Classroom of the Month: Ms. Bechard’s English Classes At Lord Dorchester Secondary School In Ontario, Canada


“Give your voice value with writing”

At Lord Dorchester Secondary School in Ontario, Canada, Six-Word Memoirs helps secondary school students open up to writing, offering an easy and engaging extension of their classroom learning. English teacher Jamie Bechard adorns her classroom wall with this six-word tenet: “Give your voice value with writing.”

Bechard discovered Six-Word Memoirs via her learning coordinator and introduced the concept to her ninth and tenth grade English classrooms in February: “I always try to do something fun on Fridays with them and end the week on a positive note,” says Bechard. She first introduced Six-Word Memoirs in an exercise on free writing: “No topics, no marks assigned to it, no evaluations, IMG_2798just getting them writing because all too often they get too consumed with, ‘How much is this worth? Am I getting graded on it?’…it takes away the fun from writing.” Bechard put chart paper around the classroom and had each student write a Six-Word Memoir. “They started responding to each other anonymously, and it became conversations in a sense,” she explains.

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Top Six Most Creative Six-Word Excuses


Spring fever is spreading and the improving weather makes everyone want to ditch a few responsibilities. Anticipating the need for extra play time, for SixContest #94 we asked for your most creative excuses in six words. Some offered timeless excuses (“I have let the dog out.” –LisaK ), while others were unconventional yet convincing (“Psychiatrist prescribed play for inner child.” –Kharis). Whatever your obligation, we hope these six-word alibis work for you.

Introducing the Top Six Excuses…

6. “The cloud ate my homework again. –@OneofJennifer

5. “The magic 8-ball told me to.” –J3nny

4. “I was too busy retweeting memes.” –@kim_ann1

3. “I kneaded to bake away grief.” –@KathrynDiPasqua

2. “Born breech. Backwards from day one.” –enginethatcould

And introducing the excuse we all want to use from time to time…

1. “Please, do not disturb. I’m introverting” –@TaraParay (via Twitter)

Congratulations, @TaraParay, and thanks to all who participated! Whether in our SixContests, on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr or at—keep on Sixing!

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Memoirist of the Month—March 2017: Talitha Rae Degraff

I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets immediately caught my attention because I literally struggle to keep my own secrets. I was completely enthralled and read the book from front to back. I found the other Six-Word Memoir books and read them all—that was when I fell in love with Six Words and SMITH Magazine.”


Name: Talitha Rae Degraff
Place: Atlanta, Georgia
SMITH Member Since: March 2013

Talitha Rae Degraff is a compelling young writer who knows no bounds (“Writers get to break the rules.”) With nearly 3,000 Six-Word Memoirs since joining us in 2013, her voice is filled with power and purpose (“‘Honey, those walls won’t protect you’”). Posting as torturedbutterfly, Talitha’s bravery is revealed in her poetry (“My skin will tell many stories”) and in the cadence of her spoken word (“They’re my wings. And I’m flying.”). Despite overwhelming challenges (“The winds have weathered my soul”), her resilience is impressive (“Creating characters who will save me”). Learn how Talitha transitioned from SMITHTeens to Six-Word Memoirist of the Month for March 2017 as she answers our Six Questions:

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And the #PitchAMovieIn6Words Award Goes to…


Lights! Camera! Six Words! For SixContest #93, we challenged you to sit in the producer’s chair and #PitchAMovieIn6Words. Some of you presented intriguing plot lines inspired by fan favorites (“Something’s Gotta Give Me a Break” –canadafreeze), while others combined two existing movies to create a compelling story (“Snow White and The Seven Samurai.” –ksan). Many of your pitches were Oscar-worthy, but only six were able to stay off the cutting room floor.

Introducing the Top Six Movie Pitches…

6. “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? Me.” –JAD

5. “Hidden Tiger Figures, Crouching Dragon Tattoo.” –Stella_Matutina

4. “Feminist “Grease”: Sandy flies away alone.” –@taradublinrocks

3. “Ferris Bueller gets promotion. Wall Street.” –DynamicDbytheC

2. “One Flew Back to the Future.” –JoC.

And the one that wins top billing…

1. The Perks of Being a Wizard” –TheatreGeek

Congratulations, TheatreGeek, and thanks to all who participated! Whether in our SixContests, on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr or at—keep on Sixing!

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Classroom of the Month: Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California

Berkeley High Jan 13- Allie teaching

This Classroom of the Month could easily be called School of the Month. This January, Six-Word founder Larry Smith and Bay-Area colleague Allie Wollner visited the famously activist Berkeley High School in Berkeley, California to explain what Six Words Fresh Off the Boat is all about. From freshman to seniors, students jumped enthusiastically on board to craft six-word immigration stories of coming to America.   

