Six-Word Story Image

Type of strategy: Drawing and ArtworkClosings and Wrap UpOpeners & Get to Know YouProcessingWriting and/or Reflection

Intended Audience: StudentsTeachers

Learning styles: EN: Extraversion and IntuitionES: Extraversion and SensingIN: Introversion and IntuitionIS: Introversion and Sensing

This concept has history that traces back to Ernest Hemingway. Legend says that Ernest Hemingway once won a bet that he could write a six-word story that could make people cry. This challenge is an exercise to help participants distill their learning into six short words to get at the true essence of what they are taking away.


Objective: To encourage participants to distill their wisdom into six words and get at a key learning from the training session.

Time: 5-15 minutes

Materials: Paper, writing instrument, or the Phonto app.


  1. Say, "there is a legend that Ernest Hemingway once won a bet by writing a six-word story that was so good that it made people cry. While I do not intend for us to cry at the end of this (unless you want to), I am going to challenge each of you to write a six-word story that captures the most important learning for you today. Try and make it as complete as possible but still allow for interpretation as people think about the words that you select."
  2. For those who would like to add challenge to this activity, use the Phonto app to include an image that paints a picture of your important learning. The image can be the backdrop for your six-word story.
  3. Clarify instructions.
  4. Allow time to collect image and/or write. 
  5. Have participants share their images in small groups.

Optional ways for participants to share: 

  • Use airplay ios devices (AppleTV, Reflector, etc) and invite a few to share their image to the whole group.
  • Participants can upload their image to a blog, LMS, Flickr or email.

Debrief: This may not require a debrief as the participants' words are intended to be the closing ideas for a session or a piece of content before break. If you care to debrief, here are a few ideas:

  1. What words jumped out at you?
  2. What comments do you remember? 
  3. What was the challenge in writing this?
  4. What made it easy to get these words on the page?
  5. What stories had an impact on you?
  6. Are there barriers to having your story play out the way you'd like? What are they?
  7. What would be the impact if your story were implemented at work?



  1. Make this a carryover activity where you ask everyone to turn in their six-word story image. In 30 days, you can send a reminder to learners about the stories they submitted and see how they are doing in making that story come to life. This will give great anecdotal evidence of the training as well as be a powerful reminder.
  2. Use as an opener to share about what they hope to learn.
  3. Use as a revisiter of content you have taught.


"For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn." Hemingway's six word story.  This could be distracting to the activity purpose, you may or may not want to share.  You can find many six word stories online.


SCORE Volume 3: Super Closers, Openers, Revisiters, Energizers. Scott Enebo

Submitted by: Jennifer Arns