Classics and Comics

I posted the following letter to The Dickens Forum listserv, in response to a query which questioned the use of “graphic novels” to teach Dickens to middle and high school grade students.

On graphic novels in general, and separately for Dickens:
I too teach Dickens in high school, and have been encouraged to continue adding new novels by workshops such as Dickens Project offers. (Aside: please contact me if you plan to be at the Bleak House Universe this year…looking for People to build me up before July in preparation, especially Twitter users who share a love of CD)I defend true graphic novels, which are their own art form, but I would use the criteria that the texts ought to be original with their authors, so that “illustrated classics” would be a better term for a Dickens text in comic book form.
I would consider WATCHMEN or AMERICAN BORN CHINESE graphic novels which feature images and text that work together. Comics would be a term for them.
As for teaching Dickens using illustrations, I used two sets of illustrations from very specific scenes in TTC last year, one the storming of the Bastille from a Classic Comics version. I asked 10th grade students to watch for repeated imagery in the chapters that describe this event, and in which CD uses highly figurative language, such as throngs of people moving as rushing water. then students read the illustrated version of the event, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the illustrations as an accompaniment to the original language of the novel. Students were engaged, and those who had a difficult time picturing Dickens own scene may have been aided by the pictures, but mainly it was an isolated lesson connected with a novel- long study of CD’s language.
On the other hand, using illustration to allow students themselves to draw scenes, moments, or chapters and characters and maps or diagrams has been a helpful way for them to process their own reading of such texts. Lately some teachers have offered students a challenge of drawing a “graphic novel” of a Classic ( or contemporary) text, but this mainly consists of a series of 6 or so related frames. Through such an exercise, students may demonstrate the use of point of view, figurative language, and narrative elements; thinking like movie makers, they employ their own creativity to depict internal action, or compelling visual gestures and close-ups that are often far more than illustrating a mental image the text itself creates: they seem to be actually interpreting the text.
In a final note, I mention that this year’s 10th graders generated a unit contrasting the film and text of To Kill A Mockingbird, and all but one preferred the book to the film. They have been publishing their findings (it was a sort of class experiment) on a class wiki. Interested teachers may inquire about the web address. Students seem to want to be “in the know” and to understand how to read complex works of literature. Illustrated classics may not help them in this skill, but learning to think as a novelist or graphic novelist does about narrative choices and techniques can help students of all ages to become better readers.
Gordon Hultberg
Salt Lake City
P.S. Lawrence Baines’s MULTISENSORY LEARNING (ASCD) has a variety of lessons for each of the five senses, backed by interesting research demonstrating that using touch and sight as you learn creates powerful mental connections. Perhaps whatever our level of student, we can employ the five senses in aiding them to draw near to Dickens in pedagogically defensible ways.

0 Responses to “Classics and Comics”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Gordon’s Tweets

  • RT @onewheeljoe: A3 Almost all of the challenges I have encountered I handle by giving the student an alternative. When students have voice… 43 minutes ago
  • RT @danahmaloney: The Pope: “There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible. Many ways to anesthetize them, to make th… 48 minutes ago
  • @CathEdToday Newman’s Ideas of a University inform my daily teaching practice. 59 minutes ago
  • RT @CathEdToday: “A great memory does not make a mind any more than a dictionary is a piece of literature.” CARDINAL JOHN HENRY NEWMAN ht… 1 hour ago
  • RT @ziwe: if you're arguing whether the children are in cages or windowless rooms, you've lost the plot 1 hour ago

RSS Good Questions

  • Guided Discovery Lesson Plan: Cubbies November 9, 2015
    This lesson introduces students to the their classroom cubbies. The lesson allows the class as a whole to determine what is the appropriate use of a cubby and how to best care for them. What is a Guided Discovery? It is a student-centered … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Guided Discovery Lesson Plan: Freeze Signal November 6, 2015
    The Freeze Signal is used to communicate to students that they should suddenly stop what they are doing and pay attention to the teacher.  I consider it an important safety measure.  Personally, I use a singing bowl, but I have seen teachers use … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • What is this Maker Movement? February 12, 2015
    I am a maker.  At least I think I am.  I sew. I blog. I cook. I bind books. I built a deck with my dad. Is that what people mean when they talk about ‘making?’ When I hear people … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Let the Planning Begin – Tools for Success August 13, 2013
    Procrastination finally comes to an end. Today I begin the work of plotting out the first few days (and weeks) of school. While the students are out shopping for school supplies (which induce panic attacks in me), I pull out … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Story Starters August 9, 2013
    This is a first for me.  I have been contacted by SmileMakers to preview one of their products, of my own choosing.  As an avid writing teacher, and a writer myself, I chose to review their Story Starter Word Cubes. … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Teachers Love Tech August 3, 2013
    My love for tech begins at a personal level.  I plan my life (and my lessons) on iCalendar. I create invites, worksheets, game handouts and more with Word and/or Pages.  All of my music comes from the web (check out … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Math Game: Hangmath October 8, 2011
    What is it? Hangmath is paper and pencil game similar to Hangman.  Players take turns creating two-digit addition problems, which the other player guesses. Rationale: Hangmath reinforces place value concepts because the Magical Minds must ask questions about the digits … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Studying Systems October 7, 2011
    SYSTEM: a set of connected things or parts that form a complex whole. The Magical Minds are investigating different kinds of systems.  We started by looking at smaller systems, things we could find in the classroom. We began to expand … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Reading: Understanding Genre Help Us Make Predictions October 6, 2011
    Today we began to think about how to use what we know about genre to make predictions about our books. To illustrate this point we compared nonfiction and fiction books. We already know that nonfiction books are full of information, … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz
  • Math Game: Foreheaded (place value) October 5, 2011
    What is it? In this game each player receives a mystery three-digit number, which they place on their forehead.  Using a guide sheet (below), players take turns guessing the digits in their numbers. Rationale: This game allows the Magical Minds … Continue reading →
    Erin Mahollitz

%d bloggers like this: