...And if there's anything better than free comics, it's an entire day devoted to free comics!
Linda Layne reminded me earlier today that this coming Saturday, May 3rd is Free Comic Book Day. I don't know about you, but when someone mentions "free" and "comic book" in the same sentence, I get kind of excited.
However, before you rush out to your local comic book shop and begin emptying their racks into a large hockey bag, you might want to take a minute or two to find out how to get ready. The above video is a good place to start, and they're currently showing it on the mediabistro site.
As well, Linda gave me some excellent links to share with you. One is to the Free Comic Book Day Store Locator, while the other will get you ready to go with everything you need to know for a successful Saturday.
Those interested in why we have such a thing as Free Comic Book Day will want to check out the following mini-documentary:
Let us know if you have a really cool experience on Free Comic Book Day. If so, we'd love to blog about it for our readers!
Some Amazing Inventions by Some Amazing Students...
As an organization that has a passionate interest in visual narrative in education, and a love of all things that marry visual art with the written word, we're over the moon with the Doodle 4 Google contest. Cedar Creek Publishing sent me a tweet this morning about it and I went to the site to check out the artwork. Talk about phenomenal!
All of the entrants should be immensely proud of their work. The contest is divided into grade categories and has students redesigning the Google logo. Here are the rules for this year's contest, courtesy of Google!
This year's theme:
Okay, okay ... so who did we vote for?
There were so many wonderful illustrations, but these are the ones that Comics in Education voted for!
My Time Machine (K-3 Category)
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With time winding down to TCAF, please consider lending your support!
There's a Kickstarter on the go right now that really needs your support. It has less than two weeks remaining before it comes to a close, and requires additional funding in order to reac its goal. The 10th Annual Doug Wright Awards are once again part of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, but as Brad Mackay writes, these awards need financial support from the public to be done in the manner they deserve.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Doug Wright Awards, they are given to Canadian creators of comics in a celebration of excellence that honours the best comics and graphic novels the country has to offer. Here's how Brad describes it.
Founded in 2005, The Doug Wright Awards were established as a way to honour the legacy of the iconic Canadian cartoonist Doug Wright (1917-1983) by publically recognizing the best in Canadian comics and graphic novels. Wright, whose strip Doug Wright’s Family graced newspapers from the late 1940s to the early 1980s, was arguably the most recognized Canadian cartoonist of the mid-twentieth century. A proud Canadian, Wright managed to reflect the aspirations and anxieties of a generation through his wordless panels.
Although Canada has long been fertile ground for comics, the non-profit Wright Awards quickly became a way to bring wider recognition to the art form while fostering a larger sense of community.
Never underestimate what the visual can do in planning a major writing task
When it comes to planning out a major assessment task, like the International Baccalaureate's Extended Essay--a piece of persuasive prose that is 4000 words long--have a look at what a student at The York School did in planning out her paper on the character of John Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories. The great thing about the visual here is not that it simply beautifies the planning process. Rather, it gives the student an opportunity to mull things over as they write, create, make connections, and attempt to articulate an approach to the essay.
The next time you have students engage in a visual brainstorming activity, get them to consider what they are thinking in the moments when they are "merely" drawing. Chances are they are thinking about a wealth of different ideas and considering how to make additional connections among them.
Their doodling, after all, is just the hand's way of expressing how hard at work the brain really is.
A Way to Say Thanks for Visiting Comics in Education!
Teachers are free to make copies and distribute to students who are dealing with the challenges of knowing Shakespeare and his work better. And feel free to share with colleagues as well. Hope you enjoy the scribbles: I've attached them here both as jpegs and as a pdf file.
(Your students might be amused by this animated version of Stevenson's story -- from Australia -- that came out exactly 100 years after the novel).
After all, in a graphic organizer we've already put the box there...
I'm especially fond of one title in the series: Margaret Atwood's "This is a Photograph of Me" and "Girl and Horse, 1928," probably because I teach a unit on Atwood's poetry to Grade 11 students in the IB program at The York School in Toronto.
For the Atwood unit, we study recurring motifs and themes in her poetry, with a culminating assessment that involves students creating a visual piece that speaks to the same motifs and themes we explore in her poetry.
However, what happened on a subsequent assignment absolutely floored me. Kersti chose to interpret Atwood's "Flying Inside Your Own Body," a poem that discusses the freedom a woman enjoys when she dreams and the rather terrifying reality she inhabits when she awakens. When Kersti stood up, this is what she showed us
Then, to the surprise of everyone, she opened the painting...
So, this is why we teach visual narrative in the classroom. This is why we celebrate it...
...And this is why I started a website called Comics in Education.
Course Management Software Can Provide a "Visual Narrative" for Your Course
1. Be Visual with Your Lesson Plan
2. Go Multimedia
I like to follow that up, though, with something they find a great deal more serious (and thoroughly compelling, by the way). The trailer for Frontline's documentary, "Storm over Everest."
