Archive for The Classroom – Page 2

Workshop Spotlight: Whittier Elementary

Pop Culture Classroom is dedicated to offering students in classrooms all across the Front Range dynamic workshops exploring educational topics through the lens of pop culture. The latest of these was an exciting 8-week comic-creation course at Whittier Elementary. Using Storytelling Through Comics, an arts and literacy curriculum created by PCC, students had the unique opportunity to create their own comics.

The process of creating comics empowers students in their education, making learning and creating fun and relevant to what kids are already interested in. Starting in January, six students began learning about comics from PCC educators Marisa Pushee and Shawn Bowman during an after-school program.

At the end of the creation process, these students had each created a 6 panel comic from scratch. Their comics focused on a problem in the world and overcoming it through their superheroes.

According to Pushee, four students in the class “were good friends who regularly made comics together. Already dedicated comic book fans, they were excited to learn more about developing their layouts and improving their drawing techniques. At the end of the class, they decided to each make their own final comic, but found ways to include crossover characters and influence each other’s work.”

The students artistic and storytelling skills grew over the course of the class resulting in a fun and rewarding experience for both students and educators.

For more information on Storytelling Through Comics, visit here.

 

Spotlight: Whittier Elementary - Pop Culture Classroom

Whittier PCC workshop participant Kate hard at work on the final draft of her comic.

Workshop: Whittier Elementary - Pop Culture Classroom

Students Jun and Rivers creating cross-over comics together.

Workshop: Whittier Elementary - Pop Culture Classroom

Mira, age 10, working hard on her original comic “Changes.”

Workshop: Whittier Elementary - Pop Culture Classroom

Enrico and his comic “Waterfall” about a bird named Kirby who drinks from the fountain of youth.

Workshop: Whittier Elementary - Pop Culture Classroom

Rhys having a fun learning to draw her first-ever comic.

Workshop: Whittier Elementary - Pop Culture Classroom

Hyunmin, 8, diligently drafting his comic, “Bird’s Revenge.”


 

MARCH Review

By Eric Kallenborn

Last August, I was privileged enough to hear Rep. John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, co-authors of the award-winning graphic novel trilogy March, speak at Evanston Public High School in Evanston, Illinois. It was there, about three months before the Presidential election that I understood, that no matter the outcome of the election, we, as a nation, were going to be alright.

Listening to these men speak was nothing short of amazing. As they explained obstacles they faced getting the book published, Rep. Lewis and Mr. Aydin also told the story of struggle, persistence, community, and choosing love: not surprising, as these are some of the most powerful themes in March. Heck, they’re powerful themes in life too.

ABOUT THE BOOKS

There is a reason that March, the story of Rep. John Lewis’ life and struggles through the Civil Rights Movement, has seen much critical acclaim recently. The book series, which consists of three volumes, delves into issues that many in this country would like to keep in the dark corners of American history. March shines a light into those dark corners, forcing us to face the horrors of segregation and racism while also celebrating the brave men and woman of the Civil Rights Movement.   

MARCH Review - Comic Education Outreach - Pop Culture ClassroomThe art of March’s illustrator, Nate Powell, is a perfect juxtaposition to the writing of Rep. Lewis and Mr. Aydin; much like in Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Powell’s choice of white, blacks, and grays for the color scheme forces the reader back in time and makes it easier to focus on the details of Lewis’ life and struggles.    

MARCH Review - Comic Education Outreach - Pop Culture Classroom

A recent winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the March series is quickly becoming a must-read in most circles, literary or not. While violent and heavy, this book can and should be read by anyone over the age of twelve. And if you have that certain someone in your life that still might question the validity of comics or graphic novels as part of the social lexicon, slip them a copy of March, and see if you can change their mind.       

IN THE CLASSROOM

I’m not saying that you have to put March in your classroom library, but I’m sort of saying that you should put March in your classroom library. It’s an important book, and much like the comic book that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to spread the news about the Montgomery bus boycott, it’s an example of how graphic texts can shape our understanding ofhistory and help us better empathize with cultures and people beyond ourselves.

