Literary Selfies

A Thematic Unit: Literary Selfies
Jeanie Cullip
EDUC 3322: Literature for Children
Idaho State University

In our textbook Essentials of Children’s Literature, Brown and Thomlinson (2005) identify a thematic unit as, “Organizing a study of literature by theme … Focusing on the multiple connections and interpretations” (p. 254). These series of lessons, incorporates several books across the genres; drawing into the main topic of the unit. This is commonly used within the classroom, as it is effective in engaging students with a variety of literature. Brown and Thomlinson (2005) states, “These units allow students the opportunity to read a set of books related to the theme and explore the theme through questioning, journaling, reflecting, discussing, writing, responding through drama and art, and further reading” (p. 255).
Literary Selfies
     My middle school English Language Arts thematic unit is on literary selfies. A literary selfie is an amusing, relevant term to describe an autobiography to students ages 11-14 years. I believe, reading about the lives of extraordinary people through autobiographies and personal memoirs is a great way to learn about their stories; not only to receive information, but to inspire and challenge readers as well.
     This unit will assist me in the classroom toward meeting the English Language Arts Common Core State Reading Standard 10 (2010); read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently. This unit will also assist me in the classroom toward meeting the English Language Arts Common Core Writing Standard 7 (2010); write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences. Using several fiction and non-fiction books, online resources, related literature, and a variety of activities we will acquire knowledge about autobiographies and personal memoirs; then incorporate this material in a personal memoir writing activity.
     There is an abundance of incredible books that can be used in a literary selfie unit; after careful consideration, I have chosen the following books for the students to read:
I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai (Young Readers Edition). An autobiography of an inspiring story that begins when she was only 10 years old. Malala’s region was taken over by the Taliban; one of their many rules refrained girls from attending school. Malala disagreed with these rules and stood up for her and her peers, fighting for their education. One horrific day, Taliban fighters shot her as she traveled home from school. No one thought she would survive the accident, fortunately she did. Now she is a symbol of peace and become the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. The Lexile Score for this book is 830L and Readability Grade 5.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. An autobiography of a young girl who received a blank diary on her 13th birthday, just weeks before her and her family would take hiding into an attic of an Amsterdam warehouse. Her impressively detailed, personal entries chronicle 25 months of claustrophobic, irritable intimacy with her parents, sister, a second family, and a dentist who had very little acceptance for Anne's high-spiritedness. Anne writes until the day they were found, she died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945, three months before her 16th birthday. Miep Gies found the diary after the Nazis arrested the Frank family in Amsterdam in 1944. The Lexile Score for this book is 1080L and Readability Grade 5.9.
  Mud, Sweat, and Tears: The Autobiography. An autobiography, adapted for a younger audience of an adventure seeking young man from a remote island off a Britain’s coast. Known and admired by millions as the star of Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls has survived where few would dare to go, Mount Everest. Now, for the first time, Bear tells the story of his action-packed life. The Lexile Score for this book is 930L and Readability Grade 6.3.

      It's Kind of a Funny Story. A fictional autobiography, this is a genre that an author chooses to tell

a real experience, or the full story of their life, as a fictional account. In this book, Vizzini writes about his experiences of school and being hospitalized for depression through the character, Craig. Craig works extremely hard at being a good student and is aware that it is important to attend the right schools in order to be accepted at the most prestigious colleges. He does what it takes to obtain entrance in a top New York city high school; it is here that life is no longer the same and he finds himself an “average joe”. This brings upon several difficult, crazy experiences and Craig begins to see his perfect future start coming apart. The Lexile Score for this book is 700L and Readability Grade 4.

I Can't Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser. A non-fiction New York best seller with the idea to write a six-word personal memoir. From death to social-media, dating to parents, and getting into trouble to falling in love, these memoirs tell us that some of the smallest writers have the biggest stories to tell. The Lexile Score for this book is 850L and Readability Grade 6.
     Throughout this unit, I will use a few online resources; I found the following websites beneficial to our study on literary selfies:
     SixWord Memoirs Teens  
 A Six-Word Memoir® is the story of your life, some or all of it, told in six words. At Six Words Teens, they provide a place to share your six words and provide daily prompts to share your six-word ideas on today’s latest topics. This site also includes a blog, resources, and a variety of ways schools can implement six words in the classroom.
     WritingCube Creator Provided by the website, Read Write Think, this tool helps students create four different types of writing; biography/autobiography, mystery, basic elements story, and create-your-own-topic.
Related Literature
     In addition to the books and online resources in our literary selfies unit, we will use the following related literature:
     What's a Memoir? by Shmoop. A fun, engaging YouTube video that teaches us about personal memoirs. A memoir is a piece of literary non-fiction where the writer is the main character and is written in themes reflecting on a moment, a day, a portion of life, or a lifetime.