3. Allow Students to See Themselves on Your Class Site
First the video...
Then the reflection...
Martian Comics is an ambitious new sci-fi comic that’s the brainchild of Sequart’s Julian Darius and Kevin Thurman. It features a Darick Robertson cover and interior art by Sergio Tarquini. Interior colors are by R.L. Campos, cover colors by Diego Rodriguez, and lettering by Colin Bell.
The comic’s main story, entitled “The Girl from Mars,” stars Izzy Montoya. In life, she’s a disaffected college student. In her dreams, she’s a four-armed, blue-skinned Martian, living in a utopian paradise of technology and personal freedom -- except that she’s used to it and is also disaffected. As Izzy's dreams continue, she witnesses her other self using technology to possess a human… and realizes she’s that human. She’s being possessed. For no better reason than this Martian wants a vacation.
I know the Kickstarter landscape can be pretty busy these days, but that's why it's important to identify something worth supporting and then make sure it gets the funding it needs...
...something like Martian Comics!
When It Comes to Plath, It's Going to Be Pretty Intense...
Being a Victorianist, Plath is not exactly in my wheelhouse, but it just goes to show that when you allow your thoughts to be rendered and transcribed in a way that's comfortable you at least end up asking some pretty decent questions of the text. I like the notion that the environs of a hospital ward are akin to those of a museum in the way we respond to them. I also think that Plath introduces certain turns of phrase that are decidedly double-edged (Margaret Atwood and Emily Dickinson would both approve in this regard, I think).
Enjoy the visual brainstorming and see where you might have interpreted, responded to, or interacted differently with the poem. Plath is a complex, intense, allusive, and exceptionally challenging poet, so be forewarned!
You choose the poem, and I annotate!
Next up, I think we're going to lighten the mood with some Sylvia Plath. Look for "Morning Song" in an upcoming post!
Here's what I'm proposing...
In the coming weeks, look for posts with the hastag #edcomics and use the handy green button on the blog sidebar to follow these posts. If you want to post a message with the hashtag included, click the thin Twitter button that lets you tweet to #edcomics.
There are lots of individuals in the Twitterverse who are "Founders" of their respective educational hashtags. That, to me, sounds like a lot of responsibility. I guess if anyone asks, you can identify Comics in Education as merely the "Suggester."
This is the kind of project Kickstarter was made for!
So, on the final day of its campaign, Noir City #2 needs your help. It's Kickstarter is close to being realized, but with so little time remaining it's not clear if it will manage to achieve its modest goal of $4500. This is where you come in. First, though, check out the pitch from Noir City #2 campaign architect, Cody Walker.
Great Characters Often Come with Great Traditions
In having my class visually brainstorm characters from the medieval stage and from the Commedia dell'Arte tradition, I was pleased that Gillian chose the Harlequin. Here's what she came up with.
Harley Quinn's battachio may have gotten a bit bigger and she's perhaps using it in a more lethal way than her late medieval and early renaissance ancestor, but understanding the tradition out of which she has evolved can only make readers and fans more knowledgeable about her character.
William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow"
The key to the poem, like the key to so many imagist poems, is to consider it like a cubist painting. The fracturing makes meaning, giving the poem a multiplicity of resonances. By the end of it you're only too ready to admit that "so much" does in fact "depend / upon / a red wheel / barrow..." The image is everything--seemingly so simple and yet so extraordinarily complicated.
Students confront this poem and others like it and say "I could have written that" without really understanding that they didn't. I'm sure some of them could have painted "Les Desmoiselles D'Avignon," but who in their right mind but Picasso would have ever thought to?
The other day I was thinking about the play and sat down to scribble out some useful ways of thinking about how it might be approached, with my doodling turning into a full-on visual brainstorming of the possibilities.
It turns out that there are some significant supporting texts that one would be wise to study in order to fully appreciate Dorfman's play. Indeed, the motif of "Death and the Maiden" is a tradition in and of itself, one that stretches back into the middle ages at the very least. It has made its way into literature as well.
Look for these downloadable pdfs in the coming weeks!
The Books of the Graphic Poetry Series
by Joni Mitchell, ed. by Glen Downey
On the carousel of life, history often repeats itself and people find comfort in tradition and familiar experiences. In these poignant lyrics, folk music legend Joni Mitchell shows that we cannot return to the past but we can appreciate every moment of our lives.
COLONEL FAZACKERLEY BUTTERWORTH-TOAST
by Charles Causley, ed. by Glen Downey
When Colonel Fazackerley Butterworth-Toast buys a castle for himself, he doesn't realize that he's bought more than he bargained for! Find out what happens when the Colonel meets one of the castle's oldest residents.
