How to use “Six-Word Slams” to Build Classroom Community

Among the six word format’s many superpowers is how sharing brief stories creates connection.

This is never more true than when our stories are honest, personal, and authentically ours. All the elements that make for strong storytelling are the same elements that make for powerful Six-Word Memoirs.

I’ve had the pleasure of leading many classrooms in “Six-Word Slams” – our fast and fun versions of poetry slams in which everyone shares a six word story about their life. We often start with the classic question, “What’s your Six-Word Memoir?” and then I ask the students to shout out other prompts. Someone almost always suggests, “Something you don’t know about me!” As students share these surprisingly playful, and often quite heartfelt revelations, near-instant (and often unexpected) bonds are made.

And it all happens in a matter of minutes.

Here are a few ways to try this popular Six-Word Memoir prompt with your class, and hold your own "Six-Word Slam."

This exercise activates students’ critical thinking skills by inviting them to evaluate where they see current social, political, and technological trends heading.

Learning Objectives
  Increase self-awareness
  Foster agency and confidence 
  Bolster connection

Activity
  Prep time: 5 minutes
  Task time: 20 minutes

Elementary School: What’s one thing you don’t know about:
  My family (“Two brothers, two sisters, not kidding.”)
  My secret talent (“I can whistle with my fingers.”)
  A funny piece of my life (“The cat only sleeps with me.”)

Middle School:
What’s one thing you don’t know about:
•  My secret passion (“My mind soars making paper airplanes.”)
  A guilty pleasure (“Family night is secretly my favorite.”)
  A personal quirk (“I only tell truth in journals.”)

High School: What’s one thing you don’t know about:
•  My secret dream (“Am constantly contemplating joining the circus.”)
•  Something most people don’t know I can do (“Learned to paint with my toes.”)
• An unusual fear (“Octopus are my number one fear.”)

Follow-Up Activity
In pairs or small groups, have students read their six words on “One thing you don’t know about me” and then share a short backstory aloud.

And remember: Include your own Six-Word Memoirs in the mix. Even one small, surprising nugget that your students don’t know about your life can bring new and meaningful connections between you and your students.

Want to try the Six-Word lesson plan?
Students across the country have experienced the joy of becoming published authors when they’ve created a Six-Word Memoir book with their classmates.

Try the lesson plan by clicking the button below 👇 and if you like we can turn what your students create into a book!

Written By:

Larry Smith

Big Hair, Big Heart, Big Hurry.

Founder of Six-Word Memoirs

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