We’ve been challenging the Six-Word community with a new contest every month for years, but this year New York City public school teacher Andrea Franks took the monthly model to her 4/5th grade classroom. Franks first heard of Six-Word Memoirs over the summer, when a former parent emailed her about an interesting project her kids were now doing at the middle school. Franks immediately went to our website and dove into the memoirs and watched founder Larry Smith’s TEDx talk.
When the school year started, Franks introduced Six-Word Memoirs to her student in same way she had explored it herself—by looking at the Six Word site and watching the TEDx talk. Then the students completed a worksheet to help get their creative juices flowing. They thought of four memories that they would like to write about and then picked one to inspire their Six-Word Memoirs. After writing a stories, they chose one to feature on the classroom bulletin board.
Franks then decided to make Six-Word Memoirs a monthly project because, as she says, “It’s really fun. They love it. They’re constantly coming up with them and running to their notebook to jot one down before they forget.”
The project evolved as the months passed. For the second month, they decorated the memoir they wanted to display on the board. Next, each student brought in a photo from home that represented a memory they wanted to write about. Then, they started writing within a theme. For example, in January they focused on resolutions, and in February they pondered love.
“I liked a boy, one day.”
“Strong bonds, finding truth, staying strong.”
“It’s just me, myself, and I.”
In order to share all the brilliant work they had been doing, the class held a “publishing party” for their parents. The students gave a presentation about what Six-Word Memoirs are, how founder Larry Smith was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s legendary six-word story (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”), and what Six-Word Memoirs looks like now. Every student shared two of the memoirs they had written. They then turned the tables on the parents, giving each one an index card to write a memoir of their own. “Of course, they all wrote about how fabulous their kid is,” says Franks.
“It’s accessible to every kid, like the kid that has an easy time writing and the kid that has a hard time writing,” says Franks. “They can all write six words.”
Update: Now that Franks’ classroom has moved to virtual lessons in response to the coronavirus, she is getting creative with her daily attendance check-in. Each day starts with her posting a Six-Word Memoir, and each student responding with their own. Once a month just wasn’t enough for them, and now, in this tricky times for all, her students are finding joy in writing and sharing one every day.
Teachers! Since we first launched The Six-Word Memoir Project, educators across the spectrum have found the six word format to be a terrific classroom assignment and catalyst for self-expression. At our Six in Schools section, we celebrate students’ work from classrooms around the world. Download one or all of our free teacher’s guides—including our most recent pandemic edition here. Email us at email@example.com and share your classroom’s six-word journey and your students could be featured in a future Classroom of the Month.
Want to make your own classroom book? We are delighted to offer a new way for any classroom to make their own Six-Word Memoir book. We provide a free classroom kit that leads teachers through a Six-Word Memoir lesson plan and bookmaking process (it’s a simple one). Parents can buy the book the way they buy class photos, teachers get a free book, and schools receive ten percent of each book sale. Sign up to receive your free classroom kit on our Six in Schools site.