Finding Voice: Turning Fragments into Stories -- Teaching Memoir to Enhance the Journey of the Non-Confident Student

Date of Completion


Document Type

Open Access Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Nina Greenwald


Finding Voice: Turning Fragments into Stories chronicles the author’s journey in developing a course in the reading and writing of memoir in historical context for the non-confident adult literacy or community college student. This paper specifically addresses a class in an adult literacy program in Cambridge, Massachusetts where the author is currently teaching, and is also informed by her teaching experiences with community college students who must take remedial reading and writing courses before matriculating. Rather than offering fragments of learning (i.e. grammar skills, building blocks) to a non-confident student population, the author proposes holistic learning experiences using the lens of memoir, and framed by constructivist practices that promote critical and creative thinking. The discussion of sources such as Peter Elbow’s first and second order thinking about writing, and an experimental City College of New York program offering a whole language approach focusing on fluency, offers a rationale for constructing meaning through active learning. This exploration into the essence of a good learning experience resulted in a series of three lessons on memoir. Using constructivist practices of the students making meaning, capturing their own experience to form the base of memoir in historical context, the lessons focus on fluency, flexibility and opportunity to transfer lessons learned into the wider world. As well as a journey in which students celebrate voice, this synthesis reflects a parallel one for the author documented in a reflections section following each lesson.


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