Promoting Literacy with Cartoons, Comics, and Graphic Novels
Last night I presented my first ever webinar. It was the final session of our MLTI online conference Pictures Sounds Numbers Words and, I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive at first. Although I have attended many webinars, I had never conducted one and I really didn’t know what to expect.
I was fortunate to have a few factors in my favor that made this a really enjoyable experience. My session was the last of a four-day event so I was able to attend several others first and get a real feel for environment. I had a pretty good idea of what would work for me and what wouldn’t and I had plenty of time to practice.
We promoted the conference through our various social networking sites so by the time I had tweeted it and written about it on Facebook, most of my colleagues and friends were aware of it. As the session was starting and I scanned down the list of attendees, I saw that they were mostly members of my huge MLTI network. It was like having a conversation with a group of old friends.
Of course, another factor that made it easy was the great content. I was able to talk for an hour about something I really believed in – that comics have a place in a well-rounded literacy program. As I watched the chat room fill with great ideas from the participants, it hit me. We’re finally allowing students to talk in class! Although we all know that learning is social, and discussion is powerful, teachers still ask students to be silent and give their full attention while the teacher is talking. It just seems too distracting to allow side conversations but in this webinar, the side conversations made the content so much richer.
If you’re interested in watching me and my friends talk about comics and literacy, check out the recording of this session and, while you’re there, drop in on some of the others.
Pictures Sounds Numbers Words
MLTI is offering an online conference for educators, May 4-7. This is an exciting new venture for us. For the first time we are running a conference that includes no face-to-face workshops; everything is online.
Former Maine Governor Angus King will be the keynote speaker, opening the conference on Monday, May4. There are 28 sessions scheduled for the four days of the conference – something for everyone. Registration is not required but is encouraged. To receive a certificate for contact hours you must pre-register.
My session Promoting Literacy with Cartoons, Comics and Graphic Novels will be the last one on Thursday night. This will be my first webinar and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to reach a larger audience than I would with a traditional face-to-face workshop. The one-hour time frame may be a challenge for me, but I want to make the participants aware of the possibilities, with the hope that they will follow-up with some hands-on work on their own.
As we were discussing how to market this, I came across a tool that has some possibilities for story-telling with comic characters. (Thanks, David P.) Xtranormal is a tool for easily making movies from a your written script. While it can’t really be classified as a comic creator, it serves the same purpose. I like it because it allows those students who may not have strong drawing skills to create a visual piece using their writing. If you create an account, you can save your movies on the Xtranormal site, or you can export them to a YouTube site.
As I was trying it out I had the online conference on my mind so that became the content for my first movie:
I attended the MLTI Summer Institute in Castine last week and my 3-hour session on Promoting Literacy with Cartoons, Comics and Graphic Novels went well. The participants were a very diverse group of teachers but I think everyone left with some ideas for introducing comics and graphic novels into their curricula. Mark, one of the participants, live blogged the session using Cover It Live and you can see the results on his Cooked on Education blog.
I distributed a NoteShare notebook that is now available on the ACTEM NoteShare server. If you have NoteShare, you can view and download it there. (Contact me if you need directions.) If you don’t have NoteShare you can view it in your browser. It’s in the Barbara Greenstone Collection and it’s named teach_comics. The password is actem.
I think the most powerful part of the session was Andrew’s Monster Party comic. It’s a 6-page “silent comic” that tells a simple story. Here’s the first page:
I wanted to display it on the wall in the room as well as in the NoteShare notebook so I uploaded each page to the Block Posters site and blew it up to 4 sheets (portrait) by 4. I printed it and then mounted each page on a 30″ x 40″ foam board so I had six big panels which I lined up on the tray of this huge white board that stretched along one wall of the room. That got everyone’s attention.
We spent a long time talking about all the possibilities for using wordless comics. We brainstormed a word list to use as a word well and then everyone took some time to write the story. We then talked about the 6 traits of writing in the context of the stories they wrote. You could also use a comic like this to teach vocabulary to ESL students or in a foreign language class.
The teachers loved it so I suggested to Andrew that he create more of these silent comics. We’ll see if he takes my advice…
In the fall of 2006 the Maine Learning Technology Initiative distributed new iBooks to all 7th and 8th grade teachers and students, replacing the four-year-old devices of the first deployment. These new laptops had some new software. One new title was Comic Life. I had seen it and even played with it a little beforehand but I really started thinking about it when it became available to everyone.
If you haven’t seen it, go to the Plasq site and take a look. It’s a tool that allows you to create comics using images from your photo collection. I knew right away that kids were going to love this but I wanted to have some solid rationale for having kids create comics (other than it’s fun). It turned out that there are lots of good reasons for using Comic Life in school and I’ll talk more about this in future posts.
Because of the sequential nature of comic art it became clear that teachers and students could use comics when explaining processes. Teachers could use it to demonstrate step-by-step directions. Students could use it as an alternative to the written science lab report. I needed an example of this so I turned to my resident artist (my son) and asked him to create a comic in Comic Life that would demonstrate a process and I suggested it would be cool if he used his drawings rather than photos. He agreed and made this little comic about how to make a comic with your own drawings:
Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.