Fifth-graders complete a special project, capturing grade-school memories in six words

For students in West Linn, the 2013-14 school year is over. For students who are transitioning to a new school level — preschoolers to kindergarten, fifth-graders to middle school, eighth-graders to middle school — the last days of school are filled with equal parts nostalgia, excitement and nervousness.

Tori Hamachek, a student teacher at Cedaroak Park Primary School, figured out a way to draw upon the first two emotions as a way to ease symptoms of the third. She led her class of fifth-graders to create six-word memoirs, inviting each student to capture a special memory of the Cedaroak years.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - From left, fifth-graders Joseph Kearney, Alexis Walker and Carmen Henry  Buckley pose with their six-word memoirs at Cedaroak Primary School. They worked with student teacher Tori Hamachek to use six words and a photo to capture a special Cedaroak memory before they head to middle school next fall.Hamachek’s students began by studying a variety of memoirs, including poems, children’s books, short stories and chapter books. Then they discussed six-word memoirs.

“The six-word memoirs were inspired by Ernest Hemmingway,” Hamachek said. “He was challenged to write a powerful story using 10 words or less.”

Hemmingway’s famous example was “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

“The class discovered that a six-word memoir prompts the author to select words packed with meaning and description,” Hamachek said. “The students each wrote a six-word memoir about their experience at Cedaroak Park Primary. With thesauruses at their side the students diligently searched to find powerful words that would encompass emotion and paint a picture for the reader.”

“It was pretty difficult, because you had to figure out which words were most descriptive,” student Joseph Kearney said. His memoir, “Write. Publish. One author. One book,” encapsulated an assignment that he found especially meaningful.

Classmate Carmen Henry Buckley’s six-word memoir turned out to be about the very idea of capturing fleeting memories. “Don’t forget memories, cherish them,” she wrote.

“It’s not easy. It’s really hard if it’s only six words,” Carmen said.

The project was made more difficult by the fact that many of the students were new to the memoir genre. A few words from Hamachek helped the students find their bearings.

“Ms. H always said ‘memoirs’ sounds like ‘memories,’” Carmen explained. “Memoirs were a new thing. I’d never heard that word.”

She considered the project a success.“It really helped create another memory from Cedaroak that I will never forget,” she said.

Alexis Walker chose to write about her experience competing on Oregon Battle of the Books, or OBOB, a reading and remembering competition. The six words she chose: “Four friends, 16 books, silver medal.”

“You want (readers) to keep making their own story in their own mind.”

“After writing their six-word memoirs, the students went on a photography tour around the school and took photos to illustrate their memoirs,” Hamachek said. “The fifth grade students felt the project was a meaningful opportunity for reflection on the primary school experience as they prepare to enter middle school.”

“It really refreshed a lot of memories of Cedaroak that you forgot you remembered,” Joseph said.

The students planned to hold on to their six-word memoirs as they prepare to enter Rosemont Ridge Middle School in the fall.

“At first you’re on top of the food chain, and you just go back down,” Alexis said, describing the experience of heading from fifth grade to sixth.

“Now we have to start all over,” Joseph said.

“Say you’re having a hard time in sixth grade. You can always remember the good times you had,” Carmen said. “Some of the future fifth-graders, it might remind them that everything will be OK in middle school. It’s not going to be scary.”

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
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