Six-Word Memoirs: A Gesher JDS Fifth-Grade Workshop

The fifth graders at Gesher Jewish Day School (Gesher JDS) have been working on family scrapbooks and learning to tell their stories in engaging ways. After providing some comments on my son’s work in progress, I realized that PJ Library had provided me with a tool that could help his class, too.

A few years ago, I received a copy of “Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish Life.” I became an immediate fan of this technique to communicate ideas and stories and I soon began to contribute my own creations to the Six-Word Memoirs website. One of my submissions was included in the recently-published volume, “Six Words Fresh Off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity, and Coming to America.” I should have known that my son would proudly tell his class about it, and soon fifth-grade teacher Arielle Nagle had invited me to introduce this approach to memoir writing to the class.

I arrived with notes in hand and a chart of strategies that we’d developed in advance. We talked about why we use six words, we examined a few contributions from the “Jewish Life” book, and the students helped me with my own memoir. During their independent work time, I was able to work one-on-one to talk through some word choices, help them re-arrange, and offer strategies to fit just one more idea into their six words. The students wrote about immigration, allergies, music, and food, among other unexpected topics. It was a window into their minds and not just an exercise in writing.

I highly recommend visiting the Six-Word Memoirs website. Even if you are not interested in submitting anything, there is always something interesting to read. But I also highly recommend volunteering at your kid’s school. Not every topic or skill will be a great fit for a guest instructor, but make yourself available and you may just find yourself invited to partner in the classroom. I thank Ms. Nagle for inviting me, and the children for being so attentive and creative and their help getting me to my own six-word memoir:

“Ballpark wedding. Score: two Little Leaguers.”

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