According to English teacher Mary Lochtefeld, great writing has the exact right number of words. When she introduced Six-Word Memoirs to her classes at Ansonia Local Schools in Ansonia, Ohio, the exact right number was six. Lochtefeld discovered Six-Word Memoirs during a graduate class at Miami University she took over the past summer and decided to introduce it to her own classroom this fall. “The form seems easy at first and then when kids realize that they have to be really choosy about the words it becomes a little bit more difficult and really allows me to see if they understand the content,” says Lochtefeld.
[caption id="attachment_27833" align="aligncenter" width="350"] "Bottle it up until it pops." — Taylor Ingram[/caption] 2023 marks the seventh year since Professor John Ferry started teaching Six-Word Memoirs in his “Image and Form” class at the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) in Kansas City, Missouri. Ferry first discovered Six-Word Memoirs in 2016 after listening to an NPR segment, and rushed to implement the idea in his art classes.
It was the day after Valentine’s Day that I walked into my upper division Short Fiction class at UC Berkeley to find a stranger seated beside my professor. He introduced himself as Larry Smith, a close collaborator of my professor Melanie Abrams, and asked if anyone in the room had heard of Six-Word Memoirs, the short-f0rm storytelling website he started.
Ninth-grade teacher Aanya Ismail first learned about Six-Word Memoirs through conversations with coworkers at Libra Academy, Huntington Park, California. Ismail was looking for ways to revamp writing exercises and invite student expression. After discovering the Six-Word Memoirs website and setting up a Zoom meeting with founder Larry Smith, Ismail was encouraged that the six word format would be a successful exercise for her narrative writing unit. To ease her students into Six-Word Memoirs, Ismail started with casual journal prompts like, "What event in your life got you to where you are now?" and then gradually opened things up with themes like family, life, and overcoming challenges. The short and concise nature of Six-Word Memoirs was also emphasized during the project.