  • For the history lesson alone, March should find itself in schools across the nation.  Not only can this book be taught in the English classroom, but it has connections to many different Social Studies classrooms as well. For the most part, at least in my experience, we do a poor job in this country of teaching students about the Civil Rights Movement; March helps get much-needed information into the hands of students while also keeping them engaged.
  • The complexity of the images allows for deep analytical conversation. As you may hear me say many times in the future, one of the best things about this medium is that we are adding to an already rich English classroom vocabulary. On top of tone, mood, symbolism, diction, etc., we are adding terms like “panel,” “special effects lettering,” “graphic weight,” etc. The inclusion of these new classroom terms allows for more complex discussion at all levels and Nate Powell’s artistic decisions are a perfect inroad into those discussions.
  • As you might have already guessed, this book would be an amazing companion piece to a multitude of texts that you may use in your classroom, both fiction and non-fiction. This includes films as well.  What a cool project it would be to write a comparative analysis of March with the film Selma.

CONCLUSION

Sometimes to get an important message out to certain audiences, we need to change the way in which that message is created. Delivered by Rep. Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powel, March is further proof that changing the construction of a message can take that message to people and places that might have not received it otherwise.

This is especially important in a time when many of us, on both sides of the isle, are unsure and often weary of what is to come, and messages like the ones found in March may be what we need to fuel our passions for persistence, community, and choosing love.

Announcing the 2017 Denver Comic Con Ticket Drops!

Pop Culture Classroom is excited to announce that we will be doing a limited number of ticket drops for Denver Comic Con 2017! Denver Comic Con is supported by Pop Culture Classroom, whose goal is to inspire a love of learning, increase literacy, celebrate diversity and build community through the tools of popular culture. As part of this mission, over the next few months we’ll be traveling to locations all across Denver and nearby cities with bags containing two (2) 3-Day Passes to this year’s Denver Comic Con and exclusive DCC’17 swag. General locations will be announced 24 hours in advance of the drops on the Pop Culture Classroom Facebook and Twitter accounts, and when the ticket drop goes live we will post a picture/video of where to find the swag bag in that location. Be sure to stay tuned on those sites and be the first to know where the drop will be. Don’t miss out on your chance attend the hottest event of the summer! Check out this video for more information!


Littles Need Comics, Too: Comics and Graphic Novels for Early Readers

By Ronell Whitaker

“Are there any comics or graphic novels out there for the primary grades?”

This is a question I get all the time from fellow teachers. It seems simple, but for years I found myself struggling to find a good answer. While I’ve always had great suggestions of comic and graphic novel titles for high schoolers and the middle grades, I had never gotten around to finding out what options there actually were for the K to 2nd grade crowd.

When I did a preliminary search, I was frustrated to see that even those comics aimed at younger readers – like Marvel’s Little Golden Books, or licensed properties like My Little Pony and Adventure Time – are often rebranded picture books or written above primary reading levels. Frustrated, I began to think that the answer to their question might be a deflating, “No.”

Until now.

Below, I’ve put together a list of great books and resources for the little readers out there. Covering an array of content, styles, and age levels, these books showcase the diversity and potential of comics to reach students of all ages, and make great additions to any ECE or elementary classroom:

The Ordinary People Change The World Series
By Brad Meltzer and Chris Eliopoulos

The Ordinary People Change the World Series

These books blend traditional comic style with the readability of picture books. The series is a collection of biographies centered on heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, and Rosa Parks, but the book presents these historical giants in a kid-friendly, pint-sized way that is endearing and relatable for early readers.

Tiny Titans
by Art Balthazar

Tiny Titans

Art Balthazar’s world of crayon and sidewalk chalk heroes is especially appealing to young readers. Although it’s at the upper end of the K-2 age range, the stories in each book are normally no more than five pages, and the vocabulary isn’t overly challenging. The writing is joke a minute, and kids love seeing characters they recognize in the big kids comics.

Owly
by Andy Runton 

Owly

Andy Runton’s Owly is an adorable character, who goes on kid friendly adventures with his forest friends. What makes Owly especially attractive to emerging readers is there are no words. Readers use images to follow along as Owly learns concepts like cooperation, sharing and compassion.

Toon Books

Toon Books

Toon Books was the “A-ha!” find of this entire search. What’s great about them is they organize their titles by age level, and they hire top notch, award winning talent like Jeff Smith (Bone), Eleanor Davis (How To Be Happy), and Toon Books co-founder Art Spiegelman (Maus). Toon Books focus on publishing books specifically for early readers is what makes them the best option for readers ages 3 and up.

Comics are a great way to captivate emerging readers, and these books will go a long way toward creating a life long love of books.


