Spring 2017 Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

PCC Celebrates a Successful Round of Spring 2017 Workshops!

Since the beginning of 2017, Pop Culture Classroom has been hard at work with a variety of exciting new pop culture-based classes and workshops focusing on comic creation, game design, digital storytelling, and more! All our workshops aim to inspire and engage students in literacy, creativity, critical thinking and art.

Between January and May 2017, we ran 17 pop culture-based workshops, for over 163 hours, in 11 different locations throughout Colorado! Six of these sites were brand new to us this year, and we thank them for helping us to bring our programs to new groups of eager young students!

In total, more than 350 students participated in these workshops, with ages ranging from early elementary all the way up to high school. Twelve of these workshops used the Storytelling Through Comics program to teach students to create their own comics, while five centered around teaching students to build their very own table-top board games using our game design program, Game On!.  

To celebrate the many accomplishments these students achieved in these workshops, we’ve highlighted our favorite moments from some of the workshops below. A tremendous thank you to the many students, PCC teachers, and the schools and sites that made these workshops possible!  

GIRLS ATHLETIC LEADERSHIP SCHOOL (DENVER)

Thanks to a partnership with Denver Open Media and a grant from the Denver Office of Children’s Affairs, this past year we were fortunate enough to help a group of creative, talented and inspiring young women at GALS Denver create their very own comics … and then transform these comics into digital shorts that the students wrote, directed, produced, and acted in themselves. Congrats to all the students who participated and thank you again for an incredible year!

See the digital shorts here:
https://www.denveropenmedia.org/projects/superhero-shorts-comics-movies

As part of the workshop, students were given the chance to “premiere” their digital shorts on the Denver Open Media channel. Each short focuses on making the world a greater and more conscientious place, and are terrific examples of the power and potential of what comics and digital storytelling can do for young students!

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

A GALS student working diligently on her comic during class.

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

Another student drawing her comic, titled Blood Thirsty, about vampires. Students used these comics as storyboards for their digital shorts! 

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

Our grant allowed PCC and Denver Open Media to engage a greater degree of professional quality when creating the digital story-telling project. Here are some of the girls on set of a green-screen for special effects. 

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

In addition, the girls at GALS were able to utilize professional camera and editing equipment to complete their digital short based on their comics.

UNIVERSITY HILL ELEMENTARY (BOULDER)

We ran two separate workshops at University Hill Elementary this spring, including a board game design workshop and comic creation workshop, for 2nd – 5th grade students.

Shawn Bowman, who co-taught the game design workshop with instructor Lance Holly, had this to say about the class: “This has been my favorite class to teach so far. At the end of each class session, I asked the kids to meet in a circle and go around the room talking about their favorite part of that afternoon – for many of them it was using a game board to tell a story but every class at least two kids said the “best part of the day was working with my friends”

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

One of the many games students created over the 12-week workshop, in a preliminary testing phase. Note the small volcano in the middle of the board! 

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

While some students partnered up with each other to build a game, the majority – including students like Diego– hopped around the room collaborating with each other and trying out a new designs and ideas throughout the class. Part of the goal of the program is building classroom community and allowing students to work with their peers.

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

The board games ranged greatly in shape, size, and structure.

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

No game is complete without a set of rules! We encourage students to use whatever materials they like to create games – even maps!

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

One of the girls in the class, Sarah, made two games, one of which she worked with PCC instructor Lance on – based on his beard as the basis for the board design.

CURTIS ARTS & HUMANITIES CENTER (GREENWOOD VILLAGE)

An all-new site for PCC this year, Curtis Arts & Humanities Center brought us in to teach workshops in 2017 focusing on traditional comic creation and manga/anime comics for students ages 9-14. 

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

Averie and Fyetka met in our Curtis class and became instant friends. Averie’s comic, ‘Wolf Girl,’ centers on a girl who can transform into a wolf. Fyetka’s comic, ‘Flame Fame,’ features a protagonist who wakes from a coma underwater only to discover that she now has super powers and must save the world. Fyetka noted that she “learned a lot about shading, eyes, head shapes, and hair styles” in the workshop, while Averie “loved learning how to draw faces and draw clothes and layers.”

