How to read...and create...a Graphic Novel Panel

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SWBAT demonstrate their ability to analyze text for theme and style by using Persepolis as a model text similar for their own writing.

Big Idea

Reading a graphic novel is very different than reading a traditional narrative text. Understanding the various tools a writer/artist utilizes will help to create deeper comprehension of a graphic text.

Review of Syllabus and Classroom Norms

5 minutes

We will start class today with a brief overview of our syllabus. We are required to have a common syllabus across the building, so there are very few things that should be surprising to students about what we present, but we will make sure to highlight our grading policies and a few other classroom procedures. 

Due to the integrated format of my classroom, my teaching partner and I have to negotiate our classroom rules to make sure that both of us is comfortable with how things run each day. I tend to be much more flexible when I teach by myself, but I appreciate the structure that he likes to work within, so our classroom this year will be much more rigid than my other classes might look. 

Reading graphic text overview activity

20 minutes

Today we will dive into our first class text, Persepolis. This book is a graphic novel about the Iranian revolution of the 1970s/1980s and is told from the perspective of a ten year old girl. My teaching team decided to use this text as our first text of the year to ease students into complex world issues through a very easy to understand piece of narrative non-fiction.

However, most students are not familiar with how to read a graphic novel, so today, we will introduce students to the tools and techniques used in creating a graphic novel. To do this, we will do a quick, whole class analysis of four comics. As we look at each visual text, I will ask student to take note of the stylistic choices each author/artist is making so that we can discuss the characteristics of this genre in coming days.

This is all to say that I think it is good to start out the year with a book that students can find immediate success with. Spending time with genre specific vocabulary will help us to talk about this text with some common vocabulary for authorial technique that might not be as concrete/familiar as the language we use to discuss a traditional narrative. 


Persepolis panel analysis

15 minutes

Next, I will have students practice analyzing single panels of graphic text. To do this, I will hand out a photocopied copy of the first page of Persepolis, which introduces us to our narrator, Marji, and gives us a little context about her life and the setting of the book. We won't actually start reading Persepolis until early next week, but we will be working with graphic texts over the next few days, so I am using these panels to begin our discussions for continuity. 

As we analyze these panels, I will write key vocabulary, which my teaching team and I found on, and which we'll use to make sure all the 10th grade students are learning similar terms for describing graphic novels (L.9-10.3). I will have students take notes so they have appropriate terms for annotating their own texts once we dive into reading the book.

I will let the students spend about ten minutes really reading and analyzing the text for structure and authorial purpose (RI.9-10.3). As this is likely a new skill (or a skill they learned last year and have forgotten in their summer malaise), I will ask them to think about why Satrapi might start her book the way she does. I will also ask them to think about what the author chooses to include on the page and in the text boxes, which will hopefully point them towards an answer to what Satrapi might be trying to do.

I anticipate that there are some who are going to complain that there isn’t anything to annotate and/or speed through this ten minutes. I will walk around and push them to look more specifically at the text reminding them that there is more there than they are used to reading. Here is a great (graphic!) example of some things you as a teacher might be able to push students to look for/think about when reading graphic texts. 

Once ten minutes is up, we will share out as a whole group. I will ask the students to add to their annotations or observations based on what the other students are saying and ask them to make predictions about the way the book is going to read based on what they see on the first page. 

Personal Panel Creation

10 minutes

To wrap up class today, I will ask students to create their own panels (W.9-10.3) modeled after the first page of Persepolis. These panels should include a picture of them as a ten year old child and include a brief description of a significant memory or contextualization of their life at that time, just like Satrapi provides on the first page of her memoir.

These panels will hopefully give me a chance to get to know my students a little more as well as providing me with an opportunity to gauge their understanding of the graphic novel genre.

Additionally, it will help me to learn who my artists are and to learn about their personalities as I see what they chose to draw from their childhood. I will also be using these panels in an upcoming lesson to review rhetorical technique as I ask students to reflect on why they chose to draw/write what they did. 

Wrap Up and Next Steps

5 minutes

We will use the last few minutes of class to clean up and to remind students of their homework, which is to finish their panels and to get their video release forms signed.