Last week I gave you a simple project for your class… take a scene from a book and make it into a comic. this should have been maybe a page or two, but nothing too complex, just rewriting a scene. How do you branch beyond that- here is another idea. Next week you’ll get an even more open ended one, but again we are focusing on the basics, building a foundation.
The Comic “Book Review”. This is another simple one page project, but it gets the students to start writing their own scripts. A script is important as they branch into longer stories. I have hunted down some trade paper backs that include the original script. My current favorite for this is Code Monkey Save World. While not completely all ages – the song isn’t for younger kids due to some language (PG- but will get giggles and irate parents in a younger classroom). I use the script by Greg Pak and a copy of the first page to show how the process works. It’s pretty simple since the lyrics used for page one are just “Code Monkey get up, get coffee, Code Monkey go to job.”
It becomes much more as a comic…
and a script including the notes about changes (proving that writers do go through drafts).
So for Mentor Texts I bring up The Comic Critic and Unshelved’s Book Club both are web comics that are simple one page reviews of books and movies. As with any internet resource some may not be appropriate for all classes, you know your community. We can analyze how they provide limited information and persuade us one way or another.
As the students work on this they start to work a little more on drafts, scripts, page layout and character design. Some will find that the author has given them no details about the main character, and setting while others have overwhelmed us with exacting details. As a teacher this is where you guide them into searching out details and making a list. If the author mentions a characters favorite color… write it down. If they like baseball, make sure they wear a baseball cap, those kinds of things. If the author doesn’t, then the student needs to fill in the details, and create the character. Fortunately, in most cases students are reading realistic fiction so it’s pretty easy for them to draw someone.
The review is also a great chance for you, the teacher, to model what you want. Pick a book that you have read aloud in class and use that as an example. When I did this with my class I chose Funerals and Fly Fishing by Mary Bartek. As a class we talked about the major plot points and what I shouldn’t tell people in my review/summary *spoilers*. As I plotted and laid out the page I used it as an example of how to finish a panel. I had enough panels that I could do it over and over again with multiple students. Like the first example last week, it will take longer than you think.
You can see in my example one- that it isn’t finished and two- that I used blue pencil. to draw with. Why? I’m pretty old school I draw my comics using non-photo blue pencil and then ink over that. When I scan my work anything blue magically vanishes, all that’s left is the black line. I use a Prismacolor Verithin pencil, but there are others out there. When I did this project each student got a non-photo blue pencil and a piece of comic book paper (I chose the cheapest paper from Blueline Pro) but the kids thought they were cool drawing on real comic book pages. When they were done, I scanned each page and then printed it out. Each student had their original art and a black and white finished product that they could hand color if they wanted to.
So far we’ve focused mostly on using comics in Language Arts. Next week I’m going to share a larger comic project that involves integrating Science.
So you’ve visited your local comic book shop and actually talked to a “Comic Book Guy.” You’ve started to buy comics, trade paper backs, for your classroom. Now you’re trying to figure out how to integrate comics into your classroom. It’s easier than you think. You probably have been asked to have Reader’s and Writer’s Notebooks so add a drawing sketchbook to that and you’re ready to begin.
First of all don’t over think it… like so many things in education we spend a lot of time trying to get round pegs to fit into square holes. To start most kids (unless they’ve been squashed) like to draw, or doodle. If they say they can’t start with simple drawing lessons. For years I’ve used Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad which has 180 lessons. Is it a coincidence that we have 180 days in a school year? Probably. I have used these lessons with every grade I have taught and amazingly enough they tend to be one of the things my students remember the most about my class. One year I was asked to cover for the technology teacher… that class actually took over the daily lesson (thank you Elaine) they were third graders. To me this is an addition to handwriting (which we don’t teach anymore). Start accepting student illustrations of things. A scene from a book, a science experiment… have them tell a story with their pictures. When you meet with them, ask them to write down what is happening in the pictures, a caption if you like. I had a special ed student one year who if I asked him to write I’d get nothing, if I asked him to draw, the page was amazing, then I could ask him to add text and I ended up with finished pieces that would rival my gifted kids.
