This past spring, I was inspired by a post from the wonderful Moving Writers blog that gave me the idea to begin my school year with six word memoirs.  This past Wednesday, my 12th Honors ELA seniors were introduced to the writer’s notebook purpose and protocols.  Our first writer’s notebook invitation asked students to look at a set of roughly 11 sentences that served as our mentor texts (six word memoirs, which was still not known yet to students) as I want my students to begin reading like writers.  Students were asked to record their noticings about the sentences; they could focus on length, structure, mood, word choice, style, punctuation, and topics.

Our writing prompt was a springboard to small group discussions and then a lightning round large group share.  I then asked students to count the number of words in each sentence since no group noticed they were all six words.  This prompted noticing elicited surprise from the students and was the springboard for us watching a TEDxvideo about six word memoirs from the founder of the genre, Larry Smith ( ).  Students then did a follow up post in the writer’s notebook reflecting on the video; many were impressed that so few words could make a difference, and we had a class discussion about how we might use this medium of writing as a possible class writing project to make a difference in our Lanier High community to create a space for student six memoirs and their stories.

We then went to work drafting and polishing our six word memoirs.  Once finished, students their six word memoirs on the bulletin board in our classroom to share and celebrate our writing.

If you are interested in buying sentence strips, I use these from Amazon (they were a good bit cheaper when I purchased mine); these Pacon sentence strips might be a good alternative.

Below is my slideshow I used to guide our lesson as well as a copy of the mentor texts I culled from the Six Word Memoirs website.


Gwinnett County Schools AKS (standards) In This Lesson:

Reading Literary AKS

LA12.A.5: analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact (I)

Writing AKS

LA12.C.29: write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences (I)

LA12.C.28 draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research (I)

LA12.C.22: write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences (I)

Speaking and Listening AKS

LA12.D.30: initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (e.g., one-on- one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively (I)