Classroom of the Month: John Ferry’s “Image and Form” class at Kansas City Art Institute

Prof. John Ferry: Mastering the “Art” of the Six-Word-Memoir

Back in 2016,  John Ferry, a professor at the Kansas City Art Institute, heard Six-Word Memoir founder Larry Smith talking about the popular short form of self-expression on NPR and inspiration struck.

“We can all come up with six words,” says Ferry. “It’s harder to make those six words really interesting and then add an artistic element.”

Ferry has implemented Six-Word Memoirs into his “Image and Form” class curriculum for the past eight years. [Ed. Note: Check out Ferry’s illustrated Six-Word Memoirs on the pandemic here, many of which were featured in our pandemic book]. Typically, Ferry will ask his students to write memoirs and create an illustration to accompany it. Other times, Ferry will task his students to draw what they want to write about before writing their memoir or write to a specific theme.

“It can be a good challenge to make them try to figure out how to create imagery for something that they’re struggling with,” says Ferry. “I want to do things that help build their confidence. The students really get into it, often even more than they even think.”

Although some of Ferry’s students also study writing for many the challenge of creating Six-Word Memoirs stands out from their art-based curriculum. Many students end up writing more memoirs than required. 

Ferry finds that this project would work well in a classroom at any level, with students of any age. He has seen his students’ confidence grow after writing and illustrating their Six-Word Memoirs. 

“They’re using their imagination to write these memoirs,” says Ferry. “I think it helps them utilize a different part of their creative brain to do the writing aspect of it [rather than only the illustration]. They’re really brave to put out something they may be unsure of. Students often surprise themselves, and the ones who get really engaged start enjoying writing as well.”

Teachers! Since we first launched The Six-Word Memoir Project, educators across the spectrum have found the six word format to be a terrific classroom assignment and catalyst for self-expression. At our Six in Schools section, we celebrate students’ work from classrooms around the world. Download one or all of our free teacher’s guides here. Email us at larry AT and share your classroom’s six-word journey and your students could be featured in a future Classroom of the Month.

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