Memory Writing for Lincoln Center Theater Project

Lesson Plan on The Glass Menagerie

Objectives: Students will be able to respond critically to the play, The Glass Menagerie, by identifying a specific moment, line or object (motif )  through which they create a personal memoir, or a narrative that uses an object or imagery as motif.


Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or observation and its significance, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view, and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.

Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.

Provide a conclusion that follows from and reflects on what is experienced, observed, or resolved over the course of the narrative.


Content: Students with various writing abilities can select a technique or idea from the menu provided to write a narrative. Each student draws materials from his/her personal experiences for the writing task. Students’ topic is of personal interests and choice. Pair share and class discussion will also provide further assistance to students’ understanding of using narrative techniques to describe a memory.

Grouping rationale: Students will be grouped based on their strengths and weaknesses as a reader and writer to complete the task.

Do Now: Close your eyes and refresh your memory about the play, The Glass Menagerie. Is there anything that stands out to you, repeatedly? A sound, image, word or phrase, an object, a line etc.? Pick out one moment or imagery or object (motif) and describe it: How is it represented? How is it connected to the character or theme of the play? Is there any other significance for the playwright to include it in the play? Why does it stand out to you? Write about 7-8 minutes.

Teaching Points:

According to Miller and Paola, in their book Tell it Slant, “The memories that can have the most emotional impact for the writer are those who don’t really understand, the images that rise up before us quite without our volition…These are the ‘river teeth’, or the moments of being, the ones that suck your breath away.”

  1. What repository of memory do you hold in your heart rather than your head?
  2. What are the pictures that rise to the surface without bidding?
  3. Take these as your cue. Pick you pen. This is where you begin.

Metaphorical memory:

Think back on that early morning of yours, the one that came to mind instantly. Illuminate the details, shine a spot on them until they begin to yield a sense of truth revealed. Where is your body in this memory? What kind of language does it speak? What metaphor does it offer for you to puzzle out in writing?

Muscle memory:

The body, memory, and mind exist in sublime interdependence, each part wholly twined with the others. These memories will have resonance precisely because they have not been forced into being by a mind insistent on fixed meanings. It is the body’s story and so one that resonates with a sense of an inadvertent truth revealed. Sometimes, what matters to us most is what has mattered to the body. Memory may pretend to live in the cerebral cortex, but it requires real muscle to animate it again for the page.

The five senses of memory

By paying attention to the sensory gateways of the body, you also begin to write in a way that naturally embodies experience, making it tactile for the reader. Readers tend to care deeply only about those things they feel in the body at a visceral level. And so as a writer, consider your vocation as that of a translator: one who renders the abstract into the concrete. We experience the world through our senses. WE MUST TANSLATE THAT EXPEIENCE INTO LANGUAGE OF THE SENSES AS WELL.

  • Smell: “Smell is a potent wizard that transports us thousands of miles and all the years we have lived,” wrote Hellen Keller.
    • What are the smells you remember that even in memory makes you stop a moment and breathe deeply or make your heart beat more vigorously, your palms ache for what’s been lost? Write these down. Write as quickly as you can, seeing how one smell leads to another. What kind of images, memories, or stories might arise from this sensory trigger?
  • Taste: Food is one of the most social gifts we have. The bond between mother and child forms over the feeding of that child. When you sit down to unburden yourself to a friend, you often do so over a meal prepared together in the kitchen. In his famous essay “Afternoon of an American Boy,” B. White  vividly remembers that taste of cinnamon toast in conjunction with the first stumbling overtures of a boyhood crush.
    • What are the tastes that carry the most emotion for you? The tastes that, even in memory, make you stop a moment and run your tong over your lips? Write them down as quickly as you can. Which scenes, memories, associations come to the surface?
  • Hearing: Sounds often make up a subliminal backdrop to our lives, and even the faintest echo can tug back moments from the past in their entirety. Music is not so subtle but rather acts as a blaring soundtrack to our emotional lives. We often orchestrate our memories around the music that accompanies those pivotal eras of our lives. When you have the soundtrack down, the rest of life seems to fall into place.
  • Touch: We are constantly aware of our bodies, of how they feel as they move through the world. Without these senses, we become lost, disoriented in space and time. And the people who have affected us the most are the ones who have touched us in some way, who have reached beyond this barrier of skin and made contact with our small, isolated selves. Think about the people in your life who have touched you deeply. What was the quality of their physical touch on your body? How did they touch the objects around them? Why do you think touch lingers in memory?
  • Sight: How do you see the world? How do you see yourself? Even linguistically, our sense of sight seems so tied up in our perceptions, stance, opinions, personalities, and knowledge of the world. To see something often means to finally understand, to be enlightened, to have our vision cleared. What we choose to see-and not to see- often says more about us than anything else. When we “look back” in memory, we “see” those memories. Our minds have cataloged an inexhaustible storehouse of visual images. Now the trick is for you to render these images in writing. Pay attention to the smaller details. Close your eyes to see the images more clearly. Trace the shape of your favorite thing or the outline of a beloved’s face. Turn up the light in the living room. Go out walking under a full moon. Look at some photos and videos you have taken. Not only do these photos and films act as triggers for your memory but they can prompt you to delve more deeply below the surface.

Student Independent Practice

From the exercises above, select a motif that can BEST represent your memory. Write a narrative that either incorporates or evolves around the motif to reveal a part of your past that sheds light on you or your relationship with people you care about in your life. The narrative should be between 500-700 words in lengths.

Exit Slip: Share the “river teeth” of your memory.

Homework Assignment: Complete the personal narrative and turn it in on Friday.