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

Another Curtis student, Max, noted that he loved learning how to create comics because he “likes being able to express himself through drawing as well as writing.” He created a final comic about a protagonist who is labeled a pyromaniac and chooses to becomes a villain. But in the end, he decides to become a better person rather than letting a label dictate who he is!

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

Curtis student Trey titled his final comic The Big Fight. It features his protagonist, Stunt Man, and villain, Evil Unicorn, fighting over who is the best. Trey loves making comics and carries his sketchbook everywhere. He says his favorite part of the class was learning how to draw people.

COLUMBINE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (BOULDER)

At Columbine Elementary in Boulder, another one of our new locations this spring (wahoo!), our workshop utilized the Game On! program to help 2nd & 3rd grade students create their own tabletop board games from scratch. We are excited to continue our work with them next semester!

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

An early draft of one student’s game. Students learn 7 game design principles during the game design program by playing and modifying basic games, and then apply this knowledge to their own games!

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

Just a few of the arts & crafts supplies students used to create the custom avatars, playing pieces and boards for their games!

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

A group of Columbine students finalizing the rules after a last playthrough of their game! At the end of the program, students playtested each other’s games and provide feedback on the rules, materials and experience of playing their classmates’ games.

WHITTIER ELEMENTARY (BOULDER)

Finally, our comics workshop at Whittier Elementary for 3rd – 5th graders was another huge success! Many students returned to retake the course from the previous semester, claiming it was their favorite afterschool club.

When reflecting on the experience, PCC instructor Shawn Bowman said, “Because we use the comic book Princeless for explaining writing techniques and vocabulary, the kids are reading the story deeper and exploring the art in ways they might have glossed over otherwise.  Part of the delight in ownership of the book is ownership of our shared experiences as a class…The girls in our class were especially delighted this time around to see a young female hero who didn’t want to wear fancy dresses or kill dragons.”

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

The title page for one of the student’s completed comic, Ghost Girl. While some students chose to create 6-panel comics on a single page, this student developed an actual book!

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

2 Whittier students hyper-focused on their drawings. Whittier provided a great inclusive space and artistic environment for students to develop their work!

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

Students learn how to create settings as part of the comic creation program. In this photo, a Whittier student practices drawing a castle to be included in her final comic.

2017 Spring Workshops - Pop Culture Classroom

Students learn how to create settings as part of the comic creation program. In this photo, a Whittier student practices drawing a castle to be included in her final comic.

During the workshop, students went through the process of learning how to pencil, color, and ink their comics. This is an early penciled draft of a student’s comic.

THANK YOU FOR ALL THESE WONDERFUL OPPORTUNITIES!

Overall, we were thrilled with the outcome of our workshops this spring! It was such a rewarding experience to help students across Colorado improve their literacy, creativity, critical thinking and ability to express themselves.

We look forward to impacting more young lives with the power of power of pop culture!

To learn more about workshops or request one at your school or site, please visit www.popcultureclassroom.org/workshops or reach out to us directly at info@popcultureclassroom.org.


Pop Culture Classroom - YOBOD Partnerships

Pop Culture Classroom Enters 3rd Year of Partnership with Youth One Book, One Denver

Pop Culture Classroom is excited to announce a continued partnership with Youth One Book, One Denver (YOBOD) Programs this summer! Since 2013, Pop Culture Classroom has offered over a dozen summer workshops and reached hundreds of students around the Denver Metro area through the YOBOD program. 

ABOUT YOBOD

YOBOD Partnership - Pop Culture Classroom

Now entering its sixth year, YOBOD is a summer reading program designed for 9- to 12-year-olds. Each summer, a book is selected for students to read all throughout Denver and surrounding areas. Students are also offered fun activities and events related to the selection to enhance their reading experience and combat learning loss. 

YOBOD SUMMER 2017

YOBOD Partnership - Pop Culture Classroom

The 2017 YOBOD selection is Upside-Down Magic by hit authors Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins.

