What would love say to you in Six Words? Larry poses that challenge as a guest on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Letters From Love Newsletter

Definitely Not Keeping Secrets: English Classes at Hononegah Community High School, Rockton, Illinois

Angela Stone had already been using the Six-Word Memoirs as an ice breaker activity for her students at Hononegah Community High School, Rockton, Illinois, when she discovered the lesson plan that came along with I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure, a collection of Six-Word Memoirs created by and for teens. This, along with a chance discovery of one of Larry Smith’s Ted Talks, prompted Stone to incorporate the lesson plan more concretely and to everyone’s great exhilaration!

The project was initially limited to her freshmen and sophomore students but soon found a welcoming audience on many levels at Hononegah Community High School. Stone says, “We also used it with, actually, all four levels. One of the other teachers that teach juniors and seniors, and freshmen also used it with their classes. So we had a total of five classes that did it this year with the book.” 

As a specialist teacher herself, Stone saw the project as a perfect opportunity to develop creative writing skills for freshmen and sophomores. In her directive studies, where the students have an Individualized Education Program and need special assistance in attaining their relevant goals, Stone teaches them instructional English, basic comprehension, and the development of language skills. The classroom book gave much incentive to develop a greater appreciation for creative writing arts; Stone adds, “I usually use it with my English classes. I’ve also used it with I usually teach at least one directed studies, and I use it with them and just trying to get my students to use figurative language in their writing.”

The assignment lasted a couple of weeks, although the principal portion of the lesson plan took three to four days. The process derived a lot from the I Can’t Keep My Own Secret book as the students and the respective teachers spent time reading the book and answering the questions. Once the students were done writing their Six-Word Memoirs and writing the backstories, Stone posted them around the classroom, keeping the movement going and fresh in their minds. 

Although only some students ordered the printed copies, Stone adds that it was a fun activity for all, regardless of whether they ordered a printed copy. The journey in itself was pretty gratifying as the students seemed to enjoy the creativity that the exercise offered and required. Even if the decision seemed as minor as selecting the font for one’s memoir, they enjoyed the freedom the exercise enshrined. 

It comes as no surprise as the project’s success guarantees the tradition of putting one’s most intimate and thoughtful memoirs to paper at Hononegah Community High School. Stone also reflects upon this as she asserts that she would use the practice again while acknowledging how the activity suits the academic environment as it gets the students “just back into the school thing.”. The memoir book has become an emblem of storytelling at the Hononegah Community High School, as the book of the previous class will continue to inspire future generations.

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 hello@sixinschools.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 in our new student book publishing program. 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.

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