Lesson: Understanding Comics (and Graphic Novels)

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Lesson Objective

SWBAT understand that comics and graphic novels have a long history, exist in several cultures, and can have complicated meanings and styles

Lesson Plan

 Lesson Name: A Comic Book About Comic Books! Course: High School Language Arts by Anke al-Bataineh

Objective:   SWBAT understand that comics and graphic novels have a long history, exist in several cultures, and can have complicated meanings and styles

Essential Questions: (write on board)
What are the definitions of “comic books” and “graphic novels”?
Are comic books and graphic novels all the same?
Are they easy to make?
Do they only tell simple stories for little kids?

Materials:
“Understanding Comics” by Scott McCloud
teacher-made transparencies or projections of pages
copies of pages to be read (or class set of book)
projection of jeopardy game

Anticipatory Set: (5 minutes)
(Display several graphic novels to be used in course)
Introduce use of graphic novels in course
Create KWL about graphic novels (preserve for display and completion)

Input: (5 minutes)

Introduce vocab: “graphic”
What does this mean? (pictorial)
It has another connotation (vocab word!) that means really violent or gory, but when we say “graphic novel” we mean it has pictures for every event.

Explain that this book is to help us understand the books we are going to read on a deeper level, and also why we are using them. Each group will read the assigned pages of a chapter and then will present the answers to the Key Questions to the whole class, so we can all understand the whole book. The ideas are complex, so we will have to use the pictures and ask for help when we get confused. We will read the first chapter together to get the first idea and make sure everyone knows how to follow a comic book.

Guided Practice: (20 minutes)
Read as a class with projection of pages (when possible) 2-5, 10-15. This defines graphic storytelling and traces it through history.
Ask “How would the invention of printing change the use of graphic stories?” (brief discussion of ideas)

Group Work: (25 minutes)
Assign groups for each subsequent chapter. These should have heterogeneous reading levels as much as possible, but the Chapter 2 should be assigned to those with the highest collective vocabulary, Chapter 5 to the lowest. If any chapter is to be omitted, I recommend Chapter 7 as it is pretty hard to grasp. Groups of 2-3 are recommended. Distribute books or copies of relevant pages. Distribute relevant questions and page transparencies or slides to be used as visual aides. Establish expectations and time limits. No presentation should be longer than 5 minutes.

Groups read pages and answer questions as follows:
Chapter 2: The Vocabulary of Comics
Read pages 24-31, 42-45
What is the definition of “icon”?
What are three different kinds of icons?
What is the definition of “abstraction”?
Why is abstraction important in comics (rather than everything looking realistic)?
Use visual aide: page 30

Chapter 3: Blood in the Gutter (FYI, this is graphic, but not graphic)
Read pages 60-67, 70-74
What is the definition of “closure”?
Why is closure important in comics?
What is the definition of “transition”?
What are three different kinds of transitions? How are their effects different?
Use visual aide: pages 70-71

Chapter 4: Time Frames
Read pages 94-117
How can frames of pictures be related to time?
What are some ways comic artists can show time?
What are some ways comic artists can show motion?
Use visual aide: page 114

Chapter 5: Living in Line
Read pages 118-135
How can lines show emotion?
Explain five kinds of line and what emotions they show.
Use visual aide: pages 118-119

Chapter 6: Show and Tell
Read pages 136-157
Why are words important in comic books?
Why are pictures important in comic books?
What are three different ways that authors and artists combine words and pictures?
Use visual aide: pages 153-154

Chapter 7: The Six Steps
Read pages 162-184
Explain each of the six stages of art creation and what each means.
What are three ways the stages could be different from artist to artist?
What are the idea/purpose and form of this book?
Use visual aide: page 162

Chapter 8: A Word About Color (this group will need to read a color copy of the book)
Read pages 185-192
Why does color matter in graphic novels?
Name at least two reasons why some graphic artists don’t use color?
What are some ways color can affect a reader’s experience?
Use visual aide: page 187

Class Discussion: (40 mins)
Each group presents in approximately 2-4 minutes. Audience takes notes on main ideas.

Re-divide the class so that there are two teams and each team has some members who read each chapter.
Play Jeopardy with two teams. I prefer never to offer a prize in order to reduce competitive behavior. Students are usually very motivated nonetheless.
To be projected: Game Board
Setting the Record Straight The Vocab. of Comics Closure and Transition Time Frames Living in Line Show and Tell Six Steps About Color
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To be projected: Questions
Setting the Record Straight The Vocab. of Comics Closure and Transition Time Frames Living in Line Show and Tell Six Steps About Color
Name one ancient culture that wrote stories in pictures What is an icon? What is a transition? Why don’t artists draw all the events in one frame? Why might an artist choose to draw in soft, thin, curvy lines? What does it mean if words are “interdependent” with pictures? Give an example of an artist’s idea/purpose. What is one reason an artist might not use color?
What is Scott McCloud’s definition of “comic books” Why do comic artists use abstraction so that faces look less realistic? What is the difference between action-to-action transitions and scene-to-scene? What is a motion line? What can an artist do to make lines seem severe or scary? What does it mean if words are “additive” to pictures? Give an example of an artist’s form. What are primary colors?
Why do Egyptian hieroglyphics not count as graphic stories? Explain why the picture that says “This is not a pipe” is actually not a joke. Correctly explain what closure is. What is the special Japanese way of showing intense motion? Explain 2 ways line communicates in this frame: http://fineartamerica.com/images-medium/marvel-free-comic-book-day-2007-david-nakayama.jpg What does it mean if words are in a “montage” with pictures? Give an example of an artist’s craft. Give an example of colors that are recognizable from a comic you know.
*
Conclusion/Assessment: (10 mins)
Students complete L section of KWL either through class discussion or by logging onto class blog and contributing posts. Students may write 1-4 sentences in response to essential questions in their Language Arts notebook/journal.


Lesson Reflection:

What went well?
Students had a great deal of prior knowledge about graphic novels, including their various cultural permutations. They had already discovered the basic idea of using comics to make literature accessible. They had good eyes for styles and artistic nuances.

What would you change?
The presentations, despite being short and highly scaffolded, were not very clear and generally lacked clarity. This is intended for an early-on lesson, but for future presentations, I will model in more detail what I expect. The boys had a hard time understanding each other's important ideas.

What needs explanation?
With so many low readers, there was a lot of vocabulary that they didn't know. In order to avoid having to frantically circulate and explain words, I would provide a definition guide for each chapter in the future.


Lesson Resources

ComicsJeopardy   Activity
645
ComicChapterAssignments   Activity
852
http://www.powells.com/biblio?inkey=1-9780060
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UnderstandingComics   Lesson Plan
953

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