English teacher Carl Rogers heard about Six Words through Wollner. He loved the concept and invited Team Six to visit BHS. “Given the diverse population of students who are engaged in current events,” says Smith, “it was a perfect time to visit Berkeley High and invite their students to participate in our upcoming book.” (Six Words Fresh Off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity, and Coming to America publishes this fall).

“The students brought vibrancy to the project,” adds Wollner. “It’s always a pleasure and a shot of life to run Six-Word workshops in high school classrooms.”

Smith and Wollner spent the entire day at Berkeley High, which gave them the opportunity to introduce the Six-Word Memoir Project to teachers and hundreds of students across campus. In addition to Rogers’ students, English teachers Karen Zapata, Dagny Dingman, Amanda Moreno, Madalyn Theodore, and Amanda Marini all hosted Smith and Wollner to teach their students the Six-Word Memoir form. “Allie and Larry introduced the whole concept in a series of workshops held in classrooms all over the school,” explains Rogers.

The results were diverse, clever, powerful, and poetic.  Here are a few examples showing a cross-section of American identity and coming to America stories penned by insightful teens:

  • Iraqi Jew escaping World War Two. —Claire E.
  • No, I don’t speak any Arabic. —Aamna A.
  • Sacrificed education making soap for money. —Tenaya M.
  • British and Icelandic, talk about white. —Will A.
  • Oh, where’s your name from, exactly? —Chloe
  • Hard for parents, easy for me. —Jakob K.
  • Three families sharing one small apartment. —Estefania R.
  • Two cultures, two languages, one girl. —Daphne E.  
  • Crepes over cereal; never tasted Cocoa Puffs. —Sophie M. (seven words, but so good!)


With all these Six-Word Memoirs came creativity in expression around the classroom. “I put these Six-Word Memoirs up on the bulletin board and parents were able to see them at our yearly open house. I got so much positive feedback about the beauty and simplicity of the assignment,” says English teacher Karen Zapata.


“I really appreciated the visit by the folks from Six-Word Memoirs because it allowed us to continue the very important work of building community in my classroom,” Zapata explains. “We do a lot of writing about identity and our experiences, but connecting so directly to our family’s origin story is something I have not been able to quite make it to. In a very short period of time, our classroom opened up to root experiences with immigration. Students were able to connect across difference, which is so important in these times.”


Rogers, Zapata, and all of the teachers are delighted they could use Six-Word Memoirs in the classroom and offer their students an opportunity to be published. “It’s a great writing exercise,” says Rogers, “and it gives our students a voice and platform to tell their immigration stories. I love that all students can easily participate. Both the students and teachers who participated in the workshops found it empowering.”

Teachers! Since we first launched the Six-Word Memoir project, educators across the spectrum have found Six Words to be a terrific classroom assignment and catalyst for self-expression. At our Six in Schools section we celebrate students’ work from classrooms around the world. Contact us (concierge AT smithmag DOT net) if you would like a copy of our free teacher’s guide.

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Top Unconventional Loves In Six Words


With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, love is inescapable. For SixContest #92, we asked for your stories of unconventional love in Six Words. We were quickly enamored with Celebrity Sixer Elizabeth Gilbert’s own #UnconditionalLoveInSix story:

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Memoirist of the Month—February 2017: Josephine Collett

“To know that Larry used one of my sixes, ‘Love conquers death, not the reverse,’ as a table centerpiece at a dinner to support a hospice was just so moving. Writing is not always about publication. Meaningful writing could just be a note of appreciation, or card of comfort or email of encouragement.”

Name: Josephine (“Jo”) Collett
Place: Brisbane, Australia
SMITH Member Since: July 2010

Jo Collett uses Six-Word Memoirs to write with purpose. Posting as Kharis, she is fast approaching the milestone of 2,000 memoirs to date, including a feature in our 2015 book, The Best Advice in Six Words, which she wrote about in this related memoir: Madeleine Albright, Dave Eggers and me”. Her memoirs are as quick to make you smile (“Recklessly squandering my happiness on today”) as they are to give you pause (“Silently mourning those forever unrealized dreams”). With her beautifully woven backstories (“Hope was my Dad’s middle name”), she knows how to grab the reader’s attention (“Some talk loudly. I write boldly”). Congratulations to Jo Collett as our Memoirist of the Month for February 2017. Learn what brought this native Australian to Six-Word Memoirs as Jo answers our Six Questions:

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The Top Six-Word Stories About Transitions


When a Six-Word Memoir transforms into a full story, that’s a change we all can get behind. Inspired by the recent shift in America’s leadership, we invited you to share stories about your own transitions. While it proved impossible to shy away from politics (“From presidential history to presidential mystery.” —JoC.), many shared stories revealing personal metamorphoses (“Made people laugh, found a career.” —@J_S_Docherty). One thing that remains the same: only six entries could make the final cut…

6. “Heard her laugh. Fell in love.” —@SNlCDha

5. “Mom to grandmother. Nice little promotion.” —AROD

4. “Holding breath and hand during chemo.” —TheatreGeek

3. “Paper route money became first car.” —JRE23

2. “Watching my niece becoming my nephew.” — VIWJG

And the transitional tale that takes top honors is…

1. “Took awhile. Finally accepted skin color.” —JAD

Congratulations, JAD, and thanks to all who participated! Whether in our SixContests, on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr or at—keep on Sixing!