This summer, PCC will be running a new series of pop culture-based workshops inspired by the shared reading experience of Upside-Down Magic at sites throughout Denver, including the Sun Valley Youth Center, Johnson Boys & Girls Club, Heart & Hand Academy, and more.

YOBOD Partnership - Pop Culture Classroom

Caption: Students share their creations from a YOBOD cosplay class from summer 2016.

These workshops will give students the opportunity to create their own magical creatures, costumes, comics or board games based around the book, helping bring this book to life and promote literacy.

We are so excited for another fun-filled summer promoting literacy and being a part of this wonderful program! To learn more about YOBOD and check if a summer workshop is happening near you, be sure to visit http://artsandvenuesdenver.com/events-programs/one-book-one-denver-new/.


Pop Culture Classroom - Webcomics for the Classroom Part 1

Webcomics for the Classroom: Part 1

Contributed by: Jason Nisavic

When students walk in the door to start your class period, what do they expect to find? Hopefully, they look forward to your class as a chance to engage with something unusual and interesting.  For teachers who would like to jumpstart their lesson with a conversation piece, it’s hard to beat a good web comic.

Take for example one of my favorites, XKCD, a fantastic online, science-focused comic that occasionally shows a great deal of heart:

Webcomics for the Classroom Part 1 - Pop Culture Classroom

I have a copy of “Grownups” on my wall because of its profound impact on my approach to adulthood.  This is more than a three-panel punchline – it’s a short story with humor, a moral, and a happy ending.

WEBCOMICS IN THE CLASSROOM

Now, as an experiment, let’s see what we could do with this XKCD comic in the classroom. I gave myself 60 seconds to brainstorm, and here’s what I came up with:

  • English: Turn the story into a first-person narrative. What thoughts does the man have as he navigates this situation?
  • Sociology/Psychology: Reflect upon the expectations of adolescence and adulthood in society.
  • Math: Calculate how many 3” diameter playpen balls could fit in your classroom.

That’s just one strip from a comic that has nearly 2000 entries. Here’s another one from XKCD that’s just as intriguing a comic as it is a classroom resource: 

Webcomics for the Classroom Part 1 - Pop Culture Classroom

Upgoer Five” is a powerful example of the phrase “restrictions breed creativity.” In it, a diagram of a rocket is explained using only the 1000 most commonly used English words (a full list can be found here.) How fun would it then be to have your students use the same list to explain a recently-learned topic as a formative assessment? The possibilities are endless!

OTHER WEBCOMICS OF NOTE

And that’s just to start!  Below is a list of other promising webcomics to engage your students.

A Softer World

Webcomics for the Classroom Part 1 - Pop Culture Classroom

A now-defunct comic featuring mainly pictures with quirky captions, A Softer World can provide hundreds of creative writing prompts. (Occasionally NSFW)

The Oatmeal

Webcomics for the Classroom Part 1 - Pop Culture Classroom

The Oatmeal can give funny, sincere reflections upon life and culture (often NSFW, so be selective!)

Camp Weedonwantcha

Webcomics for the Classroom Part 1 - Pop Culture Classroom

Camp Weedonwantcha follows the ongoing struggles of a group of abandoned children who try to live together in an isolated camp.  Funny, touching, and great character development.  Organized into story arcs, but good luck pulling yourself away once you start.

Colorful History

Webcomics for the Classroom Part 1 - Pop Culture Classroom

Colorful History is a biweekly webcomic created by Pop Culture Classroom that provides short historical comics that focus on important figures in Colorado state history, complete with teacher guides! 

Web comics are an excellent, zero-budget way to start thinking visually. If things go well, then maybe it’s time to start exploring the ways that comics and graphic novels can bring new life to your teaching. And while these are a great start, keep in mind they don’t even scratch the surface of all the great webcomics out there. Keep an eye out for Part 2 to get more examples and suggestions!


Denver Comic Con 2017 - PCC Kids' Lab

The Pop Culture Classroom Kids’ Laboratory Returns for DCC’17!

The Pop Culture Classroom Kids’ Laboratory is back for Denver Comic Con 2017!  

What is the PCC Kids’ Lab, you ask? It’s only 10,000 square feet of pop culture-based educational fun for kids and teens – not to mention the most fun you’ll have all summer long!