PCC and Action Lab Comics! Extend Partnership to 2020

Pop Culture Classroom is pleased and honored to announce the renewal of a continued partnership with Action Lab Comics! PCC’s arts and literacy curriculum Storytelling Through Comics (STC) is greatly supported by Action Lab, and the partnership will continue through 2020. This is a continuation of a strong relationship between like-minded organizations that stand behind the use of comics as powerful educational tools.

STC is a standards-based curriculum that explores age-appropriate comic literature with the goals of igniting a love of learning and increasing literacy by using pop culture as an educational tool. After discussing how art and words work together to tell a story, students are then given the chance to create comics of their own.

Action Lab licenses their comic Princeless #1 for use in the STC curriculum. Teachers have the opportunity to use this comic book as a teaching tool in the classroom in association with STC. Thanks to Action Lab’s generosity PCC will be able to continue to provide teachers with the very best of curricula and tools while keeping costs to educators low. PCC’s goal is to promote literacy through what children are already interested in, fusing pop culture and education together. Action Lab’s support in these endeavors is greatly appreciated and we look forward to a continued partnership built on these ideals.

Pride of Baghdad Review

By Michael Gianfrancesco

Brian K. Vaughan’s and Niko Henrichon’s 2006 masterpiece Pride of Baghdad combines fact and fiction in a way that not only creates an impactful and poignant story, but also makes serious and complex themes accessible to just about any reader. This text has been in my regular classroom rotation for years and has remained relevant and powerful due to its universal motifs of war, family, loss, and (dare I say it) skewed perception of what it means to be proud.

OVERVIEW

Based very loosely on events surrounding the bombing of the Baghdad Zoo by American forces in 2003, the story follows four lions that hop the crumbling walls of their shattered enclosure and seek freedom in the burning remains of the city. Vaughn has made these animals semi-anthropomorphic (not to the degree of the characters’ human dimensions and animal faces in Spiegelman’s Maus, but only in that they can talk to each other and other animals) and given each a backstory and role to play in the book’s sad but all too inevitable conclusion.

What makes this novel all the more special is the beauty of the artwork itself. Hernichon masterfully recreates post-war Baghdad in all its shorn grandeur. Present are the famous landmarks including the sword clutching arch known sometimes as the Hands of Victory and the not-yet-razed statue of Saddam Hussein. The abandoned streets are presented awash in deep red and orange sepia tones that invoke the bloodied and burning remains of what was once a bustling Middle Eastern city.

The text pulls no punches in terms of its treatment of war and the atrocities therein. Within the first few pages, readers are treated to a faithful giraffe getting his head blown off in graphic detail. The book’s mature themes don’t end there, and this is where I would caution any educators to vet Pride of Baghdad carefully. There is a scene implying sexual assault of one of the females, a bloody battle between a bear and the male lion, and an ending that will not send you home happy. You know your student population, your district and building culture, and what constitutes “appropriate” in your classroom, so tread carefully.

USE IN THE CLASSROOM

  • You can pair Pride of Baghdad with Maus as both share similar themes about how war impacts the individual and the family and its gorgeous color and panoramic artwork are a stark and welcome contrast to Spiegelman’s thick lines, claustrophobic panels, and black and white presentation.
  • You could also toss this into a unit with novels The Things They Carried, Night, Diary of Anne Frank, or A Thousand Splendid Suns to scaffold similar themes of the horrors of war and loss.
  • There is an opportunity to bring Pride of Baghdad to a social studies classroom as the text offers an accurate artistic representation of war torn Iraq. Pulling news articles and primary sources on the conflict and discussing the real story of the war and the bombing in and around the zoo can help students with their visual understanding of the consequences of war.
  • The motifs of feminism and the nature of a patriarchal society are certainly at play here and can foster discussion in your class about the cultural nature of the lions as representative of various human cultures.
  • As mentioned above, there are mature themes and scenes that should be considered before committing the book to your students.

IN CONCLUSION

To sum it all up, Pride of Baghdad is a brutally honest and heart wrenching book with enough conflict and action to engage even the most skeptical reader. It offers no quarter in terms of expectations of survival when war has come to your front door. Its brutal honesty is complemented with real characters with whom even the most stoic of readers will find themselves connecting on an emotional level.

