The Six-Word Memoir Blog

Classroom of the Month: The United Nations School

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

By Larry Smith

This week’s featured classroom is located just down the road from SMITH Magazine’s Six-Word nerve center in Manhattan. The United Nations International School (UNIS) was founded in 1947 by United Nations affiliated families, and has multi-national staff from 70 countries and over 1,450 students from 120 countries. In other words, it’s a place that loves language. So I was delighted when middle school librarian and fan of Six Words, Vivian Ellner, invited me to lead a storytelling workshop with eighth graders in teacher Geoff Van Kirk and Dan Love’s classrooms. After sharing examples of Six-Word Memoirs and talking about what makes a good story—whether told in just six words or many more—we got down to the real business of the day: sharing our brief life stories.

Whether I’m in a classroom or corporate setting, when the people in the room know each other I like to play a game called, “How well do you know your friends?” Everyone in the room writes one or many Six-Word Memoirs and then passes them up to be read aloud. As I read each memoir, classmates or teammates try to guess whose story is it, along the way learning that, for example, that young Sophie has a pet ferret or Alex from the IT department was adopted. Take a look at this short video from Geoff Van Kirk’s eighth-grade class full of innovative, bold young storytellers.

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Note: 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.

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

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