Classroom of the Month: John Ferry’s “Image and Form” class at Kansas City Art Institute

Welcome Teachers! A Few Words About Six Words in Schools


If you’ve found this note you may be new to our storytelling community. Our six-word tagline is, “Everyone has a story—what’s yours? — and would love to hear your students’ stories, no matter the grade level or educational setting.

Students and teachers at the  Bushwick, NY-based after-school program, Still Waters in a Storm, celebrates their wall of self-expression.


Here are answers to frequently asked questions.

What are suggestions for teaching Six-Word Memoirs in my classroom?
We’ve created four free, downloadable lesson plans that correspond with our books, available in our Six in Schools section. The newest guide is called “My Life Now: Six-Word Stories About the Coronavirus Pandemic.” Our previous guide focuses on “coming to America” stories, a complement to our most recent collection, Six Words Fresh Off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity & Coming to America. Our teen life guide is a companion to I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens; our first guide was created after we realized many teachers were introducing their students to the six-word form after the publication of debut book, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure.

Our “Featured Classroom” blog offers real-world examples of how Six Words is being used by students globally—from individual classrooms to school-wide projects—assignments that educators have created themselves to best meet the needs

of their students and lesson plans. Want to find out how Six Words is being used by your teaching peers? You can search the blog by grade level (from elementary to college and beyond) and/or subject (English, art, special ed, etc.). But we encourage you to clear the filter and explore the entire range of classroom experiences.

We also have a collection of Six-Word Memoir books which can be found in our store, including our ebook, Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated: Illustrated Six-Word Memoirs By Students.

How can my classroom be featured on
We feature as many classrooms as possible and we would love to hear from you. Send an email to [email protected] with a brief overview of how you’ve brought Six-Word Memoirs to your classroom, and one of our writers may reach out to learn more. Our posts include images, so please take photos of the process or resulting Six-Word Memoirs. Many classrooms create a video. At the Academic Magnet High School in Charleston, SC, Junius Wright’s creative writing students make a six-word video each year. Do send us a link to yours (and please credit: “Inspired by the Six-Word Memoir project,  Protecting student privacy is important, please ensure that photos that do not directly identify students to maintain privacy of anyone under age 18.

I have a non-traditional classroom. Can my “students” be featured?
Absolutely. From after-school programs to grad school, international projects and more, we share and showcase a wide range of settings where Six-Word Memoirs have proved to be a useful and inspirational teaching tool.

And the most popular question: Why six?
When Dan Rather first discovered Six-Word Memoirs, he asked “Why six words? Why not five or seven?” Great question. There’s a legend that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. As the story goes, he wrote:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Six-Word Memoirs founder Larry Smith was inspired by this story and November 2006 posted a simple challenge in partnership with a then little-known company called Twitter: Can you describe your life in six words?

Soon after the Six-Word Memoir project launched, we began hearing from teachers who were adapting Six-Word Memoirs in their classrooms, from grade schools in the Bronx to Yale Law School. One grade-school teacher in New Jersey had her students create six-word “memory boxes.”


When Drew Charter School in Atlanta graduated their inaugural senior class in 2017, they personalized the commencement ceremony by showcasing each graduates’ Six-Word Memoir as students crossed the stage to receive their diplomas. At the Kansas City Art Institute, illustrated Six-Word Memoirs are a regular assignment. Whether a Six-Word Memoir takes the simple form of six words, or adds dimensions with images, video, or 3D creations, the constraint fuels rather than inhibits creativity.

At its core, Six-Word Memoir projects takes a basic human need—self-expression—and makes it accessible, easy, irresistible, and inspirational. For more the story of the Six-Word Memoir project, check out the TEDx video below. This video is classroom friendly and often played as a kick-off to a Six-Word Memoir lesson.

Guidelines for Posting is open to anyone and everyone. That said, if you encourage your students to post to the site please review our Terms of Service and Privacy policies—every user must follow these, click links for details. Important to note that while we monitor the site for inappropriate content, does not have a profanity filter, so a minor may see a memoir or backstory that includes an expletive. Please report any violations to [email protected].

Encouraged                                  Prohibited

  • Creative expression                       Bullying
  • Wordplay                                         Trolling
  • Finding your voice                        Offensive language, libel, racism, etc. (see TOS*)

And please keep in mind:
Fewer, more thoughtful memoirs will be better received by the community than a stream of random thoughts (what the community calls “spam-oirs”).
If your students are teens, please direct them to

Backstories & images
When you post a Six-Word Memoir, you’ll be offered a chance to include an image (under 2MB) or backstory (up to 600 words). We encourage students to share either or both!

Getting started & verification process
When a student (or anyone) signs up to he or she will receive a verification email. You must click through and verify your account before your posts will be visible. Please encourage students to check their email (and then check their  folder if a verification notice hasn’t arrived).

Finally, explore the site!
Before you invite your class to join the Six-Word Memoirs community, take a look around! Explore the memoirs, SixContests, blog posts—particularly our featured classrooms. We have a collection of books and a Six Words board game available in our store. All of our books are great page-turners, although publications that aren’t specifically for teens may contain profanity or subject matter that could be considered inappropriate for minors. We recommend the following books for use with teens:
• I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens
• Things Don’t Have to Be Complicated: Illustrated Six-Word Memoirs By Students
• Six Words Fresh Off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity & Coming to America.