be typed on Google Docs in MLA format and shared with me at:

Assignments must have your full name, the date, and the name of the assignment at the top of the page.

Assignments should be grammatically correct with no spelling errors.

Late assignments will not be accepted.

For each chapter reading assignment, you must:
  • write a brief reaction to the chapter(s). (5 sentences is fine).
  • in your response, use the assigned vocabulary words
  • use the assigned vocabulary words properly (a noun as a noun, not as a verb, for instance)
  • use each vocabulary word so that it is clear you know what the word means.
  • underline the vocabulary word
  • write down the words on a separate document that you will share with me. Identify: part of speech, definition, and add something that reminds you of the word.

GRADING: each word is worth 3 points: 1 point for using the world properly in terms of definition, 1 point for using the word properly in terms of part of speech; and 1 point for following all the other requirements.


Entries must have Chapter or Assignment title and date; 

For To Kill a Mockingbird:
For each chapter, find at least two (2) quotes that deal with one or more of the themes; coming of age, nonconformity, bias/prejudice, and parental influence.

These quotes will be used in your final essay for this novel AND the memoir The Glass Castle.

I will randomly check entries and grade them.

For each quote:
  • write the quote in its entirety
  • explain in a sentence what is happening when this quote appears
  • note who is speaking and to whom
  • write your analysis of the quote (1-2 sentences)
  • note the page number
Example: Atticus to Scout after she complains that the teacher at school is incompetent: "'You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view" (p. 24)
Atticus is saying that we don't really know what other people are dealing with, but if we try to understand the things in that person's life that might be affect him or her, then we will have a better understanding of why that person is behaving a certain way.

NOTE: The quote entries should all be contained in the same file (not separate files). Each of the other Journal entries should be its own file.