Got an exam? Try this approach!
Sketchnotes are cool. You only need to look through examples of visible thinking, visual brainstorming, and sketchnoting on this site to see that they can be pretty useful.
So, now that we're in the season of IB examinations, do you have a way of approaching your English A: Literature Exam? If you don't, you might consider having a look at the above sketchnote. Begin in the centre and then make your way around. If you keep these things in mind as you're writing your exam, you should have a decent opportunity to do well.
More to the point, however. If you are making notes for any of your exams, try for a minute to let go of your inhibitions and just put down the first thing that comes to mind. Sketchnoting is a great way of leveraging the power of comics, doodling, and visual narrative to create something that reflects what you're thinking. As you can see in the above example, I actually drew very little, but the arrows and the small diagrams are helpful in allow the reader to visualize things.
Hope this helps you as you prepare for your English A: Literature Paper 2 exam!
And if you have any questions...
...feel free to contact us at Comics in Education!
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say that “Comics aren’t real literature,” I’d have enough money to get a photo with my favorite celebrity at a decent-sized comics convention. I figure I’ve heard it said about a hundred times over the course of my career, and that should be plenty for the photo, unless I wanted one with Mark Hamill and James Earl Jones, and hell, who wouldn’t pony up the extra for that?
Now I know you’re probably thinking that this is going to be an article in which my Ph.D. in English and I prove how comics really are literature and that people who say otherwise are stupid. I think I’m actually going to do something more useful, which is to show that the entire discussion is stupid.
To say that “Comics aren’t real literature” is wrongheaded, but not for the reasons people who object to such statements might expect. It’s for all of the other reasons. For starters, let’s think about what the statement, “Comics aren’t real literature” can actually mean:
1. “Comics are imaginary literature.”
I think it’s safe to say that if this is what people mean when they say “Comics aren’t real literature,” they have more problems than you or I can help them with.
2. “Comics merely pretend to be real literature.”
Anyone who has ever read a comic should realize that comics aren’t people and can’t pretend to be things. Again, neither you nor I is equipped to deal with such a person.
3. “Comics are mistaken by people for real literature and they’re not.”
Go up to a bunch of people reading comics and ask them what they’re reading. Keep track of how many times they turn to you and say, “I’m reading real literature.” I think it’s more likely that 100% of the time they’ll say, “I’m reading a comic book.” Notice, as well, how they’re not fretting about whether what they are reading is “real literature.”
4. “Comics are comics and real literature is real literature.”
I absolutely agree that comics are comics. This is true by definition, and I think you’d have to be pretty dim to argue otherwise. I also agree that real literature is real literature whatever “real literature” means. Unfortunately, however, that’s all that the statement manages to prove.
5. “Comics aren’t like plays, novels, or essays. Those things are real literature.”
Comics are usually comprised of art, with or without text, arranged in sequence. As such, they are different from plays, novels, or essays. The latter, however, have their own unique characteristics which make them different from one another. Do you know what the above statement doesn’t really prove, though? Whether or not comics themselves are or are not literature.
6. "Comics might technically be “literature,” but they’re not real literature. "
You know what…I’m not sure that people who say this actually believe that comics are literature. They use that word “technically” and it leads me to believe they’re being disingenuous. More than that, however, I’m intrigued about the difference between “literature” and “real literature.” I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that they can’t properly articulate the difference between these expressions either.
7. "COMICS ARE SILLY AND REAL LITERATURE IS IMPORTANT!”
