It’s early Saturday morning and I’m finally finding a minute to reflect on the annual ACTEM Conference where I presented this week. One of my sessions was Promoting Literacy with Comic Life and, I must admit, I was feeling uneasy about it. It was a one-hour session and I’m finding it harder and harder to do a good session in that short time period. I’m also fighting a cold and had two other sessions to prepare so I was afraid I was giving it short shrift. In a one-hour session, with as many people as I had in the room (I’m guessing around 50 or 60) I couldn’t really give them a hands-on experience so I opted to talk more about the “why” than the “how.”
I distributed my Promoting Literacy with Cartoons, Comics, and Graphic Novels notebook which now resides on the ACTEM server as a web notebook as well as a downloadable NoteShare notebook. We talked a lot about teaching with comics in general before we turned to a discussion of Comic Life. The crowd was very receptive to the idea of using images and text, both as a medium for conveying content and another way for students to demonstrate their learning. Once again, I found two subgroups among the participants who really get it: librarians and foreign language teachers. I think librarians, for the most part, understand that comics and graphics novels are legitimate reading material and they belong in their collections. Foreign Language teachers (and ESL teachers) have always used images for teaching vocabulary and they know how powerful dialog combined with pictures can be.
When it came time to talk about Comic Life, I wanted to do something different so we attempted to make a comic of Act I, Scene ii of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s the scene where Quince has gathered all his players to begin working on the play they will perform for the duke. I had my colleague Phil help me, and we got some volunteers to wear various hats and took a bunch of pictures of them in various poses. We downloaded the pictures to iPhoto and then opened Comic Life and began making a comic of the scene, translating the Elizabethan language into modern English. It would have been better if I had a longer period of time to do it but I think they got the idea.
The best part of the session was when I asked the participants for ideas they had for using Comic Life. We always learn from the collective wisdom of the group.