Exciting & Accessible Creative Writing Six-Word Project Thrives in Aleutian Alaska

My visual. My Art. Answers everything.

In Unalaska, Alaska, a city with a population of just under 5,000, new junior high English teacher, Dan Smith, introduced his class to new writing project ideas, including Six-Word Memoirs. At the end of his slideshow, which was designed to present himself to the class, was a slide discussing the idea of writing about oneself in only six words. For the first creative writing activity of the year, students were asked to write a Six-Word Memoir.

“The Six-Word Memoir is a good balance of being both accessible to all students, yet still challenging. Of course, as creative project ideas go, it also offers unlimited creativity and self-expression,” Dan says. “My students really thrived with them. They also created visuals to accompany their memoirs, some of which were just as amazing as the words.”

Dan gave an overview of the creative writing projects by sharing examples from the Six-Word Memoir website. He also asked students to discuss what made each example meaningful. When they had a good grip on the creative writing project idea, he asked his students to write about something that they believed exhibited an important aspect of themselves.

“Other than that I gave my students full creative control—I did not edit their work in any way—and was impressed with their creative final project ideas. From content to style to creative punctuation used to save precious words, the results were great. We have a diverse student population and some chose to write in other languages, like Tagalog, further emphasizing their individuality.”

Though each memoir was about an individual student, the goal of the week-long project was to build a “community of readers and writers.” Dan emphasized that anyone can write a Six-Word Memoir, and social project ideas for students, like sharing meaningful words about themselves, brought his students closer together in the classroom.

The class displayed their memoirs on colorful construction paper in the hall. Some students chose to add visuals or decorations, and the hallway became an attraction for others to read, comment on, and support each other’s writing as a community.

Dan says the creative personal project idea was a great success. “The medium is so approachable that even students less confident in their writing ability produced creative and introspective expressions of themselves, and more confident writers embraced the challenge of saying as much as possible in only six words. Adding a visual component lets my artists and visual learners flourish. My students blew me away with their Six-Word Memoirs, showing me not just who they are as people, but what they are capable of as writers. Some students showed me Six-Word Memoirs that they wrote at home as a cathartic form of journaling. I had another student who started finding “accidental” six words around the classroom, like found poetry. The form and its potential clearly made an impact on my students, giving them a new way of expressing themselves.”

Though the official creative writing project lasted about a week, Dan continues to use Six-Word Memoirs as part of his writing exercises and reflections in class. “Now that we’re all familiar with the medium, it’s easy to say ‘Write a quick Six-Word Memoir about the book you’re reading and share it with a partner,’ or ‘Write a Six-Word Memoir to describe a reading strategy we discussed today.’” The memoirs are just six word gifts that keep giving.