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!


Workshop Spotlight - Whittier Elementary - Pop Culture Classroom

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 - Comic Education Outreach - Pop Culture Classroom

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.

Cosplay Update - Denver Comic Con 2017

Big Update from the DCC’17 Cosplay Team!

Denver Comic Con has some new and exciting changes to announce for 2017! We have a brand new Cosplay team and lots of improvements to our Cosplay Programming this year. Read on for the some of the biggest updates!  And, now you can either send questions to cosplay@popcultureclassroom.org, or submit them through the new DCC Cosplay Facebook Group we just launched (details below)!

NEW COSPLAY CANYON

First, the cosplay Photo-shoot Gathering Stage, Contest Craftsmanship Judging, and Cosplay Panel Room (previously room #507) will all be consolidated into one new area called Cosplay Canyon. It will be located on the Southwest end of the street level floor. This centralized area will be a hub for the cosplay community to access all main cosplay programming at Denver Comic Con.

INTRODUCING THE “COSPLAY CLASSIC”

The official DCC cosplay contest formerly known as the “Cosplay Shindig” is now the “Cosplay Classic!” Do you have what it takes to join in the Cosplay Classic? You bet you do! Creativity, passion, and a little bit of bravery! Check out our Cosplay Classic guidelines to get all the information you need to bring your best to the stage. Please make sure you carefully review requirements, divisions, and stage rules before registration on April 29th, 2017.

If you would like to enter into the new Cosplay Classic, you may do so starting on Saturday 4/29 at approximately 12 noon MDT, which is when the entry webpage will go live.  Start by going to the DCC website (www.denvercomiccon.com), then click on the “COSPLAY” tab.

COSPLAY PHOTO-SHOOT SIGNUPS AND DETAILS

Cosplay photo-shoot gathering signups are now open! Submissions are open on the DCC website (popcultureclassroom.org/dcc/cosplay/cosplay-photo-shoot/) from April 22nd-April 29th. After collecting the submissions, we will also post a poll on that same page from May 6th-May 13th to vote for the groups and ideas you’d most like to see at DCC! Themes will be scheduled and prioritized according to popular vote. This final schedule will be posted, online and in the DCC Program, after May 20th. The Cosplay Photo-shoot Stage welcomes all cosplayers and photographers to gather at any scheduled theme to network and show off their talent! 

NEW FACEBOOK GROUP DEDICATED TO DCC COSPLAY

There is also a new DCC Cosplay Facebook Group – specially created for the DCC Cosplay Community as a means to network with each other and have one place to go to ask questions and get official answers from the DCC Cosplay Team. This group will be closely monitored and moderated by us, so be sure to read through all the group rules and guidelines before joining. You may find that group here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1826254787635942/

ATTEMPTING THE GUINNESS BOOK WORLD RECORD!

Denver Comic Con is also going to officially attempt to beat the Guinness Book World Record for “Largest Gathering of People Dressed as Comic Book Characters.” Note that this any “comic book characters” count, not just “superheroes!” So, for example, Power Rangers and Pokemon work just as well! We as a unified Cosplay Community can surely beat this world record and invite all costumed comic characters to gather with us on Sunday, July 2, by 3 p.m. MDT at the Bellco Theater to be a part of this world record breaking event! Stay tuned on this one – many more details to come!

Ticket Drops - Denver Comic Con 2017

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!


Captain Colorado

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.