So get your class is drawing every day. After a week or so of this talk to them now about the basic parts of a comic, the language of comics:
Gutter - the space between panels
Panel - a picture representing a moment in time
Speech Bubble - what a person says
Thought Bubble - what a person thinks
Special Effects - SHRAAKOOOOOOM!
Have them take their drawings to the next level using comic construction to tell about things they do in the classroom. A math problem? A class rule?
In the beginning these should be fairly simple. so as not to stop the fun of creating a comic. Remind your class that simple scenes might not need much planning but as they get more complex you need to work a little harder.
Project #1- A Scene from a Book/Story
Have your students take a story they are reading and adapt it to a comic. I would have them find a scene that has either action or dialogue. The first chapter introducing the characters and plot, are a little more difficult. This should start off with just stick figures. Keep it simple, they can always make it more complex later on.
Once the student has chosen the scene, make a copy of that so you can conference and make sure it includes everything. You can look for storyboards from films to use as examples, since they are basically comics, although they may frustrate some kids thinking that they must produce something like that, which they may not have the drawing skill. You know your students.
Teacher Tip: This will take more time that you think so be flexible. Some students will love it, others will need a little convincing, but give them time… I wish I could tell you how long, but each class is different.
Once they have a quick draft plotting out the beats of the scene, then talk to them about details. The setting and the characters will need some kind of detail so you can tell them apart. Does it happen inside or outside? Kids talking to adults? A boy talking to a girl? Two girls talking? What makes them look different? Did the author give you enough detail or leave it to you?
This keeps you away from having the kids write a script (next week) until they have an idea as to how a comic is constructed. They use the author’s script from a book they are reading.
This is a fairly easy project to grade on the comic end (you can always grade on spelling & grammar). Take that copy of the scene and walk through it with the student. If it is a faithful adaptation, smile and give it a good grade. Remember the idea will always be to communicate. If the student succeeded in doing that, then they deserve a good grade. For advanced students you can always shoe them Wally Wood’s 22 panels that always work as a way to vary dialogue panels.
So, there’s a start a simple scene, which could be taken into a moment in history, a science experiment… give your class illustration as a option when it comes to written projects. If they can tell you what happened with pictures then you can move into having them describing things is words.
MINIUSA sponsors an event every two years for their owners. Yes, some would say it’s a great marketing ploy, and while that is somewhat true, the effort put into this event makes it much more than that. I’ve noticed throughout Social Media some concern from new owners and some grumbling from trolls so I thought I’d post my history as an “old timer” and some suggestions for everyone. I bought my first MINI in 2005, I am not a car person. I bought it because I liked it, it stood out from the crowd. I didn’t know I would be joining a cult at that time. Currently we have three MINIs, a 2012 MCS Roadster (R59), 2011 MCS Hardtop (R56), and a Mark VI Mini (righthand drive), and I’m still not a car person. We’ve owned a 2005 MCS Hardtop (R53), and a 2008 MCS Hardtop (R56).
This rundown may not be entirely accurate, but it’s how I saw things.
MINI Takes The States 2006 - Monterey, CA to LimeRock, CT
MINI Takes The States was set around the release of the John Cooper Works GP, the limited edition, high performance MINI, and the last R53 before changing to the R56. Due to timing I was only able to do one leg, and as a member of the MINI Car Club of Indiana volunteered to help at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I drove from Indianapolis to St. Louis and back, where we did a parade lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In St. Louis, I learned that if you only stay at a hotel for three hours, they only charge you the hourly rate for parking, and that you really shouldn’t consider this a race. On this leg I discovered that even though MINI hadn’t planned anything after the lap around IMS, it was supposed to be a rest.. the motorers didn’t want to rest and kept asking about where dinner was going to be and what the nightly activity was… MINICCI had to tell them “We were told not to plan anything.” Memorable Moment: seeing all the MINIs parked under the St. Louis Arch… And meeting the McGills after Gromit got hit outside the Motor Speedway. Everyone was fine, and we all signed the crushed door panel in a parking lot! A spirit of community was born!
