Teens Write Authentic Personal Narratives with Just Six Words

One of the most wonderful and unique aspects of the Six-Word Memoirs project is the ability for so many different individuals and groups to share their perspectives, thoughts, lives and feelings in a succinct, expressive way. Take that expression and put it into the classroom? You have the formula for great writing ideas for students.

As a Team Six member, I find myself to be part of two such groups: the stories of teenagers and those on Jewish life. The Six-Word story form has found its way into each of these aspects of my life as the perfect daily writing prompt. I’ve sat around the dinner table with my family at Rosh Hashanah, laughing as we can see who can come up with the best six words on Jewish life. Many, naturally, having to do with the food on the table (“Matzoh balls and gefilte fish, yay!” “No vegetarians here, chicken soup tonight!”) and family (“Family gatherings turned epic questioning sessions” and “No phones at the table, please”). When I first explained the form to my friends, everything we did or said, from what our plans were that evening to how we felt at the moment had to be said in six words.

Another such group that Six-Word Memoir founder, Larry Smith, has visited for the third summer in a row, is a group of talented, creative teenagers in a summer writing program at Brandeis University called BIMA. The class is taught by instructor and writer Jon Papernick. As with past summers, Jon has writing prompts for students to spark creative writing for kids, whose ages ranged from 13-17. These 5 minute writing prompts provoked memoirs that ranged from silly to thought-provoking, and everywhere in between! The creative writing prompts for beginners and their memoirs, even gave the class the ability to discuss what makes a good storyteller.

Here’s a list of some of the amazing memoirs they came up with:

   Kick ass; pink nail polish included.
   I would rather be dancing away.
   Only a Jewish boy, mom said.
   Most of my bones still intact.
   I like to lie. A lot.
   Fictional boys are far more appealing.
   Chocolate volcanos too close to land.

Thanks to Prof. Papernick and the students at BIMA for putting your whole self into six - and shaking it all about - one wonderful July morning.