Free & Instructive: Six-Word Memoir Project-Based Learning Lesson Plans

After eyeing the book Not Quite What I Was Planning at a bookstore and giving it a browse, Debra Freedman decided to start using Six-Word Memoirs in her classroom as a project-based learning lesson plan at Burlington Township High School in Burlington, New Jersey.

On the first day of class, Debra asked students to write a Six-Word Memoir about themselves. To her students, the project-based learning activity was a seemingly inconceivable task because they were so used to writing multiple page essays and research papers for their AP English Literature and Composition classes. Debra told her students to remember that “this is a different course. I want you to condense and look at your diction.”

Overcoming their initial shock of only being able to use six words, Debra reported that students rose to the challenge. Debra’s creative writing class even banded together in a collaborative story writing activity to create a Six-Word Memoir about their classroom environment: “Our creative minds illuminate our diversity.”

Debra’s students went on to write historical fiction pieces for several pbl mini projects. The assignment had her students crafting Six-Word Memoirs from the perspective of the characters they were examining. She emphasized the importance of writing quality six-worders for the project based learning unit, stating, “Students were able to do it because they knew [their characters] so well.”

Here are a few of the insightful and evocative sixes written by Debra’s students:

1880’s Ireland:
“Brotherhood’s bond can break oppression’s bind.” —K.P-M.

1920’s New York, NY:
“Electric age filled with dancing strangers.” —B.L.

1920’s San Francisco, CA:
“Women are empowered; maybe that’s me.” —P.S.

1960’s Russia:
“Whispered lullabies soothe the troubled soul.” —G.D.

1969 Woodstock Bethel, NY:
“Through round glasses, love is clear.” —H.F.

In just six words, Debra’s students captured moments in history, as well as the unique stories of the characters they were studying. And she was thrilled that her lesson plan for project based learning helped her students grasp the concept of Six-Word Memoirs and how the format can condense and capture stories at their core.