This year, our Kids’ Lab theme is You Can Make a Difference. Each day, we’ll be offering a full slate of fun, interactive and engaging activities for kiddos of all ages and interests. All activities aim to give these children and teens the tools to empower themselves to make a difference in their world. With the help of the Denver Comic Con superhero team, students will learn about cleaning up Cherry Creek, making your own pizza garden, creating edible water bottles and many, many more activities sure to leave them inspired!

As a bonus, each activity at the Lab this year falls under at least two letters of S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) and comes with a lesson plan that teachers and parents can request to keep all the pop culture fun alive at home too!

Finally, there will be dozens of community organizations, presentations, live demos, workshops, arts & crafts, and interactive activities going on throughout the weekend.

If you’re new to DCC or just haven’t checked out the Lab before, stop by with your family and check it out and learn all about how DCC’s unique family friendly and education focus is helping us reach pop culture fans of all ages!


Pop Culture Classroom | El Deafo Review

El Deafo Review



Review by Chloe Anderson

Written and Illustrated by Cece Bell
Winner of the John Newberry Medal 

Pop Culture Classroom | El Deafo Review

SYNOPSIS 

El Deafo is perfect for new readers as a bridge between sight-word books and more complex stories. It tells the story of Cece Bell, who loses most of her hearing at the age of 4. New schools and making friends can be scary on its own, but it’s even more complicated when everyone sounds like they are speaking under water.

Ms. Bell has distilled her experience growing up with a hearing disability into a touching story about perseverance and the meaning of friendship. Aimed at younger kids, this graphic novel utilizes cute art and simple language to communicate its heartfelt point. 

Even if the reader does not have a disability, El Deafo offers a poignant window into what our friends in the deaf community experience every day, and raises important questions about how to be helpful and kind to people who are “different.”  

Themes: Growing up, New school, feeling alone, make believe, different kinds of friends, kindness 

REVIEW OF EL DEAFO

Kids are way smarter than we often give them credit for. Books written to young audiences often fall into the trap of being so simple as to bore kids right to sleep, or even worse, right into hating to read.  That’s why books like El Deafo are so important to include for new readers.   

Cece Bell channels her memories of young life into a story that is simple enough for young readers to identify with, and poignant enough for older readers to be fascinated with. Tracking life from when Cece got Meningitis at four years old all the way to sixth grade covers a lot of ground.

Pop Culture Classroom | El Deafo Review  

But the all-encompassing theme of the book is, “what do you do with adversity?” While the Meningitis took most of her hearing, Cece is still an imaginative little girl who loves sleepovers and learning just like her classmates. When she sees a bully on TV call another child “El Defo!” Cece can’t stop her giggles – it sounds so funny. And yet she reasons that she must be “deafo” too.

Pop Culture Classroom | El Deafo Review

And so, her super hero alter-ego of El Defo is born.  This alter ego enables her to think about challenges in an empowered way; for instance her hearing aid isn’t a handicap anymore, it’s like one of batman’s cool gadgets giving her super hearing.  This winsome attitude towards facing her disability is one that any child can easily identify with. Ms. Bell presents her characters in ways that are beautifully relatable thanks to their common desires for friendship, independence and belonging. 

Pop Culture Classroom | El Deafo Review

Despite her disability, the issues that Cece encounters throughout the comic are universal. She feels isolated when other students don’t include her.  She wants friends who see her for who she is. She struggles with the nervous butterflies of liking a cute boy. Cece’s emotional experience is like the experience that any child might encounter while growing up, changing schools and making friends.

Ms. Bell’s keen empathy with how young students see the world offers up small stories within El Deafo that make great touch stones for discussion for any student, either in class or at home.  

IN THE CLASROOM 

This text will be most useful for elementary aged students. 

