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Creative Writing for Teens: The Six-Word Memoir Challenge

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Sometimes I stumble upon an idea or story that sparks a creative teaching idea to use with my homeschool writing students. The story of Ernest Hemingway’s six-word memoir was one of those stories that lead to a memorable and fun creative writing project for the teens.

As soon as I read the story of the original six-word memoir, I knew I could create a short but fun writing project with this idea.

Write six word memoirs with your teens and kids.

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Writing a Six-Word Memoir with Teens

According to legend, Ernest Hemingway was challenged to write a novel in six words.  He responded, “For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never worn.”  And thus, the six-word memoir was born.

I decided this would be the perfect challenge for my writing students.

Of course, I was pretty sure that coming up with six words to summarize their entire life might be a bit challenging, so instead we decided to do a shorter time period and write one each day.

Introducing the Six Word Memoir

We discussed a few published six-word memoirs from some of the books below. I did preview the books to select specific ones to share with the group because these books aren’t meant for children. Some of the memoirs referred to topics that might not be appropriate for your kids, select examples wisely.

Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure by Rachel Fershleiser
The Best Advice in Six Words: Writers Famous and Obscure on Love, Sex, Money, Friendship, Family, Work, and Much More by Larry Smith
It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure by Larry Smith

We read several examples and discussed the power of the six words chosen in each one. Each six-word memoir told us much more about the emotions and feelings of the writer. We could infer more about the situation than what we saw on the page.

Six-Word Memoir Challenge for Teens

After a great discussion about several examples in the books listed above, I offered a challenge to my students.

I challenged the students to write a six-memoir about their day for two weeks: Capture an event during your day or a feeling about your day in six words. Then repeat. For 2 weeks. See what you discover.

Instead of trying to capture a long period of time in six words, they could focus on one day and try to capture events from it in six words.

Just for fun, I bought each of them a moleskin journal where they could record their daily six-word memoir. If they wanted to write more than one, there would be plenty of space. The journal pages also allowed plenty of space to illustrate their entries.

Six-Word Memoirs: The Two Week Challenge

I decided to join the challenge and write my own six-word memoirs each day. It was such a creative and fun writing experience. I have to admit that I enjoyed it so much that I often wrote more than one. Capturing an event in six words was fun and challenging.

The best part is that if felt like something anyone could complete and enjoy.

I don’t have permission to share the student’s writing, but here is a sample of my own two week challenge.

Sat at park for writing class.

Two periscope fails. Third finally succeeded.

Book Club. No one likes Amy. (*note, we were reading, Little Women)

Being Effie again. I love this.


Effie’s last appearance. Ready for sweats.

Middle schoolers. They know Effie immediately.

Making Christmas gifts. Time is short.

First teenager. Melting Pot. Wonderful night.

Soccer in the rain? Sent Daddy.

A day with no agenda. Fantastic.

Science. Fossil. Museum. Friends. Muffin. Home.

Uncle’s Birthday. Missed our FaceTime call.

Hotel for the night. Special treat.

Outback with friends. Love this bread.

Jamestown. Colonial Playground. Please touch everything

Powhatan Indians. James Fort. Three Ships.

History comes alive. Stay and Play.

If: Local. Talks. Friends. Lunch. Jesus.

Six year old soccer. Too cold.

MVP rides home with me. Sweet.


Six Word Memoir Video Chat

The six-word memoir was the topic of one of my periscope chats, which is now available on YouTube:

Give it a go with your kids for a week. I bet you’ll love what everyone comes up with.


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