Pop Culture Classroom’s Director of Education is speaking at TEDxCU

Pop Culture Classroom’s Director of Education, Illya Kowalchuk, M. Ed., is speaking at TEDxCU! As part of the event, Mr. Kowalchuk will give a must-see talk about PCC’s innovative program LEAD With Comics, a unique project that educates inmates at jails and prisons across Colorado to learn how to read and draw with the help of graphic novels. Comic books are an easy entry point into the vital world of reading. Time spent reading enjoyable material is crucial towards developing lifelong readers, be it for children in a traditional classroom or adults in detention centers.

As Mr. Kowalchuk will discuss, research shows students that aren’t given the opportunity to develop reading skills are more likely to end up in prison, and inmates who receive literacy education have a lower chance of reoffending. The LEAD With Comics eight-week course has found great success, and this TEDx talk will share how using graphic novels is a cool and creative way to engage all types of students; developing literacy skills and having the opportunity to create their own stories can help them find a positive way forward. “The inmates’ comic stories demonstrate just how powerful comic-book based education can be, and I couldn’t be more excited to share these tales at TEDx CU,” says Mr. Kowalchuk.

Join us on Saturday, April 15th at Old Main on the CU Boulder campus and listen to this thoughtful talk about a groundbreaking program!

The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation

 

Written by Johnathon Hennessey
Art by Aaron McConnell
Appropriate for Grades: Middle School and up

REVIEW

In interesting times such as these, the laws and traditions of the United States are finding themselves hotly debated on a daily basis. Coming of age in the 21st Century means that your students’ social feeds are filling with confusing political news, bold declarations by leaders, and loads of conflicting opinions. Questions emerge constantly about checks and balances, the limits of power, and the nature of our government. As teachers of social studies, it is incumbent upon us to help our students develop a clear understanding about the document that finds itself at the center of the struggle time and again: The Constitution.

At first glance, it may seem that breaking down a heavy primary source like the Constitution would be less appealing than the adaptations of novels and works of literature available to our friends in the English department. In actuality, Hennessey’s work divides into very intuitive chapters; it progresses just like the document itself with portions devoted to the Preamble, Articles, and Amendments respectfully. In addition, each section is accompanied by relevant details, illustrations (duh!) and entertaining stories!

Why This Graphic Novel is Awesome

Try this experiment: Call up friend and explain the 9th Amendment in detail to them. Unless your friend is a constitutional scholar or history teacher, it might look something like this:

Once you’re done holding them hostage, you might feel the pain and frustration that comes along with trying to teach the less “sexy” portions of the Constitution to students.

To combat this, The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation takes that amendment and explains it clearly in just 2 1/2 illustrated pages. Among the relevant details of the Amendment, no less than SIX supreme court cases are referenced with cool nonchalance. There’s also the clarifying use of a superhero of the author’s design called The Penumbra. Immediately, The Penumbra provides a concrete retrieval cue in the minds of students that will make this otherwise painful moment of learning into a highlight!

Mr. Hennessey’s graphic novel gives this same treatment to every part of the Constitution, with an almost frenetic shift in imagery between each section to help keep students interested.

Use In the Classroom

When teaching, I’ve found that Social Studies comics tend to be most useful when divided into smaller pieces. I personally would never have students read this dense and intimidating graphic novel from start to finish. Be forewarned: This is NOT a beginner’s book; it’s better suited to being read a few pages at a time followed by an opportunity to digest and discuss.

Hennessey’s book goes in the same order as the Constitution itself, providing context and clarification. He took care to plan out clear markers and stopping points so that readers will definitively know when the topic is shifting. Use this to your advantage. Small, 20 minute reading activities over the course of a semester will work well here.

Some portions might also work well as full-class projects. In one team-taught classroom, we enjoyed success in organizing a jigsaw of the Bill of Rights. We assigned very small groups of students to analyze the pages of one specific amendment. This is followed by a creation of their OWN illustration accompanied by a short explanation for their classmates. I’ve tried this activity using other methods (e.g., guided internet research), but Hennessey’s book has generally proven to be the fastest, most easily accessible resource for students and teachers alike.

In Conclusion

Through this graphic novel, Jonathon Hennessey has created a new, unique, and exciting way for students to engage with the Constitution – a text that has and will continue to affect all of our lives for decades to come. Please support him by buying all of his excellent books like I did!


