At Ashe County Middle School in Warrensville, NC, more than 400 students created Six-Word Memoirs for a unique multimedia project. Julie Taylor, curriculum director for the Ashe County Schools, has been a fan of the Six-Word Memoir form since she first discovered our teen book, I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets. “As a teaching literacy specialist of 25 years, I have seen the many powerful ways that this ‘American Haiku’ format can unlock students’ creativity,” says Taylor.
Using the simplicity of the six-word format, Taylor conducted a range of lessons on the power of words. Syntax, diction, and connotations were essential learning tools as students wrote memoirs about their middle school experience. Taylor noted that once her students got the six-word bug, some students didn’t want to stop after their first Six-Word Memoir and kept writing.
“Was I an introvert? PROBABLY NOT!” — Casey, age 12
“COVID-online misery filled my days.” — Juan, age 13
“I feel like I’m already tired tomorrow.” — Jada C. age 14
“Is boredom a symptom of Covid?” — Isaac F. age 14
“Dissatisfaction has been the greatest teacher.” — Ben, age 14
Several students referred to the fateful March 13, the last school day before the state government ordered school closures.
“Friday the 13th—-Joke’s on you.” — Savannah R., age 14
“March 13th , the last normal day.” — Solomon S. age 13
Students’ memoirs were compiled into a book and a video project called Pandemic 2020: Caught in the Middle. In addition to their six words, students selected images to accompany the memoir. Taylor described the video as powerful and engaging, and humorous and touching at the same time.
Taylor hopes to publish the book and place it in circulation among the Ashe County schools’ libraries. The middle school students, she reports, feel accomplished and motivated to share their personal experiences due to the nature of the project. “When you can make them a published author—‘cause that’s what we told them now, ‘You know, you’re going to be a published author’—that makes the kids feel good, and makes their work feel so much more relevant.”
Speaking of being a published author, we are delighted to feature many of Mrs. Taylor’s students in our new book, A Terrible Horrible, No Good Year: Six-Word Stories On the Pandemic by Teachers, Students, and Parents, out in October, 2021. Check out page 146 for more on Taylor’s own experience teaching Six-Word Memoirs and dozens of stories by her students.
Taylor’s colleagues are enthusiastic to incorporate more Six-Word Memoir projects in their lesson plans. The form’s versatile nature appeals to students of all grades, and can be relevant in history as well as language arts. “Six-Word Memoirs have been an important part of my ELA classes throughout the years; I have used them in so many ways in multiple content areas,” Taylor says. “As I thought of ways to help students express how they felt during the pandemic, I knew Six-Word Memoirs would provide a cathartic means of expression for our middle school students. The book we created of how they felt being ‘Caught in the Middle’ during the pandemic will serve as an important piece of history in our school library to remind future generations how it felt to be a middle school-aged student during the 2020 COVID-19 struggles.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.