MINI tried something new in attempts to emulate MINI United in Europe. Four parties around the country. We went to two (“Chicago” and Los Angeles). It was fun, but I think MINI discovered that in the US the drive is just as important as the party. The interesting part was trying to get out of Chicago to the actual venue at Road America in Wisconsin. Those of us in the midwest know that there are only two seasons- Winter and Road Construction. L.A. was nice being held at the Rose Bowl, but again something was missing, an epic drive. Memorable Moment: Driving a MINI with my dad around the cones in L.A. and being instructed to be gentle… it seems that all the MINIs in L.A. were the ones that had been at all the other events and they were having issues with the clutches. Which brings up something overheard at Road America- Someone there said “It was great I spent the whole day learning how to drive a stick in a JCW MINI!” and we wonder why the cars were on their last leg in L.A.
MINI United 2009 – Silverstone, UK
This was an epic trip to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Mini. I could see why MINIUSA had tried to have an epic party, because this was amazing. Seeing MINIs from around the world and how people had “You-i-fied” them was great. MINIUSA set us up with a nice dinner (pub crawl) the night before and all access badges for the event. During that time we had a chance to Meet Paddy Hopkirk, Rauno Aaltonen, and Mike Cooper (son of John Cooper) MINIUSA had arranged all these things for us and it was an unforgettable time. While a small group we really got to know each other. Memorable Moment: Touring MINI Oxford and meeting for the first time some folks I had only chatted online with, that group became the core of Cecil’s MINIons.
MINI Takes The States 2010 - Denver, CO
Here is where MINI tried to put everything together multiple routes heading to a one day party in Denver. The best of both worlds. We started in Indianapolis, where all the eastern routes converged. By this time we had a group of friends from around the country who we drove with. This was the MTTS I drew a comic strip for which means I was dead for most of the trip. We would drive all day, socialize, and then I would draw, color, and scan a comic about the day’s events. Memorable Moment: Dodge City. We all kind of laughed at Dodge City, it was the stop a bunch of people skipped, which was their loss. This was when we really got to get know the people who work tirelessly for MINI owners. That and this was the first infamous squirt gun ambush of Jim McDowell, then head of MINIUSA. The best things can happen when you least expect it. This was when knew MINI wasn’t just a brand, it was a way of life (as if I hadn’t figured that out already). I’m sure some other people have fonder memories (like getting married)… oh you crazy kids!
MINI Takes The States 2012 – New York, NY to Los Angeles, CA
After trying different things MINIUSA went back to the epic road trip. I had planned for this to be the swan song for my 2005 MCS, but it had other plans. So with about three days ownership under my belt, I drove out my 2012 Roadster… This was the first appearance of the oval MINIon badge as the group we drove with got larger, more friends from all over the place. I remember wondering why there wasn’t a stop in Indy this time around, but didn’t care once we got to Joliet and Autobahn. It was amazing, with each day holding new surprises and delights. Sue and I lived out of the boot of a Roadster the entire trip with one laundry stop and a quick stop at home on the way to Chicago to make sure the house was still there. We left everything to MINIUSA and I don’t regret it for a minute. Show up for breakfast, start on the road, we missed a few things due to our own detours, but I would do it again in a heartbeat… I am doing it again- sort of.
MINI Takes The States 2014 – San Francisco, CA to Boston, MA
Due to work (as a school teacher I kinda need to be there at the beginning of the school year or else I’ll pay for it the rest of the year and we start back August 4) I’ll be going as far as Lubbock, TX. Lubbock TX – this year’s Dodge City- I’m thinking it’s going to be great! The small group from MINI United has grown to over 50 people. This will be a chance for us to get together again. I’ve heard grumbling about everything from venues to parking to people not paying but going along for the ride… whatever. Social Media has brought out the Trolls and Worrywarts. I remember when I was one of them. I now put my trust in MINIUSA, and TPG that I will have an awesome experience no matter far I go, and that I will see new and exciting things along the journey.