  • Lessons on Feelings: As kids grow into new social settings, often they encounter new and powerful emotions.  Fear, excitement or anticipation can be hard to explain because they are so abstract, but kids know it when they see it, whether presented in a story or encountered in real life. Discuss how Cece is feeling in different scenarios. Ask kids if they have ever felt that way, or even if they have friends who might feel that way.
  • Learning to Work with Students with Disabilities:  This is a subject that many people often struggle to address. Kids often don’t know how to treat a student who learns or plays  And teachers must walk the line between accommodating the disability, and treating the student like the rest of their peers. El Deafo offers an insider’s perspective about how our actions help or hurt someone who experiences life with a disability. Discuss what Cece’s friends did that helped her and hurt her. Are her feelings different than anyone else’s? What are ways we can all be kind to each other? What can non-disabled people learn from girls like Cece?
  • Friends, Bullies and Social Skills: Sometimes friends are the best, sometimes they are the worst.Cece, as El Deafo, encounters both kinds of friends. But, with insightful parallels to real life, the conflicts are presented in such a way as to suggest empathy for all parties involved. When her friend Giny tries to accommodate Cece’s hearing loss by speaking too slowly and too loudly, Cece finds herself wondering if the rude loudness is because Ginny is trying to help.  Discuss what makes a good friend.  How can we learn to listen to our friends for how they would like to be treated? How can we learn to ask our friends to treat us respectfully? What makes a bully? What can we do about bullying behavior?

In addition to all the great discussion points, this graphic novel utilizes cute art and simple language to communicate its heartfelt point. Ms. Bell has illustrated the story herself, in a style that is reminiscent of art that her target audience might make themselves. Cece and her friends are portrayed as humanized bunnies which play out their stories against colorful back grounds which evoke the emotion of each scene. 

Pop Culture Classroom | El Deafo Review

Even if the reader does not have a disability, El Deafo offers a poignant window into what our friends in the deaf community experience every day, and raises important questions about how to be helpful and kind to all the people whom we encounter in our daily lives, no matter how “different” they may seem.


About Chloe Anderson:

Chloe is a Colorado filmmaker and educator. She has worked both as a producer and actor, and is an award-winning screen writer with a love of mentoring young creators. Chloe has spent 10 years as a private tutor specializing in language arts. Chloe also has over a decade of experience working with, and advocating for, non-profits that support the arts in education, and now she is delighted to be contributing to Pop Culture Classroom’s mission of empowerment through creativity.


Pop Culture Classroom - 2017 Kids Comics Contest Winners

Announcing the Winners of Our Third Annual Kids Comic Contest!

We are excited to announce the winners of the 3rd annual Pop Culture Classroom Kids’ Comics Contest! These young comic creators submitted excellent original works displaying the ideas of strength, justice, courage, and unity through exemplary storytelling and art. We are excited to honor their hard work and creativity!

Along with a pair of 3-day passes to Denver Comic Con 2017, contest winners will have their artwork prominently featured in the official Denver Comic Con 2017 souvenir program and admired by thousands of con attendees. Additional prizes include exhibition of artist’s work on the Pop Culture Classroom website and a special meet-and-greet session with a professional comic artist during Denver Comic Con 2017.

See the Full List of Winners …


Pop Culture Classroom - Educator of the Year Award Winner

Announcing the 2017 Pop Culture Educator of the Year Award Winners!

We are excited to announce the 2017 winners of the first-ever Pop Culture Educator of the Year Award! Each of the award-winners below has demonstrated innovative use of pop culture as an educational tool in their classrooms to engage and inspire students, as well as create lasting impacts in their schools and local communities. We are pleased to recognize and honor their wonderful work!

In addition to one of PCC’s own pop culture-based curricula, each award-winner will receive two 3-day passes to Denver Comic Con 2017 (June 30- July 2, 2017), as well as a special DCC’17 prize package.

Thank you to everyone who nominated an educator this year! We were excited to hear about so many excellent educators using pop culture in their classrooms.

See the Full List of Winners …


Pop Culture Classroom - Sterling Correctional Facilities Wins Eisner Grant

PCC Partner Sterling Correctional Facilities Wins Will Eisner Grant from the ALA

Pop Culture Classroom is excited to announce that our partner Sterling Correctional Facilities (SCF) has been awarded The Will Eisner Graphic Novel Growth Grant from the American Library Association (ALA).

