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Creating Graphic Novels 2.0

Over the last few weeks grade eight Humanities students have been working hard to author their very own graphic novels based on a list of selected short stories including Alice Munro's Day of the Butterfly and Roald Dahl's Lamb to the Slaughter.

Inspired by Larry Lessig's Ted Talk arguing for the revival of our creative culture, our goal was to get students creating, rather than just consuming graphic novels. To this end, we structured the learning in a way where they would be introduced to modes of thinking and creating practiced by graphic novelists in the real world.

As part of this process, students learned to construct the important elements of graphic novels:

• paneling (storyboarding)
• varying point of view
• moving the story forward through images
• working with dialogue and captions
• flow/sequencing
• creating mood and
• incorporating elements of theme

This was the second year that our grade 8 students have worked on the Graphic Novel project. Learning from our first experience with the project last year, we made a number of changes that resulted in stronger student-created graphic novels with more interesting paneling, greater demonstrations of perspective and visual innovations that did a far better job of capturing the idea of theme within their short story.

Learning from last year we:

• Used the more manageable genre of short stories instead of novels
• Brought in professional graphic novelists to offer guidance and advice
• Discussed and analyzed more real world exemplars of graphic novels
• Provided more strategies on how to visually tell a story in a compelling way

Here is one of the student created Graphic Novels:

We believe that this project encompasses numerous facets of authentic inquiry-based learning including:
Connecting with the Experts

In order to expose students to how professional graphic novelists incorporate these elements in their own work, we invited a local graphic novelist, Justin Scott, to present to our students. In the video below Justin speaks to a number of important aspects in creating a graphic novel:

Integrating Technology in the Classroom

Students were given the freedom to create their graphic novel in a medium of their choice including using the comic-making website Pixton or drawing it on their own. This video from Pixton does a great job of explaining the technology our students used to demonstrate their learning!

Showcasing Student Work

In an attempt to validate all the hard work students put into this project we provided students with a space to showcase their work. Now that the graphic novels are finished, we are teaming up with the Kensington Market Collective to give our students an opportunity to display their work to thousands of Calgarians. At the same time, our students will be able to teach Calgarians what they learned about graphic novels so they can make their own!

Building Deep Understanding

Learning from the structure of the project last year, we made choices to focus more on building students’ understanding of the literary elements that point to the theme of a story including poetic devices and the central conflict. Further, we embedded additional discussions around compelling examples of graphic novels and explored the different ways that graphic novelists create mood and develop characterization. Through this process students created more effective graphic novels as well as developing greater understanding of the different elements of short stories. This short video shares one of the grade 8 students commentary on how they created mood and visually represented the theme of the short story in their graphic novel:

Providing Formative Feedback Loops

The final piece of the puzzle is to provide students with meaningful guidance at key stages in the creative process. As a part of a formative feedback loop, students received extensive praise/criticism for their graphic novel rough drafts. Students then had the opportunity to consider the feedback and make appropriate changes. At the end of the project they were asked to demonstrate how they enhanced the project based on the feedback they received. The Podcast below is an example of type of discussions that were embedded throughout the project:

Overall we were extremely pleased with the quality of the student work, as well as the engagement and buy-in demonstrated by students.

Here’s a final example of a student-created Graphic Novel:


Anonymous said...

As I read your descriptions of the involvement of your students in creating graphic novels, I thought of the vision for education in the future articulated by Roger Garriock, the guest speaker at our charter school conference in October. He made reference to promoting and facilitating the development of the four C's-creativity; collaboration; communication and critical thinking. I believe that you have effectively addressed each of these goals through your graphic novel project. I appreciated your description of what you have learned from the first experience with the project and how you have made adjustments in the learning activity. I was very impressed with the video clip demonstrating the teaching perspective as well as the student video clips and the exemplars of their work. It is a great idea to have the students demonstrate their graphic novels through your partnership with the Kensington Market Collective. Garry McKinnon

LJD said...

A wonderful project! As we try to plan, can you break down timelines for us? How many computer lab sessions were students using for the creation side? How many days/weeks/months involved the full project? thanks!

David Scott said...


I think it is a great project, but is reliant on relatively stable access to computers. Contact me at so we can discuss some modifications that would help.


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