Published 30th May 2019

EFL activity

For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Six words, one story. Legend has it that this six-word story was written by Ernest Hemingway. Apparently he bet his friends he could write an entire story in six words. Needless to say, he won the bet. Whether or not the story is true we’ll never know.

What we do know is that this is a very clever activity which we can easily use in the English as a Foreign Language classroom. Because it is only six words, students won’t feel overwhelmed by writing a story. There are no limitations to what they can write so they are free to express their creativity. The brevity of the exercise means that the actual writing won’t take long and more time can be spent on the creative process.

So how can you use six-word stories in your EFL classroom?

Introducing six-word stories as an EFL activity

Discussion

Write a few six-word stories on the board:

Only child, but never the favourite.

They lived happily ever after, separately.

Don’t marry her, warned Future Me.

Let the students discuss what they think the stories mean and who wrote them. There are no right or wrong answers – let the students speak freely.

Watch a video

Watch this TED Talk about six-word stories and give your students comprehension questions to answer as they watch. You can also use the talk to focus on any specific language point that would be relevant.

NOTE: Make sure you watch the video beforehand to make sure it is suitable for your learners. If it isn’t or if you don’t like the video, there are quite a few other videos on the topic.

Creative writing

Give your students time to write their own six-word stories. Here are a few ideas on topics:

  • Your own memoir
  • A famous person’s memoir
  • Topic-based e.g. fame, pollution, Christmas, secrets.
  • Word-based e.g. write a six-word story using the word orange/love/money

Half stories

Source six-word stories online. Cut them up so that a half of each story is written on a piece of paper. Give each student a piece of paper. Let the students mingle and find the other half of their story.

Six-word stories started out as a joke but have become a phenomenon. They are fascinating and thought-provoking and, as a result, a good source of classroom material. They are useful as both a source of discussion and a creative outlet, with the added bonus that there is a wealth of authentic materials available on the topic. Everything we could ask for in an EFL activity.

Six words. One story. Your turn.