The Six-Word Memoir Blog

“Culinary arts spiced up my life”—The Classroom of the Week

Monday, March 28th, 2011

By Larry Smith

We love hearing about how schools of every type have found Six-Word Memoirs to be a writing tool in the classroom. James Berman, Chef Instructor at Delcastle Technical High School, in Wilmington, Delaware, reports that “Six has been a large part of our class. The process takes a very busy environment and forces us to boil down our thoughts into their concentrated, more flavorful form.”

“We used to use the traditional notebook and pen for journaling,” he explains. “Then a former student, Samantha Ysais (a huge fan of Not What Quite I Was Planning) turned me on to the Six-Word Memoir. I decided to get students to think more about their journaling, rather than merely brain-spewing, and boil their thoughts down to six meaningful words. We adopted the format with huge interest from the students. Students would submit their Six on index cards and I would share some of the more profound, humorous, interesting pieces. As the weeks went on, it got harder to narrow down the selections. So, in an effort to get students to engage the ‘authentic audience’ we started weekly postings on Twitter. And it has exploded! Current students, grads and even parents use the format to drop their thoughts into the class. Our school district’s English Specialist has raved about our use of the format! Our next addition is a class set of I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure—if our budget ever gets approved.”

James sent over some choice examples from the students of Delcastle Technical High School, and we’ll be sending him a few copies of our teen book.
On trying new food: “I tried raw oysters. Carpe diem!”
From a student whose responsibilities were janitor for the week: “Cleaning makes for a shiny kitchen.”
On a conflict with another student: “Running your mouth leads to trouble.”
From a student facing some serious issues outside of school: “Culinary arts spiced up my life.”
On being messy: “Changing name to ‘Not Your Mother.’”
On working the dishwashing station: “Dishes are cockroaches; they keep coming.”
From a sophomore taking apart her first chicken: “Hacked chicken…have we no shame?”


Note:We’ve created two 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 free PDF of either or both below. In return, all we ask is that you let us know how six words works in your class. We love sharing your stories with the rest of the SMITH community.

Teachers Guide: First Six-Word Memoir book (click to download)
Teachers Guide: Teen Six-Word Memoir book (click to download)
Video: “Six Tips for Writing Six-Word Memoirs.”

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