Working in a school is like any other area of life - you have to find your people. I'm fortunate enough to work with an amazing group of people, but one of my favorite, and most richly rewarding collaborations has been with my art teacher, Rachel. We collaborated on the zoo project I wrote about earlier, and this Thursday night, we presented on our graphic novel project at the 3rd annual Better Together conference, cosponsored by MSLA and MassCUE.
You can find a link to all our materials here, and this is a picture of our snazzy poster, which is now hanging out in the front seat of my car, because it seems a shame to throw it away.
The project takes roughly 4 weeks in library and 4 weeks in art, and we teach our respective lessons back-to-back so that it doesn't consume either of our curricula. I begin by talking to the kids about how a graphic novel is different than a comic strip - both are popular genres in my library, so I try and make connections the kids will relate to. Above all, I want them to understand that a graphic novel is a novel, it just happens to have pictures in it as well.
The next week, we move on to talking about plot structure and language choice, then students begin to brainstorm what their main character looks and acts like using a character guide. Finally, students do a brief storyboard to get their creative juices going before they transition to art. I send along all the materials they've worked on in library to art, and from there the students learn about how to put a graphic novel together.
Rachel's part of the project involves teaching the kids how to think about the layout of a graphic novel - why would you want to choose different layouts and panel shapes/sizes, perspective (when might you want to zoom in on your drawing, and when might you want a panoramic view), and how to communicate visually using facial expressions, speech bubbles, captions, and more.
We had a lot of people surprised that we put no restrictions on the students other than "no violence and school appropriate," but I love this aspect, because kids are starved for chances to be genuinely creative. Kids who are usually writing-resistant come to life, and their works really reflect who they are: we've had sci-fi stories, time travel, historical fiction, realistic, fantasy, and more. The whole process gives kids ownership over their ideas and their work, and it really engages them. This is also a tech-free project, which may come as a surprise, but sometimes it's good to disconnect, and a pencil and paper afford the kids far more freedom than pre-set layouts, characters, and backgrounds. If I'm using technology, I want it to be used for a purpose, and since we haven't felt a compelling need to integrate it into this project, we haven't used it. That's OK, too!
My name is Ms. Bery. I am a PK-8 library media specialist in the Boston area. In addition to being a certified school librarian, I am also certified in instructional technology, and have a strong interest in exploring and integrating technology in new and exciting ways in the classroom.
I am also a 2016 PBS LearningMedia Local Digital Innovator, and a 2015 recipient of the Massachusetts School Library Association's President's Award.
Check out the Sandbox for apps and websites I've found useful in supporting student learning and creativity. I also review children's, middle grade, and young adult books on Instagram.
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