This fall, students in grade 9 humanities set out to create their own comic book. To accomplish this, and help them understand comic book/graphic novel techniques, a comprehensive unit of study was created. Below are the steps and stages completed, with the attempt of personalizing learning for all students.
Step 1: Introduction
The following comic that a student teacher had found was placed on the SmartBoard:
Students were given several minutes in their table group to talk about what they see. Response varied, but included:
- different reactions to getting out of bed
- a boy excited for summer vacation, but not for school
- mom has to “bug” the boy to get out of bed
- fun versus school
Then, the following script was added to the slide, and the students were asked to revise their responses to what they saw:
Responses improved, with students becoming more critical of their examination:
- We know it is summer in the first frame because the trees have leaves. It is not summer in the second because the trees do not have leaves.
- We know the sun is brighter in the first frame because its rays go farther into the sky
- We see baseball clothing on the chair in the first frame.
- The lines around the boy and his smile in the first frame show excitement to get out of bed. The boy has a from in the second slide.
- The thought bubbles are dreams the boy is having.
- The message is that the boy is more motivated to get out of bed in the summer than for school
Step 2: Elements of a Comic Book
Lesson two involved students learning the various elements of a comic book including:
- Word balloons
- Thought balloons
- Open panel
- Narratory block
- Splash page
- Sound effect
Examples of each of these were placed on the SmartBoard to provide a visual, much like the example below.
Step 3: Applying New Knowledge
To reinforce the learning in step two, I pulled a variety of comics and graphic novels from the learning commons and had students work in partners to identify all the comic elements. I reviewed the resources in advance to ensure they all include the elements address, and varied the reading level of the choices. Students worked in partners, and I circulated to check in with each group. If students finished quickly, I had them swap with another group.
Step 4: Digging Deeper
To provide a framework for examining cartoons, the following framework was generated and provided to students. If you would like a copy of this, please contact me:
Using this guideline, we examined the following comic from a previous ELA 9 PAT exam, and then, as a class, answered the corresponding PAT questions:
Once this was complete, students were required to go through the process with a second sample from a PAT exam. They wrote their answers on tabletop whiteboards with a partner. I circulated and checked for understanding.
Again, the corresponding questions were placed on the SmartBoard for students to answer. Students reported getting more answers correct the second time.
Step 5: Need to Know Vocabulary
As a must, we reviewed our key literary vocabulary. We did this as a jigsaw.
A sample of the jigsaw is illustrated below:
Step 6: SEXC Paragraph
At this point, it was time to ask students for a writing sample. What better way to do this than to ask students to write about their favourite superhero power? First, they were taught the “SEXC” paragraph structure.
Students were then given the following Hero/Villain paragraph task that corresponded with three ELA9 curricular outcomes:
- 3.1.1 Synthesize ideas and info from a variety of sources to develop own opinions and general impressions
- 3.3.3 Develop coherence by relating all key ideas to the overall purpose of the print text
- 3.3.6 Choose specific vocabulary and use conventions accurately and effectively to enhance credibility
Step 1: Fill out the following chart for three super heroes or villains by using the links below for research. You should have 3 pros and 3 cons for each power. (Complete in Word or use separate paper; your choice).
- Marvel heroes (set up like Wikipedia) http://marvel.com/universe
- DC heroes (2 page comics that explain origins) http://www.dccomics.com/dcu/heroes_and_villains/?hv=origin_stories/
Step 2: Choose the power you think would be the best to have from your selections above (either to fight crime, create crime, or just in general with your everyday life).
Step 3: Use the paragraph planner – or a different planning method of your choosing to create your outline with a topic sentence. You must show this pre-planning before your begin writing your paragraph.
Step 4: Write a fabulously well-written and well-constructed paragraph (not an essay) below that follows the SEXC structure explaining why the power you chose would be awesome.
Step 7: Captain Canuck
For this task, students were assigned to reading groups and tasked with reading aloud the comic “Captain Canuck: Enter the Crime Stopper”. Once finished, on tabletop whiteboards, students had to identify the comic book elements used in the book and provide a page number so we know where you have found it. I checked this when complete. Then, with a partner, students were given a plot diagram and asked to plot out the storyline of the comic. This was to show they understand to the key elements required in a story.
Step 8: Creating the Comic
We finally have reached making our comics! Here, I provided a handout of the stages to making a comic, which I received from http://www.makingcomics.com/2014/01/16/overview-comic-creation-process/ . Then, students were given the following summative assessment:
Students were assessed using the following rubric:
Below are some screen shot exemplars from completed work. To personalize learning, I gave comic teams a myriad of options, including:
- complete all by hand, with or without the provided storyboard frames.
- Hand draw and then use Comic Life on either iPads or PC computers to upload & organize
- Stop motion photography – photos can be uploaded into Comic Life
- Tutorial links to Adobe Elements for photo editing
- One student completed a detailed script with no illustrations as he worked on his own.
Student results exceeded my expectations. Because this was their first time, the intent is to turn this into an interdisciplinary project in the spring, connecting to Science/Math/Social Studies. The same rubric would be used, as students are familiar with it. However, criteria directly related to content in the added disciplines cold be added.