Jennifer Mayberry, a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Skowhegan Area High School in Skowhegan, Maine, has introduced Six-Word Memoirs to — wait for it! — all six of her classes.
Mayberry initially discovered Six-Word Memoirs in an English methods course at Endicott College and began employing the activity in her classes because of the accessibility of the form.
“I just love the idea that everybody can feel a little bit of success with six words,” says Mayberry. “I try to have my kids read and write because so much of cooking is reading and writing and math. I like to include literacy tactics in my classes. It’s more fun for the kids who like the idea that they can enter a contest and be a published author in ten minutes.”
So far, Mayberry has tasked her freshmen students to write memoirs about how they felt beginning the school year, her senior students to write memoirs about how they felt about their impending college plans, and all of her classes to write memoirs without a prompt. A few example: “Starting fresh, becoming a better you”; “Big change I don’t really mind”; and “Just a proud daughter of farmers.” She also uses Six-Word Memoirs in, yes, cooking lessons!
Mayberry’s recipe for including Six-Word Memoirs in her curriculum includes teaching her students about food safety by having them write Six-Word Memoirs, such as “Cutting boards firm, planted, and safe,” “Be clean, cook safe, be healthy,” and “Wash your hands well; illness averted.”
“I think that the six word format offers my students a little bit of time for reflection,” says Mayberry. “More students can feel successful with this approach because their responses [to the prompt] are so short, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. I think that enables them to be more open and more willing to try. Even kids that struggle to write, they feel a sense of accomplishment.”
Mayberry plans to continue to incorporate Six-Word Memoir lessons into her classroom and encourage other educators to use Six-Word Memoirs, noting applicability and accessibility of the activity.
“There’s something powerful about only having six words to say something powerful,” notes Mayberry. “It gets kids to really focus and be succinct with what they want to say or what they’re feeling.”
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 larry AT sixwordmemoirs DOT com and share your classroom’s six-word journey and your students could be featured in a future Classroom of the Month.