Tuesday, May 22, 2007

eLive - Graphic Story Novel Project

This session was talking about a project to look at graphic novels in schools and targeted at reluctant/less able readers. The graphic novel thing sounds good but graphic novels like V for Vendetta, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Maus and manga comics are the most well known but in fact are quite advanced and therefore not really suitable for the target audience. Even the new version of Kidnapped (distributed free in Edinburgh I think) is quite advanced. Instead, the project got the readers to look critically at picture books to "review" them for younger pupils.

Looked at modern fairy tales, like Shrek, that subvert the genre. As an example, they showed a video of a fairy tale football match. The film stage came at the end of a six week project - most of the time was spent with the books and in planning and writing.

With second year they looked at humorous picture books looking at the drawings as well as the words - how are the characters portrayed? Went on to do they own storyboards. The pupils were really engaged and talking. For example, one pupil refused to write but recorded a good story idea on film. This wasn't a special project that pupils volunteered for - it was the whole class.

As a result o the project, some of the pupils went to a local primary school and read to the pupils. Their self-esteem was significantly enhanced and they really enjoyed it.

Also used Comic life and this really helped them focus on the plot and their English teacher has noticed a great improvement in their writing. Their stories are much tighter, more focused... better.

The project think they could do a lot more, for example, look at genre - horror, humour, ...

The project seems to have been a huge impact. Better primary/secondary links, parental involvement, increased confidence in ICT amongst staff, improved ethos (including better staff/pupils relationships) and a real insight into pupil abilities that may not have been obvious before. This was a new way for staff to get to see the pupils working and being involved and enthusiastic. There is (will be?) an LTScotland graphic novel website. (This perhaps, this, and this talk about the use of graphic novels in education.)

There were problems. All the planning was done outside normal school hours. Also, the decision was taken to work with all pupils, even the "problem kids". There is a problem about sustainability. It required a high level of staffing but perhaps creative use of classroom assistants or pupil mentors would help. Certainly, the Royal High School is looking at using 6th year pupils to help next year. Could extend to gifted and talented pupils with more difficult graphic novels.

There was also a spin off into other curricular areas, for example, Art. The Art department allowed pupils to develop illustrations for a picture book over a period of time - again hugely engaging for the pupils involved. Although picture books are seen as being for young children, some are very sophisticated.)

A recommended book is 99 Ways to Tell a Story - the same story told in different styles - was suggested that only real comic nerds would read all the versions but it looks like a facinating idea... and it's only £8.57 on Amazon. :-) Also recommended Window by Jeanie Baker - a pictorial history of twenty-four years of a boys life - all sorts of possibilities, e.g. environmental studies.

The school is keen to do it again. They were lucky to get a lot of resources to start it off but they started finding books everywhere, e.g. charity shops and swapping with other people. Probably wont happen with every class because it is quite intensive but the benefits are such that they will do it again. But why not other subjects? I'm sitting beside Ewan McIntosh and, of course, he's getting excited about the potential for Modern Languages.

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