We've discussed at some length on this forum the approaches one can take to introducing visual narrative to students or fellow teachers, and we've also suggested the importance of looking at it as a tradition. This really is a must. Students and educators alike tend to ascribe legitimacy to something that they perceive as part of a larger tradition. If you're wanting to teach the graphic novel in a serious way, then, I'd suggest spending a couple of weeks looking at the following with students.
Begin with a journey through the ancient world of cave art, with as many exciting stops along the way as you can. Even better, get your students to create their own cave art so that they can show themselves the power it must have held for ancient peoples who were desperate to tell their stories.
Make your next stop the hieroglyphics of ancient Egypt, showing students the beauty and detail that went in to telling stories through symbolic imagery. As well, check out the "Word and Image" activity featured on this site that gives students opportunities to marry the verbal and the visual.
The Bayeux Tapestry
There is simply no way to dispense with showing students the Bayeux Tapestry, a remarkable example of a woven graphic story, created in France as a testament to the events that culminated in the Battle of Hastings. If they don't think it's a comic, you can always show them this!
Stations of the Cross
Many people look at a work of visual narrative every week without even knowing it. A great thing to share with students and fellow colleagues is the many manifestations of the Stations of the Cross, a story told in word and image that has been around for hundreds of years! While you're at it, show them the Wordless Narrative activity featured on our site.
A Rake's Progress
William Hogarth was on to something when he created a series of paintings that tell the story of a young man who wastes a fortune through reckless living. A Rake's Progress is not simply a brilliantly conceived work of art, but a fine example of visual narrative.
Next time we'll start with William Blake and then move into 19th and 20th century examples of visual narrative that can help you to reinforce with students and fellow colleagues its fascinating tradition!
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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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