6-Word Challenges

This post is about short stories. Really short. Only some of them in language arts.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote a short story using only 6 words.

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

It is said that the story was the result of a bet with friends—who paid up. Hemingway thought it was one of his best.

The 6-word story is a unique and powerful art form. Wired magazine has published a number of 6-word stories from famous authors. Here are a few of my favorites, from the profound to the silly.

Failed SAT. Lost scholarship. Invented rocket.
William Shatner

K.I.A. Baghdad, Aged 18 – Closed Casket
Richard K. Morgan

Computer, did we bring batteries? Computer?
Eileen Gunn

Easy. Just touch the match to
Ursula K. Le Guin

You can join the fun. The Six Word Stories website brings together stories from famous authors and web readers—you can even submit your own.

The powerful thing about 6-word stories is they force the writer to choose carefully, focusing on the ideas that are most central. The same process can be used to create 6-word challenges in different curriculum areas.

  • Write new 6-word short story.
  • Practice descriptive writing by using a photo/picture prompt and write a six-word description, or a six-word story of something happening there.
  • Summarize a book or not-quite-as-short story into 6 words.
  • Write a 6-word character description.
  • Create a 6-word memoir, like the ones in Smith Magazine.  Add illustrations, like these from a 7th/8th grade teacher’s site. I especially like the burgler mouse. Thanks to Jeff, wherever you are!
  • How about a 6-word advertisement or campaign slogan? (I know, at this point in the U.S. elections, the thought makes me cringe!)

But what about other subjects?

  • Create 6-word descriptions of particular events or time periods in history (Taxes. Tea dumped. War. Constitution. Elections!)
  • Write a 6-word character description of a figure from history.
  • How about 6-word summaries of science concepts? (Sun’s energy, green producers, consumers follow).

The products may not be literary masterpieces, but hearing students’ explanations of how they chose particular words can provide powerful insight into their thinking and understanding.

  • What about a 6-line drawing instead? How could you challenge students to portray something in its most essential form?

What else could you do with the 6-word (or line) challenge?

One thought on “6-Word Challenges

  1. Pingback: High Tech Language Arts – 5th grade – Lesson summary | Karen T. Smith

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