I think with a month to go people are really excited and are overthinking it. Remember they have stores in every place we stop, if you forget your toothbrush, no problem. need a new pair of pants (don’t ask) you can stop along the route. Recently MINI’s tagline was “Not Normal.” It isn’t normal for a car company to do this kind of thing… embrace the adventure. Don’t set your expectations too high, just have fun- I know I will. Hopefully they won’t run out of food in St. Louis like they in in 2010, and you won’t have to listen to a football coach who doesn’t own a MINI (doesn’t even know what kind of car the University bought him) drone on about whatever- at least the steak was good. Yes, some moments will not be perfect… but I don’t know of any day in my life where everything went perfectly.
- Don’t listen to the trolls (or feed them)
- Wear sunscreen
- Pack a towel
- My comic from 2010 is still pretty accurate when it comes to packing.
If you are going, I look forward to meeting you- I’ll be the one with the monkey. If you aren’t going… maybe next time or at another event there are some great events around the country – MINIs on the Dragon, Mickey & MINI, MINIs on Top, MINIs in the Mountains, A MINI Vacation in Vegas, just to name a few. Catch up on what’s going on with MINI through places like White Roof Radio. Owning a MINI is an adventure… embrace it, live outside your comfort zone for a few days. Who knows? You might like it.
Each year I try to take on some stupidly monumental creative task to push myself and drive myself just a little closer to the funny farm… This year I’ve so far tackled a few things including getting the past two years of comic strips published in a comic. While I am proud of that effort there has been another project I’ve been working on for a while and I think (hope) it’s finally done. I’ve created individual badges for Cecil’s MINIons for MINI Takes the States.
What am I talking about? OK in 2006 MINIUSA started this crazy owner appreciation event called MINI Takes the States (MTTS), it’s a rally/party held every two years. What your car company doesn’t do this kind of thing? If you’ve read this comic for a while you know a few things- I own a MINI (and a Mini), I actually did a comic strip in 2010 for MINIUSA in conjunction with MTTS. So when MINIUSA announced in 2012 they were going coast to coast I created a small group on Facebook to help coordinate what we were going to do. These were people Sue, Cecil, and I had met along our travels starting with MINI United in 2009. I created a simple oval design for “Minions Take The States” and had magnet badges made for the handful of people in the group. Skip to 2013 and MINIUSA announcing MTTS 2014 -San Francisco to Boston. After a 2012 and many other MINI related events, our merry little band has grown to about 55 people and stupid me I say “Hey! I’ll design MINIon badges for everyone- just let me know if you have a number (four-digit) that is significant to you and that can be your MINIon number.” Kind of like the MINI JCW GP having unique numbers – I imagined sitting back and drawing a few generic minions- just a bunch of monkeys with fezzes, pretty simple. I started a spread sheet and took names and numbers.
Then I did something really, really stupid… I did a special monkey. I don’t remember which one I did first, but I opened the floodgates. I started getting special requests for MINIons. I was up for the challenge it was going to be fun, and I had a bunch of time to get them done. I had set up a bunch of numbers in the spreadsheet & special monkeys for those numbers (#1701- Star Trek, #2814- Green Lantern, #0451- a fireman, etc.) so doing ones for other people wasn’t much different. It actually is, when you just play with an idea, it’s fun, and you don’t have anyone else tied to the idea. When you start working on someone else’s idea it’s their vision, not yours. Years ago someone suggested I contact a MINI enthusiast magazine about doing a comic strip for them (like I do for FTF Geocacher). I actually had contacted them in 2009 when I first started out, and was ignored, but I tried again. When I spoke to the guy in charge he basically wanted his characters, his ideas, I would just draw the pictures… Not my thing, I wanted to bring my characters to his magazine and he wanted nothing to do with it. Like the old time comic industry the artist puts in the effort designing characters and in the end he owns nothing… work for hire- not my thing. So I’m now working with friends who have ideas as to how “their Minion” should look, they know how they want it to end up, “I want Cecil dressed as a…” but for me I wasn’t drawing Cecil, I was drawing one of his minions- one of his numerous clones. Cecil is unique- his clones are also, but in a different way. I reminded myself that Cecil is my creation I know his backstory, I know things that unless you’ve read this comic from the very beginning you would be blissfully unaware. Then the requests for changes came in. “I love it! but…” Most were simple, some required a complete redo. Some were numerous… and reminded me why I’m not a professional graphic designer or an “expert”. I draw for fun, it keeps me sane… If I actually got paid to do this stuff I’d need to be locked away in Arkham.
