The beauty of the Six-Word Memoir form is that it’s universal. No matter who you are, where you’re from, whether you love or loathe writing, are 7 or 53, anyone and everyone can write the short, short story of his or her life. This month’s featured classroom is a small writing workshop based in Texas. The students of Rawson Saunders School—a full curriculum school for first grade through eighth grade in Austin, TX dedicated to the education of children with dyslexia— are bright, out-of-the-box thinkers who have struggled with reading and written expression. Historically their writing (mostly spelling and organization) has not been indicative of their intellect often causing them frustration and defeat.
Kat DeWees and Lisa Laville teach the workshop, comprised of eight middle school students recommended by an Academic Language Therapist. Daily workshop activities include listening to a short published work of writing and being guided through a mini lesson on a variety of literary genres. “The workshop is designed to give the students ownership of their writing but most importantly an uninterrupted block of time in which to write,” DeWees says. A couple of the students had some heartwarming sentiments to add: “It’s like writing yoga…so peaceful.” “Two teachers + eight students = enough personal attention…finally!”
Dewees found that the students absolutely loved the simple Six-Word Memoir writing format.
“They feel liberated by having to only produce six words in a concise, poetic format. This is especially important to dyslexic students as they have experienced angst and ridicule surrounding written expression and quantity has been an encumbrance,” she says.
As the students write, edit and revise their sixes, they begin to gain confidence in their stories and themselves. Throughout the year, the budding young authors also get a chance to share their work with faculty, peers, family, and the community. “They begin to believe they are a valued member of a much greater literary society—something they had never dreamed possible…” Check out some of the students illustrated Six-Word Memoirs below.
Eat like an elephant, feather weight.
I got lost in clearance aisle.
I still look through my shadow.
Dyslexia turned my world upside down.
To be awake, you must dream.
Evil bench stole my front teeth.
“Writing Workshop is a safe environment in which students can boldly write, think, conference, share, and publish their wonderful and creative ideas,” says DeWees. These kids are proud and excited and they are beginning to look at writing as an art and as something with which they actually have talent!”
And I think we can all agree that these students have talent in spades, along with a great sense of humor.”
Note: With the support of our publisher, Harper Perennial, we’ve created two free Six-Word Memoir lesson plans, one for our first book, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, as well as one for our teen book, I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure. Download a PDF of either or both below. All we ask in return is this: let us know how six words works in your class. We love sharing your stories with the rest of the SMITH community.