Be Careful Whom You Learn From

That’s my Six-Word Memoir.  Ominous, yet thoughtful.  That is how I like to think I am as a teacher, as a person 🙂  This is how I started my year in all of my classes.  My students had to write their Six-Word Memoir on a slip of colorful paper, illustrate it and staple it to one of my bulletin boards.  They shared their memoirs with the class to let me get to know them at this stage in their lives (most of them I have taught previously because it is a small school).

I love the Six-Word Memoir format, because not only does it ask students to say something honest about themselves, but it also requires students to be purposeful with their diction. The students seemed to really enjoy it, and actually labored quite diligently to ensure that they captured themselves just right. It was such a great activity, that I thought I would share my materials.  I know that Six-Word Memoirs are nothing new, but I can’t help but sing their praises.

What is a Six-Word Memoir?

A Six-Word memoir is a type of short writing coined by SMITH Magazine.  A memoir is a piece of nonfiction similar to an autobiography.  However, a memoir focuses on just one portion of a person’s life.  A Six-Word Memoir is just as it sounds: it must be six words and it must be from your perspective.  SMITH Magazine even has contests, books, and even the Six-Word Festival running from September 26-28 on Twitter. You will write a six-word memoir for yourself.

How Can I Use Them in the English Classroom?

When I went to the APSI this summer, we learned how to use Six-Word Memoirs effectively in the classroom.  Here are just a few ways I think you could use them expanding on what I learned at the institute.

  1. As an introduction activity (like I did on the first day).
  2. As character analysis-A student would write a six-word memoir from the perspective of a character in a novel or short-story.  You could even make this a guessing game, where you make groups write six-word memoirs and the other students have to guess which character is saying what (great for stories with many characters).  You could also do this in the first couple chapters for a character, then at the end of the novel to show character growth and transformation.
  3. As setting analysis-A student would write a six-word memoir for the setting of a novel.  We all know that setting can be crucial and almost a character within itself with its own voice and tales to tell.  Writing a memoir for a setting would be especially effective for novels where setting is pivotal to the novel (Oceania from 1984, Maycomb from To Kill a Mockingbird, The Different Districts in The Hunger Games etc.) or to show differences between different settings within the same novel.
  4. As author analysis-A student would write a six-word memoir from the author’s perspective.  After finishing a novel, the students would attempt to write what the author was trying to communicate to the reader in just 6 words.  This would be close to writing thematic statements from the novel.
  5. In creative writing-This is a wonderful activity to use in any CW course or club.  It could be a section or contest in school literary magazines or publications as well!

Here is the small assignment I gave to my students on the first day.  We will be using them throughout the year as one of our many tools to analyze literature!

6 Word Memoirs First Day Activity

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3 thoughts on “Be Careful Whom You Learn From

  1. That’s a fantastic idea! I’ll be doing my student teaching in the spring (and hopefully getting a job as an English teacher not too long after that). This would be a great activity to try. Thanks!

  2. Pingback: One School, One Book | The Wordy Teacher

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