Beautiful Ways for 8th Graders at Redwood City Middle to Publish Their Writing

At Kennedy Middle School in Redwood City, CA, 8th grade students published their own books and excitedly shared their Six-Word Memoirs. Their English teacher, Cynthia Wilson, even shared that her students signed each other’s books - just like a yearbook - placing their names next to their memoirs. The students, now published authors, would have a physical copy of their eighth grade memories, experiences, and writing skills.

Although Wilson first heard about Six-Word Memoirs from a fellow teacher, when she read about Six in Schools in a New York Times article, she was hooked on Six-Words and the idea of student publishing. “I have my students write several different forms of poetry, and so Six-Word Memoirs was just another easy way to try and get them to express themselves.” Students created their memoirs on Google Slides, then practiced their speaking skills by sharing their memoir and backstory in front of their classmates.

“What hooked me,” she mused, “was the opportunity for student book publishing.” In the past, Wilson found that student publishing sites and the opportunity to have their writing presented to a wider audience, served as an extra motivator for her students. So, in addition to having a lesson plan already outlined, Six in Schools provided an easy writing project that didn’t require a lot of brainstorming over class book ideas. The book topic idea was already there: Six-Word Memoirs.

In preparation for the class book publishing, Wilson worked with her students one-on-one, and reflected that their middle school experience was very different from that of previous generations. “I think making a book with your students is very powerful. Especially this year because so many of my students’ memoirs were about their experiences during the pandemic—it will be something they look back on in the future and be able to remember this time of their life.” Several students at Kennedy Middle School, a Title 1 School, struggled to afford a copy of their class book. Fortunately, the middle schools’ principal made sure all students received one.

The 8th grade book included three classes’ worth of student memoirs and backstories. It held the dedication: “To those we have lost and those that help us keep moving forward in difficult times.”

“I truly miss my old self.” — Wendy

“New Year. New Day. Same nonsense.” —Fernando

“My grades were better before Covid.” —Karen

“Hair soaked, running behind, haven’t eaten.” — Camila

“Playing video games in pitch blackness.” —Brandon

When a local radio show, La Mordidita Latina, got wind of these local authors' book they began reciting student memoirs on air. “I started playing the music one day and then they heard the radio host come on, and the first memoir that they shared was about the student’s love of music. That student’s face lit up when they heard it was their words being recited.” The La Mordidita Latina episode featuring Wilson’s students can be found here.

As students signed each other’s books, several also wanted Wilson’s signature. Wilson says that many 8th graders already recognize the value of their published memoirs, but others don’t. “It is often years later when you hear from a student that something was meaningful to them.” As for Wilson, she says she will be teaching Six-Word Memoirs and finding ways to publish writing with her future classes. And, we suspect, making meaningful memories.