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Lesson Plan

Exploring the Power of Language with Six-Word Memoirs

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Exploring the Power of Language with Six-Word Memoirs

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Cathy Allen Simon

Cathy Allen Simon

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



What do the words we write really have to say about us? In this lesson, students examine the power of word choice as they write six-word memoirs of their lives. After manipulating the language of their memoir with an interactive tool, students reflect on synonymous words that they have explored and choose the best one to use to tell the story of their lives.

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Word Matrix: This interactive allows students to explore the similarities and differences among words typically considered synonyms and encourages more precision in word choice in student writing.

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In "Register and Charge: Using Synonym Maps to Explore Connotation," Darren Crovitz and Jessica A. Miller argue that students' typical understanding of the word synonym as meaning "'a word that means the same as another word'" is "at best an oversimplification and at worst a way to end thinking about what words actually signify" (49). They advocate for investigations into language and word groups to allow students to discover that "the subtlety of just how and to what extent [words are] similar makes all the difference when it comes to choosing the best word for a given purpose" (49). This lesson encourages students to explore the subtleties of shifting connotation and meaning affected by word choice.

Further Reading

Crovitz, Darren, and Jessica A. Miller. "Register and Charge: Using Synonym Maps to Explore Connotation." English Journal 97:4.  (March 2008): 49-55.

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