Then as with any project you have a few Veruca Salt types… “I want it now!” I am sorry I was unable to get all of these badges done overnight, but I was trying to get them done in a manner that I would be proud of the final product. Which I am. In the end there are 44 unique badges, along with a special oval design for the event. Each minion monkey was hand draw and then colored, placed on the badge and tweaked so that it looked good. Throughout the process I ended up losing files and had to recreate them, layers vanished. I learned a lot about my friends and myself. For those who pushed me with requests- I thank you, you helped me to be a better artist. For those who didn’t push, I thank you for giving me the freedom to explore. Either way it’s nice to have friends who help you to be a better person. The generic oval was redesigned a bunch of times, until inspiration came one night… and was drawn the next morning. The actual logistics now that the designing part is done is being taken care of by a couple of MINIons, which I appreciate. Cecil’s Cafe Press Store has some generic items for MTTS if you are interested.
What’s my next project? Nothing for the short term, I’ve got a classroom to set up and a comic to keep posting. Then again, Lego is a sponsor of MTTS 2014 and the Mini Cooper Lego set is coming out in August… my worlds are colliding.
Fortunately, or unfortunately I’m moving classrooms so I’m having to reorganize and sadly clean out not only my stuff but also whatever the previous occupant of this classroom decided to leave… I’m sure it’s all really important, but c’mon… Mimeograph books?!?!
This ordeal has given me the perfect opportunity to take a look at what is in my current comic library, what holes I need to fill, and what, due to my grade level, I may want to keep at home. I thought I’d share what my basic library contains, and what I’m going to add to it as time permits. I teach third grade, I have taught all the way up to fifth and all the way down to first.
When I first started teaching I heard an author talk about his time as a graduate assistant in an introductory literature class. While all the other classes had reading lists of the classics he had things like “The Princess Bride” (before the movie). His reasoning was this- he was supposed to teach certain skills to help students tackle a text, any text. If the student couldn’t understand what they were reading, how could you really master the skill? You spent most of your time translating what the author meant or deciphering olde English. I use comics and graphic novels in the same way. If my goal is to get students to understand character traits then why not talk about the cousins in “Bone” then when we are reading a more challenging text, circle round to those traits we already mastered, “Isn’t this character like Phoney Bone?”. Although when you get to the end Bone is definitely a deep story.
As you look at creating your classroom comic book library please understand your mileage may differ… you know your class, the families, and your community. Make sure to read every book you put out there and be comfortable enough with the content in case someone throws a fit over it. Not all comics are created equal. Make sure to check out a Parent’s Guide to the Best Kids Comics and get on the Diamond Bookshelf mailing list to see what’s new. Diamond is the major comics distributor for the the US so if they talk about it, your local comic shop can get it. Also check out Reading with Pictures and join their community to see what else people suggest for your specific grade level.
If you are using reading programs like Accelerated Reader check to see what quizzes are available for various titles. It’s always a nice check to see if the kids are actually reading.
Bone by Jeff Smith I started with the Scholastic editions when they first came out and soon realized that my students could not wait until the next book came out. I passed along my complete Bone (in one 1300 volume) to a few students and finally had to buy another copy. The students enjoyed carrying around this massive tome and didn’t mine that it wasn’t in color.
Amelia Rules by Jimmy Gownley I started off with these as individual issues and then picked up the trades. Life as a kid with a strong female character dealing with issues that kids can relate to.
The Dreamland Chronicles by Christian Scott Sava When I first started looking at webcomics I stumbled upon this one. The story of a guy who returns to “Dreamland” where kids go when they sleep in order to save the realm and help his friends. Currently available in print (seven volumes) but on hiatus as the creator works on a film.
Tiny Titans by Art Balthazar and Franco Yes, it’s mainstream, but Tiny Titans, now back in print as a monthly title is just fun. Each issue has small individual stories that tie together using characters from the DC Universe. The artwork is a joy and a great inspiration for kids.