     Six Tips for Writing Six-Word Memoirs. A short, fun YouTube video that includes tips for writing Six-Word Memoirs from SMITH Magazine, the creators of the Six-Word Memoir project and bestselling book series.  

     An introduction to the thematic unit to engage the students into literary selfies, we will begin a K-W- L chart. Starting a new unit with this graphic organizer enables the teacher to assess student’s background knowledge of the topic, by answering the question what do you know? Once this information has been identified and written in the chart we will discuss what was found out about literary selfies. Next, we will address the second portion of the chart, what do we want to know? In this class discussion, we will generate a list of questions about autobiographies and personal memoirs that the students are interested in learning during the unit. Now, we will move on to the second activity as we have completed all that we can in the K-W-L chart, we will return to it at the end of the unit to answer the final portion of the chart, what have I learned? This will be an interactive way to conclude the unit and assess the knowledge gained throughout the lessons, activities, and readings.
     The second activity we will complete will help us learn all the new vocabulary we will be introduced to throughout the unit’s readings. As a class, we will discuss the strategy Context-Structure-Sound-Reference (CSSR) and create a wall chart as a reference throughout the unit. In learning about CSSR, I will cover in detail about each specific part and how it can help us find out what words mean that they do not know. I will provide a sample passage that will allow us to practice this strategy as a group and then offer another sample passage that will allow the students to practice the strategy in pairs. Now, they will be instructed to apply the CSSR as they read their required books independently.
     The third activity we will complete during the literary selfies thematic unit is participate in a literature circle. A literature circle is a student centered, collaborative reading strategy that gives them the opportunity to have an organized discussion on the books that we are reading. Prior to the day of the literature circles, students will be given reflection questions to answer on their own. This will give them the chance to develop ideas toward the questions we will use to initiate the conversation of the material they acquired while reading the books. During the literature circle, students will begin with the reflection questions given, and the teacher will assist the direction and motivation of the activity.
     Overall, the literary selfies thematic unit will provide students with an understanding of autobiographies and personal memoirs. The unit began and ended with a K-W-L chart which allowed us to assess prior knowledge and knowledge learned. We learned a new strategy that will help us find out meanings of new words found when we read. We read five books from different genres that helped us better understand the importance of an autobiography; as well as being introduced to some incredible, inspiring young people. After our readings, we discussed them within our literature circles giving us the ability to see the books through the eyes of our classmates, expanding our perceptions. Throughout the unit’s lectures, we watched videos and visited websites that introduced us to writing personal memoirs, specifically a well- known one with only six-words. In the end, we had the opportunity to create our own six-word personal memoir, just as Ernest Hemingway (1920’s) had been known to complete. He wrote, 
"For Sale: baby shoes, never worn," 
reminding us that in writing each individual word counts, an entire story can be written in just a half a dozen words.
Frank, A. (1952). The diary of a young girl. Garden City, NY: Doubleday
Grylls, B. (2011). Mud, sweat, and tears: The autobiography. London: Transworld Publishers
Lynch-Brown, C., Short, K. G., & Tomlinson, C. M. (2005). Essentials of children’s literature
(8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Oviatt, B. [Six Words]. (September 8, 2010). Six tips for writing six-word memoirs. [Video File].
Read Write Think. (2001). Writing cube creator. NCTE. Retrieved from
Shmoop. (June 11, 2013). What's a memoir? [Video File]. Retrieved from
Six word memoirs teens. (2005 – 2016). Retrieved from
Smith, L., & Fershleiser, R. (2009). I can't keep my own secrets: Six-word memoirs by teens
famous & obscure. New York, NY: Harper Teen
Vizzini, N. (2011). It’s kind of a funny story. New York, NY: Miramax Books
Yousafzai, M. (2014). I am Malala: How one girl stood up for education and changed the world
(Young Readers Edition). New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company

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Just Jewelry + JJ Boutique

     Earlier this year I put some money away to invest in me. Last night I placed that money into something fun! For those who know me I am one who is incredibly fond of gorgeous sparkly things, items that make me feel like a girl, and clothes!!!!   Just Jewelry & JJ Boutique are all of those mentioned above and more! It is a Christian based company that thrives on making the lives of women better. They also take the opportunity on their platform to make things better for those less unfortunate, supporting different causes by raising funds and awareness.

