Lori Beck noticed that students in her advanced art class had some free time, so she introduced Six-Word Memoirs to her students as a filler project, made up of multiple small assignments. An art specialist at Kelly Mill Middle School in Blythewood, South Carolina, Beck was shocked by how the students responded: “They took it to a place far beyond what I could have imagined.”
“Trying to reach the good opportunities.”
“Can you please come back……Please?” –Ansley
As the students began creating their Sixes, Beck tried to give them as many resources as possible, such as, “The Evocative World of the Six-Word Memoir: A Q&A with new TED ebook author Larry Smith” and examples of other students’ “Sixers”—a term used by Beck and her classroom to refer to their Six-Word Memoirs. “Showing them examples and videos, and opening up discussion in the classroom really seemed to help,” Beck said, noting how the students just dove in to the project.
Beck asked her students to start compiling a list of powerful words about themselves, “The students had a worksheet of 55 Words All About Me and My World, and then I asked them to reflect on the list,” Beck said. “Anyone can put six words together…but I really wanted a deep connection, because after having them write their six words, I needed them to create a visual that they could really connect with.”
Students then took their list of words and went through an online thesaurus to strengthen their words. “I told them to find a word in one of their sixers to change to make it more powerful or more direct,” Beck explained. “And in the end you would see their face light up, saying ‘Miss, I think I have the best six words, I think I really have it this time.’”
Creating the most powerful Sixes they could was a moving experience for both student and teacher, which translated into incredible visuals that really showcased their Sixes. As a digital art project, Beck’s students used iPads with Sketchbook Express and Pixlr on Chromebooks to incorporate words and images into pieces that anyone could interpret.
“Cocoons shattered, a blazing butterfly emerged.” –Kristina
Kristina, an eighth grader who feels working with Six-Word Memoirs changed her worldview, says: “Each word in the English language carries much more weight for me, now that I know how powerful just six words, chosen out of millions, can be on you and the people around you. It has also fostered a bigger respect for authors and artists and their thought process behind every piece of art or literature that has ever been written with thousands of words instead of just six.”
“Dear love, Christmas sucks without you.” –Erin
Erin, eighth grade, said the experience of crafting her Six-Word Memoir “held as much significance as a mother hearing her baby call her mama for the first time. I really loved this class!”
“Her lips beamed, her eyes didn’t.”-Annie
“Sixers got me to think from a different perspective,” said Annie, eighth grade, “How can I be unique and portray a statement or story that is different?”
“Surrounded by people, yet still alone.” –Jamal
The project, filled with assignments and resources, challenged students on many levels. Eighth grader Jamal said, “The hardest part is finding a struggle worth talking about.”
Beck describes her classroom environment as “I give you voice and I give you choice,” and the students chose to insert their voice into their Six-Word Memoirs assignment, ultimately exceeding Beck’s wildest dreams for the project. Beck used Six-Word Memoirs to help students make connections, not only between words and images, but also between themselves and the world they live in.
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. Our Six Words for Schools workbook is the first in our suite of school-based teaching tools, and launched our Six Schools website, a place solely for teachers to share their classrooms’ work with other educators globally. Check it out! Let us know what your classroom is up to and we might feature your students’ work on our blog.