Leave it to Chance by James Robinson & Paul Smith (Sadly out of print) this is the story of the mystic protector of Devil’s Echo. Chance Falconer wants to follow in her father’s footsteps, but he won’t allow it so being a “strong female character” she goes ahead and does it anyway. The first arc (Shaman’s Rain) can be a little hard for the kids to get into initially, but once they do they are hooked.
Mouse Guard by David Petersen “Mice with Swords” Fantasy Tale about the mice who keep order in the realm. Beautifully illustrated, David Petersen is available on Ustream to watch his process. better for upper elementary, I’ve had former students hunt me down to get the most recent story. Mouse Guard is the story, Legends of the Guard is an anthology in which other creators tell a tale from the same universe.
Owly by Andy Runton Wordless comics great for younger audiences tells the story of Owly, Wormy and their friends in the forest. What I like about it is by being wordless you can have kids of any age, tell you the story.
Individual Graphic Novel Titles:
Smile by Raina Telgemeier Bio-comic that kids can get into, when I brought this into my 4th grade class it vanished for weeks being passed from kid to kid until almost the whole class had read it.
Monthly Comics I’ll be Adding:
New Comic Book Day is Wednesday so teach your class some patience by picking up individual issues that they have to wait and remember what was going on.
Tiny Titans – back after a hiatus, this playful kids version of the DC Universe has multiple short stories that are tied together by a central theme each issue.
Scribblenauts Unmasked – When DC released a version of Scribblenauts (a great video game you should check out players are confronted with a puzzle that they must solve by creating things using a magic notepad. You write “hammer” and a hammer appears) a companion/extension comic was created in which the characters from Scribblenauts help save the DC Universe.
Princess Ugg – I’m always a little leery suggesting a comic when only one issue is out but I lie this premise and the idea of a strong female character. This comic is telling the story of a barabarian princess heading off to princess school… and hijinks ensue.
Herobear and the Kid – one of my favorites that took forever to get the issues out… Drawn in “rough animation” style so kids who draw can see the underlying work it tells the story of Tyler who moves into his grandfather’s house upon his grandfather’s death. He has the typical problems of a kid in a new school plus all his grandfather gave him was a broken pocket watch and s stuffed bear… a stuffed bear that happens to turn into Herobear! It is back after a long hiatus and is being published in 5 issue arcs so hopefully it won’t require you to wait a year between issues.
Trade or Graphic Novel Titles I’ll be Adding to my third grade classroom:
Drama & Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Amulet (Series) by Kazu Kibuishi
Lunch Lady (Series)
Baby Mouse (Series)
You’ll notice I have left off a lot of mainstream DC & Marvel titles. Basically, these tend to talk down to kids, and are in many cases not very good for the kids- which is why so many adults think of comics as the candy of books. There are some great stories out there, but in my journey through comic book shops, most things produced by major publishers are junk food. Your mileage may vary… check out a few titles and see what you think. The first trade for the second volume of Ultimate Spider-Man – introducing Mile Morales) is very well done and and really engaging to upper elementary/middle school kids. There are hundreds of titles out there and I know I’m missing some great ones, so please feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.
When I was a first starting out I used to go by the rule that if it was approved by the Comics Code Authority that meant the comic was basically similar in content to what the kids would see on prime time television. The Code was established as a watchdog agency censoring the content of comics so they were appropriate after a number of hearings dealing with some of the horror comics in the 50′s. There are books written on the subject, so I’m just giving you a very brief overview. The code went away pretty recently and comic publishers now rate comics as Mature, Teen, or Everyone – All Ages kind of like what they do with video games. They are self regulated, so a Teen comic may be OK for your elementary classroom, you need to decide. You know your students, families and community better than anyone else.
I just remember when a friend handed me a long box (around 200 comics) as a donation for my school. I started handing them out to teachers seeing that they all were approved by the code… a few days later I was called into the principal’s office- she had a stack of comics and I found out that the comic code had failed me… It seems that Batman & Detective Comics were a little more mature- the surveillance scene in a strip club was tastefully done, but inappropriate. So make sure, like anything else you put in your classroom you have read it and approve of the content.
So go out talk to the folks at your local comic shop and read some comics!
Next time: Ideas for Integrating Comics into your Classroom.