[1] http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/strategy/strategy036.shtml

Finding Inspiration: Comics as a Pathway to Reading

By Michael Gianfrancesco, Comics Education Outreach

“Comics are a gateway drug to literacy.”
—Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus, A Survivor’s Tale

When I first began teaching comics in the classroom over a dozen years ago, one of the most dependable brick walls that I could rely on encountering was the dreaded question, “How can you justify the use of comic books in a serious academic setting?” Although I hear it less today, there are still some skeptical educators and administrators that love to question the viability of comics and graphic novels in the classroom.

There are plenty of case studies, scholarly articles, and texts that are helpful in addressing these concerns, and I have found myself hiding behind one or more in the past. While these resources are always effective in opening a dialogue with administrators, when it comes to getting buy-in from other classroom teachers, the simple fact that comics make kids want to read is often a far more powerful explanation. And when my peers ask, “But how?”, I – like so many comic fans – often return to one of my earliest childhood memories as an example.

I was 12 years old. I was watching my best friend Anthony and his family packing up their antique-filled house in preparation for a move to a new state. As Anthony’s father cleaned out an old piano bench, he called me over.

“Put your hands out,” he said.

He slid a very old, very colorful comic out of a plastic sleeve and gently placed it into my outstretched hands. The cover depicted Superman holding up a car, smashing the front end into a rock as horrified witnesses ran for cover. It was Action Comics #1, 1938. The gravity of what I was holding hadn’t yet hit me. In that moment, I was just mesmerized by this book. I didn’t even hear Anthony’s mother creeping up behind me and putting her hands on my shoulders.

“You are going to remember this moment the rest of your life,” she said quietly.

And she was right. In fact, that moment lit a fire in me that burns to this day – a love of reading. From then on I started seeking out as many comics as I could find, visiting the public library to dig through the small gold mine of collected editions of classic hero comics form Marvel and DC. I cut my teeth on Silver Age Fantastic Four, X-men, Green Lantern and Batman anthologies. When I had exhausted all of those titles, I asked the librarian for suggestions of other stories with similar elements to comics. This began my journey from comics to more traditional chapter texts. I went from Stan Lee to J.R.R. Tolkien, from Alan Moore to Terry Pratchett. From Neil Gaiman to…well…Neil Gaiman. And the more I read, the more I wanted to read.

Comics did that for me. It didn’t take a huge leap of logic to realize that it could do it for my students too. When I first started lending out graphic novels to kids in my classroom, the results were hard to argue. Kids devoured the books, sometimes returning the next day having already finished and begging for more. They spread the word that
“Mr. G” had comics to loan out in his classroom, and kids I had never seen before were timidly approaching me asking for my trade paperback of Aquaman, Pride of Baghdad, or Swamp Thing. I recalled then what the librarian had done for me: connecting chapter books to comics and showing me that a good story is a good story, comic or not. I started telling my students that if they liked Maus they should read Night; if they liked A Soldier’s Story they should read Band of Brothers; if they liked Smile, they should check out The Scarlet Letter or even Catcher in the Rye; and on and on…

We are always looking for in-roads to inspire our students to become readers, and it seems to get harder and harder with each passing year. But we all have stories in our lives about the moment we connect, truly connect, with a text, and are suddenly hungry for more. As a teacher, I have seen first-hand that comics and graphic novels have the power to open the door (or at least crack a window) to a love of reading for students, regardless of their backgrounds.

So if you, as a teacher, find yourself challenged to explain how “classics” like Shakespeare or Machiavelli could possibly measure up to Satrapi or Yang, I urge you to search your own history for the moment your love for reading was ignited. For students today, graphic novels and comics can offer a unique (and often untrodden) pathway to literacy, creativity, and a lifelong passion for reading.

Looking for Focus Group Participants!

Calling all educators! Pop Culture Classroom is looking for participants for a focus group! PCC is starting the Graphic Novels Lending Library, a program where educators can rent graphic novel libraries for instructional purposes. We want graphic novels to be accessible to all for use in instruction, and wish to gain information from a focus group on how to be most effective in the implementation of this program. This focus group will help us understand what conditions and resources are necessary to make the program successful. Whether or not you are familiar with using comic books or graphic novels as educational tools in the classroom we need your input. School educators, administrators, librarians, parents and students are all welcome and encouraged to participate. There will be two sessions of focus groups held on Saturday, March 11th, from 11am-12pm and 1-2pm at the Denver Public Library Main Branch.

If you are interested in sharing your thoughts with us about this program in our focus group apply here by March 1st.