Easy 10 Minute Creative Writing Activity Perfect for Groups

Amber’s chalkboard: Six-Word Memoir brainstorming in action

We can learn a great deal by examining ourselves and others, particularly when we ponder our words. Fifth grade teacher Amber Lewis-Francis first heard about Six-Word Memoirs on NPR. Always encouraging her students to write about themselves, Amber thought it would be a fun creative writing activity for her students. “They embraced this concept,” she said of her students at Clarendon Elementary School in San Francisco. “I think it was freeing for them to only think about six words.”

Amber started by introducing her students to Ernest Hemingway and his infamous six-word novel: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” She was surprised by her students’ interpretation of Hemingway’s six words. Instead of hearing the typically sorrowful tale, her students found humor: “They pictured a little kid, selling his own shoes on the corner, and thought it was so funny.”

From there, Amber asked her students to write Six-Word Memoirs based on ten important events from their life, encouraging them to write true tales in 10 minute writing exercises. As a creative writing group activity, the students were also tasked to write positive words about each one of their classmates. Those descriptors were turned into a word bank - guided writing worksheets which each student received - illustrating how their classmates view them. They put these various creative writing exercises and concepts into action using their Six-Word Memoirs as a way to look at word choice and how different words can strengthen or change the story they are trying to tell.

As Amber wrote her own Six-Word Memoir on the board, she asked her students to come up with synonyms for the words in her memoir: "Children fill my life with happiness."

As students listed different words, the class was able to bear down to the essence of her memoir. This small group writing activity caused the story to evolve and resulted in a deeper and truer narrative: “Children fill me with anxious glee.”

“We wanted to talk about the fact that I’m worried about them, as a teacher—it’s not just all happiness, and there are things I want to accomplish with them, which is where that anxiousness comes from,” Amber said of her final memoir.

The project culminated with a bulletin board featuring the student’s memoirs, their illustrations, and their own picture. Together, her 5th graders created Six-Word Memoirs that offer vivid snapshots of themselves.

Great job, Room 205! Here are just a few of the personal and creative Sixes made by Amber’ fifth graders for this creative writing exercise for beginners:

“Dancing in mirrors, because I can.” —Ryan
“Headbands make astonishing outfits much better.” —Anna R.
“Sweet and sour, but magnificent too.” —Ammanuel
“Pizza is my round, glorious world.” —Ethan

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