Saying it all in six words | June 14, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - June 14, 2013

Saying it all in six words

Fifth-graders meet the challenge of writing ultra-brief memoirs

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Nothing brings out the power of words like limiting them.

To that end Sarah Landis gave her fifth-grade class at Valley View Elementary the assignment of drafting six-word memoirs as they finished up their school year -- and elementary school.

"They were actually hard because you had to put a lot of thought into it -- we had to describe our whole life in only six words," said class member Ben.

"We discussed the meaning of the word 'memoir,' and I shared why this style of writing is so valuable," said Landis. "We discussed how word choice matters, and telling our life story in only six words was a real challenge."

"You could have heard a pin drop as students drafted and drafted, selecting just the right words and checking to see that their memoir was meaningful and personal," she added.

"It seemed like it was gonna be so easy because I only had to write six words. Then I got started. It was hard!" said Ryan.

As they worked, most of the students came up with several versions.

"We eventually asked the students to select one, only one, to display on a word wall for others to enjoy," Landis said.

They met with their writing partners and selected the memoirs that best suited themselves.

Sarah explained that the assignment was hard for two reasons -- "word choice and then choosing just one to publish."

Parent volunteers Johanna Prevost and Carolyn Crosby took the selected memoirs home, printed them onto black, and created a memoir wall.

"The results are stunning," Landis said. "Their messages are powerful! Parents were in awe! And my students even impressed themselves."

Some of the six-word memoirs were:

"Don't be afraid to be kind."

"My walls crumble. My heart grows."

"Walk like you're wearing a crown."

"Dig deep. You will find me."

"I can only break my wall."

"Be strong and give back happiness."

The students were pleased with the results of the assignment.

"I liked how different each one was," Sophia said.

"I liked them because they were meaningful," her classmate Courtney added.

"It was a treat, a real treat, to see just how words can impact ourselves and others," Landis said. "The most important take away from this lesson was that students could really visualize how powerful our words are."


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