This grant provides support to a library that would like to expand its existing graphic novel services and programs.

ADVANCING PCC’S LEAD WITH COMICS

SCF is one of the sites of PCC’s program LEAD With Comics, and this grant will allow a new teacher to travel to Sterling, Colorado, to enrich the curriculum as well as fund the expansion of their graphic novel library.

Thanks to this grant and the hard work of the librarians at SCF, the growth of LEAD will encourage literacy and reduce recidivism.

LEAD (Literacy Education in Adult Detention) With Comics is PCC’s ongoing project in jail systems and detention centers across Colorado.

Working with specially trained teachers from local nonprofits and Denver Public Schools, this course aims to improve their art and literacy skills. We believe anyone’s life can be transformed by the educational power of pop culture.

BENEFITING STERLING CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES

Erin Boyle is the former SCF Library Manager and currently works as a regional librarian for the Colorado State Library.

She commented, “The SCF Libraries are always looking for ways to provide public-library quality programs to their patrons. Library staff there are extremely hard-working, and usually have to cope with limited time and resources.”

Because of the remote location of SCF, the grant will help them to overcome the restricted opportunities they face and expand the partnerships they have built, including the partnership with PCC.

ADVANCING LITERACY, REDUCING RECIDIVISM

After a LEAD class at SCF, an offender wrote “This class help[s] men with the stress of prison. By drawing reading, etc. The mind is free to give a man some happiness.”

Another wrote “I feel I can draw a little but don’t have enough confidence. I feel I have improved because of this class.” The LEAD project is a creative way to reach struggling readers and help them find a positive way forward.

On LEAD, Boyle said, “When I taught the program along with teacher Renae Kubitz and library tech Brett Hodgins, we saw the interest and talent that our students brought to the table. It was always fun to talk to students and get their unique perspectives on the graphic novels we read. In particular, when artist Dion Harris came to talk about perspective or anatomy, the room would get so quiet you could hear a pin drop. I’ve never seen such avid interest.”

MOVING FORWARD WITH THE LEAD PROGRAM

Illya Kowalchuk, Director of Education at PCC said, “We are thrilled that the Will Eisner Foundation awarded SCF one of their grants to support the class and our partnership. Winning this grant will provide even more resources to the students at SCF.  All of us at PCC look forward to continuing LEAD With Comics at Sterling Correctional Facility.”

Read more about our LEAD Program at SCF here.

ABOUT THE WILL AND ANN EISNER FAMILY FOUNDATION

The Will and Ann Eisner Family Foundation fosters innovation and creativity in graphic literature, sequential art and comics. It encourages others to continue and build upon the legacy of Will Eisner, who broke new ground in the development of visual narrative and the language of comics. Will Eisner is best known for being the creator of The Spirit comic, for developing comics for education and training, and for writing the first modern graphic novel. For more information about Will Eisner visit www.willeisner.com.

ABOUT THE ALA

Established in 1876, the American Library Association is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization created to provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all. More information on the grant and the application process can be found at http://www.ala.org/gamert/will-eisner-graphic-novel-grants-libraries.


Discovering Literacy Through Comics - Pop Culture Classroom

Pop Culture Classroom showcased in National Council of Teachers of English Spring Journal!

We are pleased to announce that Pop Culture Classroom’s (PCC’s) comic issue, Discovering Literacy Through Comics, has been featured in the Spring Issue of the National Council of Teachers of English’s (NCTE’s) Voices from the Middle!

This is exciting news because it highlights an important comic which illustrates the power of using comics as a teaching tool in the classroom.

The comic was written by our Education Director Illya Kowalchuk and Education Program Manager Adam Kullberg, with art by Jay Peteranetz.

Each page of the comic is specifically designed to pinpoint a way in which comics easily engage readers to facilitate learning.

The Reader’s Guide is also an interesting and helpful companion to the comic, which helps teachers better understand how to implement comics into their curriculum.

The NCTE is a premier organization and platform for the advancement of literacy and education in English. It is a great honor to be featured in their magazine, allowing our comic to reach a wider audience and have a greater impact on the promotion and development of literacy, and the use of language to construct personal and public worlds to achieve full participation in society, as per the Council’s mission.

