Thursday, January 10, 2013

Quick, Effective Literacy Activity

Six-Word Memoirs is an easy activity to implement in the classroom. This activity could be done with students of any age and with any materials, including paper and pencil. However, it would also be fun to do it with computer tools and post some of the memories online. It works like this:
  • Think of 6 words who define you or tell your life story--form a 6-word sentence--how you arrange the words helps
  • Find an image to go along with the sentence
Students can find the picture that represents them first and then write the sentence, or do the activity in reverse. Most of all, figure out a way for students to share these memoirs with one another and others. 

Here is some information about the project, which includes images of 6-word memoirs. 

Illustrated Six-Word Memoirs by Students from Grade School to Grad School

Here is a video explaining the concept of the 6-week memoir, a technique derived from writer Ernest Hemingway. The video contains tips for creating the memoirs. 

Here is an example of a series of 6-word memoirs from a high school students who gathered theirs into a video and posted the video on YouTube.

Although simple, the activity can create a fun, interactive, and reflective learning environment.

Have you tried this activity in your classroom? If so, how did it go? If you have not, would you consider it, and how would you proceed to implement it? How would you have students share--among themselves, or in a more public way, like the video above? Regardless of the age level you teach, keep in mind this activity can be adapted to fit the learners' literacy skills.


  1. This is a great activity. I have done something similar in the classroom when teaching Science and Social Studies. When a particularly difficult concept is being reviewed, I often ask my students to explain the concept using six (or sometimes a few more) words. It helps them pick the six most important words of the concept. Having them choose a picture and then setting the concept to a video and then showing the completed video to the class would be a great way to review!

  2. I would absolutely use this with my sixth graders. It would be interesting for them to create one both at the beginning and end of the year and see the difference/growth in their word choice. I would most likely have them share these with their peers and families. It might be also interesting to see what words peers or families would use to describe my students.

  3. I would love to use this with my Kindergarten students; however, it would take some creative planning and careful instruction to give students the tools needed to complete it. This would take quite a while and perhaps an activity that would be best placed towards the end of the year.
    What a wonderful way to have students introduce themselves to his or her first grade teacher!

  4. My favorite part of the day is reading and writing. My 4th graders are always writing and reading biographies of people they have not and never will meet. This activity seems to be a great motivator to get them to think about themselves as a student, daughter/son, grandchild, friend, team player, and citizen. I would implement this activity as a writing motivator. Six words only will have them think
    strongly about the words they use and focus on themselves as autobiographers.

  5. I was very impressed with the video of the high school 6 word memoirs.This activity would be fun to try with my first graders,but i'm thinking the outcomes might not be as prolific. Using pictures that have been taken in the classroom throughout the year would make this activity doable and appropriate for my students.

  6. I love this idea! It makes we wish I taught a grade a little higher than kindergarten. After reading this I just had to pass it along to our middle school literature and writing teacher. I like the suggestion Beth had of how to adapt this to a younger audience. Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. I can see myself using this in many ways but the first thing that came to mind was character analysis.

  8. I think this is a fantastic project for students in the classroom. It seems like such a simple writing project, but can also turn into a great reflective exercise for students. I really loved the fact that this particular teacher took it one step further by showing students that technology can bring their six simple words to life. If I worked in the classroom I would definitely consider duplicating the activity just the way the teacher did above I think it would help to engage students especially if they knew the end product would then be a class video displaying their work.