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Classroom of the Month: Ms. Mills Language Arts Students at Echo Glen Children’s Center in Washington


As part of their Juvenile Rehabilitation sentencing, the youth at Echo Glen Children’s Center receive educational services. Language Arts teacher Tami Mills is passionate about her work with these young offenders, females and males ranging from ages 11 to 21. In addition to education, youth who are assigned to Echo Glen receive a spectrum of services including behavior modification and treatment.

Ms. Mills discovered Six-Word Memoirs thanks to an education assistant at a school book event who shared the concept with Mills while she was tutoring youth after school. It wasn’t long before Mills decided to bring the Six Words concept into the classroom, which she has been assigning to students for the past two years: “I used it for the first time in some of my Language Arts classes last year.”

With a smaller class size — Mills typically has eleven students per class — students are able to delve into the assignment over at least two days. On day one, she introduces the Six-Word Memoir project and uses class time to brainstorm ideas with students. The following day, students produce their own six-word creations.

To familiarize her students with Six-Word Memoirs, Mills turned to the small screen. “I use YouTube a lot for finding videos to supplement what we are reading or writing about in class,” she says. In addition to showing Six-Word Memoir YouTube videos, Mills shared Six-Word Memoirs from our teen-centric book, I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous and Obscure. She also read some aloud a selection of Six-Word Memoirs created by previous students.

That candle lighting was my homies“The kids would do four or five memoirs each and then they would pick out their favorite,” Mills shared. Students then typed up their select memoirs so they could be posted on their class bulletin board. An assistant in the classroom then took those favorites and created a Powerpoint slideshow, including musical interludes, to showcase the students’ work. Im a father but not there 2

Mills finds this activity is an effective introduction to her memoir unit, where she has them write their own memoir: “We talk about how good it feels to release and speak truth,” said Mills.

Students reviewed the stories from the previous year’s class and then dug in and wrote their own (also seen in the images above and below):
“Never lose yourself during the wait.”
“Blood don’t make family, loyalty does.”
“Words never come out big enough.”
“I was born fragile, raised hard.”
“Hope—only thing stronger than fear.”
“Wanting to kiss someone really bad.”
“Tomorrow’s gonna be my new beginning.”

Always Locked behind Doors Never FreeThis Six Words assignment helps students make connections within their group and find empowerment through sharing honesty with their peers. While some memoirs were funny and others were more serious, Mills discovered that what meant most to students was speaking their truth, which demands bravery from everyone involved. —Paige Brown

Teachers! Since we first launched the Six-Word Memoir project, educators across the spectrum have found Six Words to be a terrific classroom assignment and catalyst for self-expression. At our Six in Schools section we celebrate students’ work from classrooms around the world. Contact us (concierge AT smithmag DOT net) if you would like a copy of our free teacher’s guide

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Top Six Words That Give You Hope


Our nutty notion was this: let’s kick off 2017 on a positive note! So for SixContest #90, we asked for Six-Word Memoirs on how you keep hope alive. You shared advice on staying optimistic (“Each day is a fresh start.” –WouldBeNovelist) and meaningful sources of inspiration (“When chemo works, then there’s HOPE.” –jl333). Some of these encouraging memoirs enjoyed widespread favor (“Hope whispers you’re worthy of success.” –@bookbabie) and many of you found promise in life’s little pleasures (“Hope arrives on little kitty feet.” –nsbpoet). Read these top six memoirs and you won’t stop believin’:

6. “We’ll laugh about this one day.” –Oh_Skinny

5. “People working on global warming solutions.” –JRE23

4. “Keeping glass full. Like bottomless mimosas.” –Susan_Breeden

3. “Transforming America from ‘me’ to ‘we.’” —@taralazar

2. “Hope springs paternal. Love my kids.” —tagishcharley

And the winning entry that is hope materialized…

1. “Teen battling cancer marries his sweetheart.” —Lori_Romero

Congratulations, Lori_Romero, and thanks to all who participated! Whether in our SixContests, on FacebookInstagramTwitterTumblr or at—keep on Sixing!

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