PCC is proud to partner with NCTE to support teachers and enhance the powerful work already happening in today’s middle school English classrooms.

For a free copy of this comic, the associated reader’s guide, and a host of free classroom resources, please visit http://popcultureclassroom.org/classroom/resources/


Blog: Lifelong Literacy - Pop Culture Classroom

Inspiring Lifelong Readers: The Literary Power of Comics

Despite their rising influence across movies, TV, film, and literature, comics are still considered by many to be simple, low-brow superhero tales that lack any real-world impact. Even teachers using comics in their classrooms can fall into a familiar trap: thinking comics are only useful for encouraging struggling readers, and not much else.

But comics offer so much more than the spandex-clad heroes in bright yellow uniforms! In fact, research shows that comics offer innovative ways to teach literacy to students from all backgrounds, helping to shape the way they approach literature and reading for the rest of their lives.

COMICS AS A PATHWAY TO LITERATURE

Blog: Lifelong Literacy - Pop Culture ClassroomWhether it’s elementary, middle or high school, English classes at all levels focus on developing critical thinking and analysis skills in students. But, as English professor Rocco Versaci explains, “students first need exposure to literature before they can be in a position to argue literary merit.” How, you ask? After all, it is hard to ask a student to make literary judgments if they don’t engage with what they are reading or don’t enjoy it in some way. Comic books and graphic novels are the perfect solution!

As an added bonus, the reading of comics and graphic novels doesn’t in any way detract from the ability or desire to read higher level texts. Studies show that “…those who read more comic books did more pleasure reading, liked to read more, and tended to read more books.” Comic books don’t inhibit other kinds of reading, but rather encourage more reading of all kinds!

For example, the graphic novel adaption of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis by Peter Kuper can be the perfect way to introduce students to the classical literary canon while still being engaging.

Blog: Lifelong Literacy - Pop Culture ClassroomIn addition, Kindred by Octavia E. Butler is an essential feminist reading, and the adapted graphic novel by Damian Duffy allows students to easily enter the foray that is Butler’s feminist sci-fi.

By reading the adapted versions students get to experience the literary cannon in an approachable way, encouraging familiarity without being intimidating. And if students can start making literary judgements from adapted versions, they can translate that someday to the traditional texts as well.

ANALYZING COMICS FOR LITERARY ELEMENTS

Blog: Lifelong Literacy - Pop Culture ClassroomA multimodal union of text and imagery, comic books are incredibly engaging for any level of reader. As Versaci also says, “comic books are able to quite literally put a human face on a given subject.” Instead of just reading text, students get an image to connect with as well. However, the typical elements used for analysis in a classroom don’t just disappear when images are added. According to AP teacher Lisa Cohen, the reciprocity between text and pictures “necessitates inference skills” and “allows for a new approach to diction, imagery, syntax, structure, and language.”

For any curriculum centered on literature, literary devices are essential, and by using comics and graphic novels teachers might help students better grasp these concepts. Cohen gives the example of Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, and discusses how looking at the anthropomorphism and animal symbolism of the graphic novel allows for high levels of critical thinking and literary analysis. The symbolism in the novel largely lies in the illustrations, and as such is a unique way to demonstrate the particular device to students. 

Blog: Lifelong Literacy - Pop Culture ClassroomAlternatively, books like Persepolis can show the way that artistic style connects to character development. Marjane Satrapi’s illustrations accompany her view of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and are the perfect site for analysis on how images accompany language and how this creates meaning. English is all about how language and style can shape meaning; graphic novels just offer a new spin by introducing pictures as a site for further analysis on how structure can shape a work.

CONCLUSION

Overall, the experiences students have reading comics and graphic novels help refine their understanding of literature as well as reinforce literary analysis skills that can inspire a lifelong love of reading. Rather than being low-brow or simplistic, comics offer teachers a new and often unexplored way to approach everything from Shakespeare to symbolism to story arc – and everything in between. Every student can benefit from analyzing something that they actually enjoy, and comic books are the perfect way to introduce young readers to the incredible world of reading!