Of all of these statements, this is the one I most respect. It’s at least the product of a person who knows what he or she means. Ninety nine percent of the time when people say, “Comics aren’t real literature,” this is what they are actually saying. Unfortunately, it’s still stupid and wrongheaded. Consider, for instance, one of the twentieth century’s most important poets of light verse, Ogden Nash, and his most famous poem, “Reflections on Ice-Breaking”:
Now, I love Ogden Nash and I don’t believe he’d mind my thinking that his poem is just a little bit silly despite the fact that it’s occupied the hallowed pages of The Norton Anthology of Poetry. In fact, if you think for a moment about what it’s saying, “silly” is perhaps flattering by today’s standards. On the other hand, when I read Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen I don’t find it silly, nor would I feel comfortable telling Sarah Leavitt or Alison Bechdel that they were being silly in Tangles or Fun Home for sharing their very personal stories in comic form. I know that The Joker often acts quite silly, but there’s something about him—his consistent lack of motive—that is anything but silly. I don’t often see this quality in other characters, although Shakespeare’s Iago has been offered by some as a point of comparison.
I think the point of all of this is that those who say “Comics aren’t real literature” don’t really understand how ridiculous such a statement is. I suppose I don’t mind it as much when people say “Comics are real literature,” although I can’t help but wonder whether they know what they’re talking about either. Comics are a form of artistic expression that (usually) comprises both the textual and the visual, and so focusing only on the former leads to people doing silly things, like overlooking Jillian Tamaki for a Governor General’s Award for the graphic novel, Skim, because she “only” illustrated it.
For some, it’s easier, more comfortable even, to deal in absolutes.
And, as we all well know, only a Sith does that.
That’s right, I’m ending with another Star Wars reference, just because I want this whole silly debate about comics and literature to be over…
…or to at least become more interesting.
1. Tell a story that's never been told
When it comes to writing a graphic novel, look for inspiration from stories that have gone untold. A great source of such stories is history, but the history for which we don't necessarily know the whole story.
When I was writing Final Voyage for the Boldprint Graphic Novel series, I was trying to think of such a story when I stumbled upon an explorer I remembered studying in my youth: John Cabot, aka Giovanni Caboto. I remember learning when I was just a little guy that Cabot had sailed the ocean blue in 1497 and discovered eastern Canada. However, I don't remember us ever talking about his second, and final, voyage. In 1498 he headed out again, but this time he didn't come back to receive the adulation of England's King Henry like he did after his first voyage.
This time, he and his men were lost.
Writing a graphic novel about an historical event for which we don't have many of the answers is sometimes just the sort of thing we need to push through writer's block and get back on track. Having part of the narrative gives us some place to start, and while this is being established there is time to fill in the gaps and work out what might have been.
Anything that allows us to be productive while we're working out the story can't be all that bad.
Reimagining Traditional Approaches to the Timetable
Now available at www.comicsineducation.com is In Search of Lost Time: Reimagining Traditional Approaches to the Timetable. This book is the product of a Canadian Accredited Independent Schools (CAIS) Research Grant and brings together a combination of research, investigation, sketchnoting, writing, and 21st-century approaches to teaching and learning in order to show how schools can reimagine the way in which they go about making institutional change. Here's the blurb from the back cover:
"This book offers an approach to developing what educators have traditionally thought of as a `timetable' that is appropriate for 21st-century, independent, K-12 institutions in Canada. It suggests that timetabling as we currently understand it is insufficient in meeting the needs of learners, primarily because traditional timetables are inconsistent with existing pedagogical philosophies about teaching, learning, and curriculum delivery that are shaping the way these processes are changing in our schools."
The book is being released in advance of the CAIS Project 2051 reunion and National Leaders Conference, both of which take place in Montreal later this week.
For those interested in ordering the book, it is available exclusively through our store.
Give students an agenda to stare at!
The next time you want to put together an agenda for your students or a lesson plan, consider a new way of thinking about how this information is shared. A neat thing to do is to bring the visual to the experience so that what the students are learning looks as exciting as how you'll hope they find it.
The lesson overviews above might look complicated, but the combination of a set template and using some of the features of Photoshop Elements allowed me to produce them in very little time. What they say to the student, especially at the outset of the year, is that your course is different from others that they might be taking: that the expectations are high and that you want them to think in different and creative ways.
If you want a fuller explanation of how lesson plans, overviews, or agendas can be put together in the manner I've described, please feel free to use the contact button below to get in touch!
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.
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