What is absolutely incredible is that all of the items in the current catalog are less than $40. That makes a college student budget (and future teacher budget) extremely happy! SO ... I spent $99 on me to become a consultant and in return I receive basic business items necessary; as well as $100 merchandise credit and 30% off all items! Once I have sold $300 in jewelry and boutique items ($200 after you use your credit, which I have done already) I will receive 50% off of all jewelry items and 30% off of boutique items! (WOW) At that time I will also receive a free email address and website of my own. I only need to have $300 each year to maintain eligibility (seriously, I can do that on my own).
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Chai Tea Latte

My new favorite caffeinated beverage (after my coffee is all gone).. is a Chai Tea Latte!

  What you will need: 
Click to Print Recipe

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup Oregon Chai Tea Concentrate
What you will need to do:
  1. Combine ingredients into a small pot.
  2. Heat on low-medium heat (you do not want it to boil).
  3. Keep on stove-top for about 10 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Pour into your favorite coffee cup.
  5. Enjoy!

Add to Plan to Eat

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10 Signs that you are an Education Major

Today I am celebrating my announcement of being accepted in the College of Education at Idaho State University! I am officially an education major. It is so very exciting to be getting closer to my life-long dream of becoming a teacher.

Many have said that it is extremely obvious that I am an Education Major or have shown signs that I will be a teacher when I grow up....
  1. You share stories of setting up a classroom in your bedroom as a child where you taught your stuffed animals, dolls, and maybe even a sibling or two.
  2. You become giddy when you get to go school supply shopping. You may even have a box or two dedicated to future classroom necessities or decorations (Coffee-mate says that I need to stop calling our home a box).
  3. You often fantasize about this future classroom and share specific details to anyone who will listen.
  4. You have Pinterest boards dedicated to this classroom too!
  5. You have very strong opinions about the Common Core and will share this too with anyone willing.
  6. You have incredible organization skills and this helps toward making your life manageable.
  7. You have colored and/or completed a craft project for one of your general education classes (I used The Three Little Pigs story to introduce a speech in COMM 101).
  8. You remember EVERY single teacher you had from Kindergarten to your Senior year (no matter how long it has been since you attended).
  9. You have begun the search for teacher clothes and you may have a section in your closet dedicated to such items.
  10. You would rather speak in front of 30 children instead of a small group of adults!
Oh yes!!!! I can think of many more.. any of these ring a bell? What signs have you noticed about being an Education Major? Please share, I am sure I will relate. Okay one more:

    11. You have a box full of books for your classroom library.

And... (this will be the last one, I  promise)

    12. The dollar section at the front of Target is your favorite spot in the entire store.

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One of my Favorite at Home Coffee Recipe

I love going out for coffee, but sometimes a nice yummy coffee can be made at home too! I created this over time and have perfected it, I hope you enjoy it too!

What you will need:
Click to Print Recipe

  • Coffee-mate Hazelnut Creamer
  • Torani Caramel Sauce
  • Starbucks Mocha Coffee
What you will need to do:
  1. Brew Mocha coffee as you prefer it. I make 6 cups water with 8 scoops (it is a small scoop) coffee.
  2. Pour coffee into your favorite coffee cup.
  3. Add Torani Caramel Sauce (about 1 tbsp)
  4. Pour Hazelnut Creamer as you prefer. I think I add 2-3 tbsp (I've never measured it, it just looks right to me).
  5. Sit back, sip & enjoy!
Add to Plan to Eat

What is your favorite at home coffee recipe? Please share...

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A Sunday Evening Treat

After creating the perfect combination of my two favorite summer beverages last night in the Strawberry Lemonade Moscato. Tonight after dinner, I headed for the blender for a new concoction, Moscato Mango Slushie

What you will need: 
What you will need to do:
  1. Open wine to allow to breathe for 15 minutes.
  2. Pour 1 cup of Moscato in Blender Pitcher
  3. Add 2 scoops Mango sorbet
  4. Add 5 ice cubes.
  5. Use crush ice option for 15 seconds
  6. Blend for 45 to 60 seconds.
Add to Plan to Eat

This made a little more than what I needed for my Mason Jar, so Coffee-mate offered to finish what was left. He does not like wine and he drank it right up!

