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Six Words Can Shape a Lesson

Posted by on in Teaching Strategies
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Inspired by a project at Smith Magazine Six Word Memoirs are a great tool to use in the classroom. With students feeling the pressure of producing more, turn thae tables on them and have them write less while continuing to use critical thinking skills. Here are some ideas inspired by Six Word Memoirs:



Have students write their life story in six words and use them to introduce each other in new classes. On my first day, students took turns randomly opening the book Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure and reading one or two memoirs that piqued their interest. Students then wrote their life story in six words on an index card and the class guessed whose story was whose. I loved getting to know my students better and hearing their stories, and the students felt valued because they were heard. Most of the six word memoirs elicited questions from other students wanting to know more about what was written. Here are some of my favorites from my first day of school:


I don’t know who I am -Shot in the dark, no direction -Blonde, bright, and a surprise to many - I live to GO and SEE - My life is in my pictures

Six Words and Books                                                                                                          

Six Word projects can also be incorporated into almost any book unit. Have students write six word book reviews of stories read in class and share with the class thus encouraging others to see a common text through different perspectives. Students can also share six word summaries or reviews of independent reading as a way of exposing and introducing different works to the class. An easy end-of-the- year variation would be matching six word summaries to book, short story, or poem titles as a means of reviewing. Students can also write six word memoirs as a way of learning about authors, time periods, or genres before beginning a unit. 

Teaching Diction                                                                                                                

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn." The origins of this flash fiction are debatable, but the lesson of a well-chosen word remains constant. Nuances of definitions and connotations of words can be explored through six word activities. For example, consider the difference in the following statements: Lennie struggles with expectations of society vs. Lennie struggles with cruelty of society. Both statements about Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men are true, but which word choice is the best? Consider these examples where thinking about tone: a sad tale of two men vs. a tragic tale of two men. Six-word activities offter students the chance to play with words in a thoughtful and quick format.

Formative Assessment

Six words offer the perfect format for quick checks of student learning. Have students summarize a lesson in six words, describe a character in six words, state the problem in six words, pose a question in six words, or write a personal goal in six words. The possibilities are unlimited.

Can these ideas be done in five words? or seven? Absolutely. There's nothing magical about six words, but six words are trending now. Jump on the six-word trend and use six words to add variety to your classroom. Six words can make a difference!




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I am a caffeinated educator with the incredible privilege of teaching high school English and serving as a school leader. This is my seventh year at Northgate High School on the south side of Atlanta where teach AP Literature and also lower level American literature. Having taught in public, private, and home schooled, I am a believer in the system and striving to be a positive influence among both students and educators. At the end of the day, I am glad to settle down to watching something on Netflix with my husband and three kids.

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Guest Sunday, 23 October 2016