Six Word Memoirs: Words Are Magic. Start with Story. (2024)

This post may contain affiliate links.

By Dana VanderLugt

Posted onUpdated on

Share

Pin

Post

Words are magic. Start with story

First days of school can be tricky. There are routines to learn, relationships to build, and foundational skills to review. Students also need to prime their brains for learning. During my first decade of teaching middle school English, I tried something different nearly every first day of school and was still never satisfied. And then, I discovered the power of beginning with Six Word Memoirs.

Six Word Memoirs: Words Are Magic. Start with Story. (1)

For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn” is perhaps the most legendary six-word memoir. Though often attributed to Ernest Hemingway—along with a tale that he wrote the six-word memoir as part of a high-stakes bet—experts say the link to him is highly unlikely. And yet, the famous six words that tell a story of grief and loss have become well known. Perhaps the original six-word memoir, it is a perfect example of how just a few words can pack a punch. In just six words, readers learn much more about a life story than one might expect could be possible.

Six Word Memoirs: Words Are Magic. Start with Story. (2)

Because it’s helpful to students writing as soon as possible in the new school year, and because six-word memoirs provide a great lens to better understand student personalities and passions,six word memoirs became the first assignment I’d give students —and myself — each fall. Students would start to flex their writing muscles, and in the process, we’d learn more about each other.

Writing Six-Words Memoirs

There are many approaches to having students write six-word memoirs, but here is one that worked for me as a middle school teacher.

Six Word Memoirs: Words Are Magic. Start with Story. (3)

1. Analyze examples

Examine several six-word memoirs written by other young writers. As you introduce these examples, use the opportunity to discuss the layered meaning behind the memoirs and what the six words revealed about the author.

  • This life is sweeter than fiction.
  • Brand new shoes, same old life.
  • Should shoot for moon. Stargazing instead.
  • Sarcasm really grinds my gears. Seriously.
  • Don’t tell me I’m not important.

2. Model vulnerability

Next, teachers can share a six-word memoir of their own. One of mine is: “Words are magic. Start with story,” a memoir that allows me to reveal my values as well as preface how I believe we’d be accomplishing much during the year thanks to the power of reading and writing stories— including growing empathy, increasing understanding, and gaining insight. In his book, Arabian Nights, author Tahir Shah writes, “Stories are a communal currency of humanity.” (Seven words, but still powerful!)

Six Word Memoirs: Words Are Magic. Start with Story. (4)

3. Brainstorm and draft

Writing requires thinking – and limiting students to six words will require them to do some brainstorming. What topic will they focus on? What are the key words they most want to include? How can those six words be linked together to do more than just make a statement, but to tell a story about them or their life?

Six Word Memoirs: Words Are Magic. Start with Story. (5)

4. Share

This can be done in many ways. I’d ask my students to fold a piece of paper into a nameplate andwrite their six-word memoir and their name. Then, I’d take a picture of each student, which I’d use to memorize their names. Students can also share their memoirs with each other to begin to weave the important fabric of classroom culture.

Six Word Memoirs: Words Are Magic. Start with Story. (6)

Other ideas for six word memoirs:

Rather than just writing their own memoirs, six-word memoirs can be used in a variety of different ways. Throughout the year, students could also write six-word memoirs for characters in books or stories to show their understanding of characterization and theme. When reading nonfiction, students could craft a six-word synopsis as a way to practice their summarization skills. Returning to six word memoirs at the end of a school year could also be a way for students to reflect on their growth as people and as writers.

Six words can tell a story.

Six Word Memoirs: Words Are Magic. Start with Story. (7)

KEEP READING

Best Books for 7th Graders

Books for 6th Graders

Writing Contests for Kids

Six Word Memoirs: Words Are Magic. Start with Story. (10)

Short Stories for Middle School

Six Word Memoirs: Words Are Magic. Start with Story. (12)

Dana VanderLugt

Literacy Consultant, Writer

Dana VanderLugt is a literacy consultant from Michigan. Her novel, Enemies in the Orchard: A World War 2 Novel in Verse, releases on September 12, 2023. She can be found at www.danavanderlugt.com.

Similar Posts

25 Wonderful First Day of School Read Alouds

American Girl Samantha

You’ve Been Sentenced! (To a Fun Grammar Game)

Best New Picture Books Out in February 2023

Best Picture Books of 2014

Artist Dates with Kids

Leave a Reply

Six Word Memoirs: Words Are Magic. Start with Story. (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Mr. See Jast

Last Updated:

Views: 6237

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (55 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Mr. See Jast

Birthday: 1999-07-30

Address: 8409 Megan Mountain, New Mathew, MT 44997-8193

Phone: +5023589614038

Job: Chief Executive

Hobby: Leather crafting, Flag Football, Candle making, Flying, Poi, Gunsmithing, Swimming

Introduction: My name is Mr. See Jast, I am a open, jolly, gorgeous, courageous, inexpensive, friendly, homely person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.