Six-Word Memoirs Has its Own Powerful Set of Writing Strategies

“Mistakes are proof that you’re trying.”

The Six-Word format was introduced to Andrea Vinikoff in high school, and continued to follow her into college where she was assigned Six-Word Memoirs in some of her classes. When the English teacher began instructing sixth graders at Princess Anne Middle School in Virginia Beach - and needed to build a toolkit of writing strategies for teachers - it felt natural to embrace the versatility of Six-Words in her own classroom. “It felt like a sign that Six-Words kept coming up and was being used in all of these academic writing strategies related to the curriculum. Because I had so much fun creating Six-Word Memoirs in my formative years, I decided to find ways to incorporate them into my classroom as writing strategies for students,” she says.

Drawing a connection between Six-Word Memoirs and her unit on writing strategies used by authors was incredibly easy for Andrea. “The unit theme is called ‘The Role of the Writer,’” Andrea explained, “so I put a lot of emphasis on autobiographies, biographies, and an author’s purpose in writing these accounts.” Recognizing purpose was part of her goal for teaching writing strategies to improve writing skills. Additionally, the students read “The First Skateboard in the History of the World,” a short, kid-friendly memoir written by Betsy Byars. “That’s when I remembered Six-Word Memoirs,” she recounted with excitement.

Andrea started implementing the format by showing her students examples of six word stories on the Six-Word Memoirs website, as well as her own, before challenging them to write. 

Andrea noted that her students are usually really excited and proud to show off their work, so writing took some time. “When they have their own ownership involved they really want to make sure it’s done well. The sixth graders then paired their memoirs with illustrations to display: “They’re very visible throughout the hallway, so as the kids are passing by they’re able to look at and comment on them, and teachers responded that they were really impressed.” Some students even got involved with, taking to the student publishing site to post some of their own brief personal stories.

Some of the students’ examples include:
   “Lowest points will always bring hope.”
   “Dreams never work without any actions.”
   “Any improvement starts with hard work.”
   “Family makes me a better person.”
   “Mistakes are proof that you’re trying.”

Andrea has felt the many benefits of using Six-Word Memoirs in the classroom. “For me, as a teacher, it’s really important because I have this passion for writing and I try to instill it in my students.” She added that these teaching writing activities are practical aids for learning a wide variety of writing strategies in English - including word choice, implementing adjectives, and using contradictions - in a creative, engaging way.

This passionate sixth-grade teacher and her students exemplify how Six-Word Memoirs benefit both educators and learners. For Andrea, Six-Word Memoirs is a creative strategy for improving writing skills that also ignites an interest in writing for her students: “As an English teacher I’m aware that my class isn’t always a favorite. So, when I can find something that’s engaging and gets them excited about writing, I feel like I’m doing a good job.”