THE CREMATION OF SAM MCGEE
by Robert Service, ed. by Glen Downey
Have you ever been so cold that you'd do anything just to get warm? In this classic poem, Robert Service tells the story of Sam McGee, who finds himself deep in the Canadian Arctic, dreaming of his home in Tennessee.
THE WRECK OF THE EDMUND FITZGERALD
by Gordon Lightfoot, ed. by Glen Downey
In this haunting ballad, legendary folk musician Gordon Lightfoot describes what happens when the Edmund Fitzgerald meets the "Gales of November" on Lake Superior.
WHAT DO I REMEMBER OF THE EVACUATION
by Joy Kogawa, ed. by Glen Downey
In this poignant poem, Joy Kogawa revisits a painful period from her childhood -- when she and her family and other Japanese Canadians were placed in internment camps during World War II.
HURRICANE / CHILDHOOD TRACKS
by James Berry, ed. by Glen Downey
Truly great poets have the ability to transport readers into the world of the speaker -- so get ready to pack your bags! Whether James Berry is writing about the fury of a hurricane or walking the reader through memories of his own childhood, his poems bring the sights, smells, and sounds of Jamaica to life.
I AM A CANADIAN
by Duke Redbird, ed. by Glen Downey
There are great poems written by Canadians, and great poems about Canada. However, none show off the pride we have in the breadth, diversity, and beauty of Canada and its people more than Duke Redbird's "I Am a Canadian."
LIFE DOESN'T FRIGHTEN ME / ALONE
by Maya Angelou, ed. by Glen Downey
In these emotional and inspiring works, Maya Angelou shows how the right attitude and the love and support of friends and family can help people confront and overcome all of life's obstacles.
THE MARCH OF THE DEAD
by Robert Service, ed. by Glen Downey
The Second Boer War is over and the soldiers have come home victorious. People line the streets to celebrate as the men march proudly on parade. But then, the air is filled with another sound -- an eerie reminder from another group of men who also wish to be remembered...
MOTHER TO SON / HARLEM NIGHT SONG
by Langston Hughes, ed. by Glen Downey
In "Mother to Son" and "Harlem Night Song," renowned American poet Langston Hughes captures the struggles, challenges, beauty, and soul of Harlem — one of the most dynamic neighbourhoods in America.
ORANGES / ODE TO FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHS
by Gary Soto, ed. by Glen Downey
In "Oranges" and "Ode to Family Photographs," Gary Soto gives us a bird's-eye view of those weird but charming moments that bring meaning into our lives.
THIS IS A PHOTOGRAPH OF ME / GIRL AND HORSE, 1928
by Margaret Atwood, ed. by Glen Downey
In these two poems, renowned Canadian author Margaret Atwood delves deep to reveal that things aren't always what they seem.
FLIGHT OF THE ROLLER-COASTER / LAKE OF BAYS
by Raymond Souster, ed. by Glen Downey
In "Flight of the Roller-Coaster" and "Lake of Bays," Raymond Souster takes us out for a day at the carnival and for a walk across a bridge, and provides us with moments that we will likely never forget.
SAME SONG / MAESTRO
by Pat Mora, ed. by Glen Downey
Each and every day, we are influenced by the people we interact with and by the world around us. These influences can be positive or negative but every person is subject to them. In these two poems, Pat Mora explores insecurities and inspiration — common themes we can all relate to.
SOUTHBOUND ON THE FREEWAY / WATER PICTURE
by May Swenson, ed. by Glen Downey
Poet May Swenson had a unique perspective on the world. Whether she was describing a reflection in a pond or cars racing down a highway, Swenson's creative imagery helped people see everyday occurrences in a whole new way.
THE CHOICE / SONG FOR AN APRIL DUSK
by Dorothy Parker, ed. by Glen Downey
Dorothy Parker was a girl with attitude. Her wit and talent for biting sarcasm could easily put those around her to shame. Here, Parker's pretty, poetic lines take a sudden turn that keeps readers on their toes.
THE SHARK / SEA-GULLS
by E. J. Pratt, ed. by Glen Downey
We see animals all the time, but how often do we take a long, hard look at them? In the first poem, E.J. Pratt takes us on a terrifying trip through the harbour. In the second poem, he shows us the unexpected beauty of seagulls in flight.
THE EAGLE / THE KRAKEN
by Alfred Tennyson, ed. by Glen Downey
Ever wondered what it would be like to soar with an eagle or travel to the bottom of the ocean to visit an ancient sea monster? You won't need wings or swimming gear when you read these breathtaking classics by Alfred Tennyson!
I SHALL WAIT AND WAIT
by Alootook Ipellie, ed. by Glen Downey
In this captivating poem by Inuit writer Alootook Ipellie, we get an unforgettable lesson in the importance of patience, determination, and dedication to a goal.