I'm absolutely loving this time off... We also created our own version of a Frosted Lemonade that was absolutely amazing.
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A Saturday in the Summer

I am done with this stress! I am ready for my summer vacation to begin. I have completed what is required of me (for the moment) and I am ready to breathe!

I decided to put together my favorite summer time drinks, and it turned out to be amazing! Strawberry Lemonade + Moscato = Summertime and the Living is Easy. 

Strawberry Lemonade Moscato {Makes 4 glasses} 

 What you will need:
Click to Print Recipe
  • Frozen Sliced Strawberries with Sugar 15.5 ounces
  • Country-Time Lemonade Mix
  • Chilled Barefoot Moscato
  • Water
What you will need to do:
  1. Slightly thaw Strawberries and allow Moscato to breathe on counter for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. While waiting, mix lemonade powder and water (4 cups water & fill mix to the 1 quart line).
  3. In pitcher, place half of the container of strawberries with Lemonade. Add 2-3 cups of Moscato (depending on strength preference).
  4. No sugar or ice needed (the strawberries provide both)
  5. Enjoy!
Add to Plan to Eat

I hope you enjoy this delicious summer treat. What have you made with Barefoot Moscato Wine? Please share....


Over my Dead Body.....

Coffee-mate says, "you keep on saying that, but I do not think it means what you think it means". Four little words that mean so much, just not what I would expect them to mean. In fact when I say them, they end up happening:
After my divorce, I said, "Over my dead body will I marry again" (But I did and Coffee-mate is truly the greatest man I have ever met)

After finding the love of my life, I said, "Over my dead body will I have another child" (But I did and half-a cup is an amazing daughter)


After visiting Idaho for the first time, I said "Over my dead body will I move to Twin Falls" (Here I am, living here for three years and loving it)

After beginning my life long dream of becoming a teacher, I said "Over my dead body will I work as a middle school teacher"

Sooooooo........ (do you think you know what I am going to say?) Hold that thought......

This last year, my confidence in becoming a teacher has grown. I cannot wait to have a classroom of my very own. To be able to instill knowledge into the minds of children has me very excited to finish my Bachelors Degree at Idaho State University. I have learned so many new things that I can implement in the K-8 classroom. I know how to apply a few of the things in Kindergarten, yet I immediately think of ways to implement them in a secondary education facility. I often wonder how it would work with older children..... how much fun it would be to flip a classroom, or complete lectures on books that I have read and pass on my love for writing.... (WAIT, WHAT??)

Early this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Molly Olson Venzke, author to the book Caged No More which became a movie in 2015.

My heart broke at the things I heard about human sex trafficking here in my own community. She began to speak of the hope that a organization that she is working with provides, Trafficking Hope. One of things they are doing is providing education for young men and women to stop it before it happens, by knowing the warning signs of human sex trafficking to help yourself as well as your classmates. They are also empowering teachers to reach out to their students too! (ya know the older ones)...

This last month, a young boy was killed in a drive by shooting in our community. The news drove deeply into my heart, I have not cried over someone I did not know like that, EVER! I could not help but think of what is happening in today's schools. I could not help but wonder if there is any hope left for our young people. All I could do was cry, and pray.

And then....
I just knew....
At that moment....
I  realized....

I want to work with these young men and women. This is where I belong.

As I go into the teacher education program at Idaho State University, I will be focusing on obtaining a position as a Middle School English/Language Arts teacher. There will be no change in my course schedule as the certificate I will gain from the State of Idaho will allow me to teach in grades K-8.
If you think about it, it really makes a lot of sense. I love to write, I love to read, and I have a passion for tweens. How could I not see this before? (I guess the thought crossed my mind, yet the words... over my dead body usually followed shortly after).

I am through the roof, beyond ecstatic for this change in my journey! I have not really been able to think of much outside of the thought. I just could not wait to share it with you all!!


Autobiographical Essay Conclusion

Each and every one of my childhood adventures, experiences at school, roles in the workplace, activities while volunteering, and the ups and downs of motherhood will contribute to my development of becoming an effective teacher. These skills will continue to grow, develop, and mature as I continue in my college education and as I begin my career as a teacher.
As said,

 In our EDUC 290 course, we are re-examining our portfolio entries and preparing them for submission to the Education Department as well as to our transfer university. The Autobiographical Essay is quite long, so I am sharing them with you, in the following parts:

Service and/or Extracurricular Activities