The Six-Word Memoir Blog

Six-Word Memoirs: The Teachers’ Guides

Friday, October 15th, 2010

By Larry Smith

Since we launched the Six-Word Memoir project on this site in late 2006 and began publishing a series of books, we’ve been consistently blown away by how others have adopted the form, from six-word prayers to six-words on amazing moms (with One.org), to six words on Internet security—and, really, everything under and over and around the sun. Yet nothing has inspired us more than the way teachers from around the world have embraced and adapted the Six-Word Memoir form as a writing tool.

True story: My very first “live” speaking appearance was at my nephew’s third-grade classroom, where, as the kids went around the room and shared the short stories of their short lives, one little girl looked me in the eye and said, “Nine years stacked within my soul.” Later, the class created its own book of Six-Word Memoirs, Not Quite What We Were Planning: Six-Word Memoirs from Mrs. Nixon’s Class. (Click on that title for a digitized version of this beautiful document.) Since that first awesome classroom experience, we’ve received reports from teachers as close as Queens and as far as Bangladesh, in elementary and graduate schools alike, about how six words have been used as a writing tool and catalyst for self-expression.


With the support of our publisher, Harper Perennial, we’ve created two free Six-Word Memoir lesson plans, one for our first book, Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, as well as one for our teen book, I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure. Download a PDF of either or both below. All we ask in return is this: let us know how six words works in your class. We love sharing your stories with the rest of the SMITH community.

Read this first…
If your students would like to post directly to SMITH, or you’d like to create a profile for your whole classroom, please remember they will be participating in a much larger community. As such, fewer but more mindful memoirs are encouraged over simply posting random six-word thoughts. Reading this welcome note will go a long way to understanding the SMITH community. High school teachers are encouraged to send their students to SMITH Teens.

Teacher’s Guide: First Six-Word Memoir book (click to download)
Teacher’s Guide: Teen Six-Word Memoir book (click to download)

Videos: “Six Tips for Writing Six-Word Memoirs.”
(Note: this first video has some PG-13 language, so please watch first to make sure it’s appropriate for your classroom).

Six-Word Memoirs for Teens Video: A preview of our book, I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure.
(All content safe for classrooms).

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SMITH Magazine is a home for storytelling.
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should have a place to tell it.
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