According to legend, Hemingway was challenged to write a six-word story. On occasion, I think there is merit in this kind of exercise, whether it is with six words or as a 140-character Tweet. This type of format has the power to generate some surprisingly creative work, while at the same time lending itself to the use of technology to create and share the writing.
Some six-word projects focus on a memoir. Watch this PowerPoint slideshow posted to YouTube by a group of 9th graders. Or perhaps you would like to have students write on a particular topic or an idea relevant to your group. NPR reported on a high school’s six-word stories on segregation. Depending on your own learning objectives, student level and topic of interest, you might want to adapt the following ideas for doing six-word memoirs with your class.
- Warm Up: First introduce the topic by discussing what a memoir is. Ask learners how long it would take them to tell the class, orally, their story. Challenge them to think of ways to shorten it. Ask them for if they could they do it in 5 minutes. What information would they need to leave out? Perhaps there is one event in their life that is the most significant and epitomizes their life? After discussing how they can distill their message, ask them to make it short enough to be told in a long elevator ride! Now have students break into pairs and share their life stories with each other.
- Introduce six-word memoirs: Afterwards, debrief with them and then explain the lesson idea. To model, create your own or show some memoirs from NPR. (Keep in mind to select carefully, based on the reading level of your class.) Discuss with the class the process each person went through to create them. Suggest that students brainstorm in Word or on paper. Encourage them to add graphic ideas if and when they occur.
- Have students select one image (if they find it helpful) that brings together what they want to say. After they write six words, ask them to share it with at least one other person, or you. Each reader should give feedback about what they think the author means and provide any writing help they can offer.
- Have students create one PowerPoint slide with six words and the image. Encourage them to use fonts and colors creatively but appropriately.
- Decide on the method you want the slides to be shown. Either each person comes to the front and presents it on the projector (or even printed out) and explains the choice of words or the slides are compiled as a group to be shown to the class.
- Gamify it. Compile the slideshow without the names of students on the slides. Show each slide and then ask the class to guess which slide belongs to which student.
- Publish it. Upload your PowerPoints to YouTube or Slideshare.
- Record it. If microphones or video cameras are available, have students record their stories.