THE WOMAN I AM IN MY DREAMS / NOW I SEE YOU
by Maxine Tynes, ed. by Glen Downey
In "The Woman I Am in My Dreams" and "Now I See You," poet Maxine Tynes shows us how much we can learn about ourselves and others, just by taking the time to look, to consider, and to dream.
PAUL REVERE'S RIDE
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. by Glen Downey
The sounds of troops approaching, guns being fired, and a single horse's hooves pounding the pavement bring Paul Revere's famous "midnight ride" to life in this action-packed poem.
Use Provocative Media to Jumpstart Visual Brainstorming
So, by way of advice, let students talk to one another about what you'd like them to focus their visual note-taking and brainstorming on. It can help them learn from one another and then immediately demonstrate this learning in their work.
Take a look at the fantastic animated video Laura showed me that was originally created as a student project at Goldsmiths College. If you can't see the connection between the Bayeux Tapestry and contemporary comics after watching it, I might never be able to convince you that visual narrative has a long and proud tradition.
Thanks for showing me this, Laura!
Using Wordle as an Analytical Tool Can Make a Big Difference!
1. The largest word in the cloud
2. The relative distribution of words
3. The size of the word "and."
4. The size of the word "because"
5. The use of the verb "to be"
Some Takeaways from "I Witness: How Graphic Storytellers Are Teaching Us About the World and How We See It"
I feel like this whenever I read Guy Delisle's Pyongyang or the Ricard Brothers' Beirut 1990 or Florent Chavouet's Tokyo on Foot. While it is true that I learn about these writers' experiences through their work, I learn so much more about the place they are visiting as though the place itself were speaking to me.
The visual brainstorming above provides a small snapshot of the ideas that come to mind when we begin to think both about travel lit and the graphic memoir. We can see that there are tremendous possibilities for making connections between the travel literature of old and those found in today's graphic travelogues. In your next travel literature unit, why NOT feature excerpts from The Wanderer, The Seafarer, Gulliver's Travels, A Pilgrim's Progress, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Into the Wild, Palestine, Pyongyang, Tokyo on Foot, and Safe Area Goradze? You can throw in A Walk in the Woods, The Fixer, Beirut 1990, and Into Thin Air for good measure. What I'm advocating is not to use graphic travel literature merely as a way to supplement your teaching of a traditional travel novel, but to include it as an equal partner in the discussion of how we write about travel.
For those who didn't get a chance to attend the workshop, here's the handout!
We often wish we could see what our students are thinking... and we can.
Visual brainstorming is not about drawing. It's not an exercise intended to give art students a feeling of technical superiority over their classmates. Kailey's work above is a wonderful example of visual brainstorming that might not strike you as being particularly visual. It's not big on pictures or illustrations apart from the odd arrow or word balloon. That's because Kailey has focused on a principle that I go to great lengths to explain to students, and that I've blogged about before:
Visual brainstorming is not about drawing. It's about brain dumping."
Look at how much is going on in her head in and around the subject of the stock character known as "the wise elder" who we see in everything from medieval drama to contemporary film. Imagine she was writing a paper about this type of character. She's practically written one already!
When I was showing this to participants this afternoon I was forced to confide something that might seem rather shocking. This work was not marked. It wasn't submitted for a summative grade, and was not even formatively asessed. The student, in fact, had no expectation of having the work evaluated because it is, after all, an exercise in allowing her to get her thoughts down on paper.
And look at the time and the care and the effort put into it!
As I've prepared for the workshop I've begun to see that we can learn a great deal not only from the far ranging travel of artists like Guy Delisle and investigative journalists like Joe Sacco but from the kinds of journeys much closer to home, both literal and metaphorical, of writers like Julie Delporte and Sarah Leavitt.
It has also led me to think about what we learn from others when we travel--from those we meet on our journeys, from those who travel with us, and even from those we leave behind. I've previously discussed my great fondness for Etienne Davodeau's The Initiates, a story where Davodeau asks to learn the art of wine-making from vineyard owner, Richard Leroy, with the latter reciprocating by learning about the graphic novel trade. However, in thinking about why I love the story so much, it suddenly struck me that so many of their interactions are punctuated by sharing a bottle of wine. This is the case right from the very start of the graphic novel.
I've always loved this story, not only because it follows a structure that is similar to Cervantes' Don Quixote (whom the monsignor believes is an ancestor despite characters pointing out that his namesake is fictional), but because of the growth in the compassion and understanding shared between the two central characters. As Davodeau and Leroy journey back and forth to where each of them practices their vocation, we see a similar growth in their understanding of one another, and it makes us realize that the "journey" always has something profound to teach us.
Dr. Glen Downey is an award-winning children's author, educator, and academic from Oakville, Ontario. He works as a children's writer for Rubicon Publishing, a reviewer for PW Comics World, an editor for the Sequart Organization, and serves as the Chair of English and Drama at The York School in Toronto.