Conferring with Writers of Comics

We are currently in our first “Self-Directed” unit of the year in writing workshop – my first ever.  So, students are choosing their genre and topic, instead of just the topic within a given genre.  You can read more about it here.

Because I teach third graders and have always encouraged the reading of comics, many students chose to write narratives in the form of comics.  This was exciting for them, a little stressful for me.  I am not a reader of comics.   I am not a writer of comics.  Therefore, I found myself ill-prepared for conferring with students as they wrote comics.

Here are some of the teaching points that I used the two weeks before break.  Most of these came up simply because I, the reader, was confused about something they were sharing through their comic.  And they were generally questions posed that we solved together.

  • Introduction/Lead – Did you start in a way that hooked your reader?  Is your reader going to keep reading?   Does your reader know who your characters are?  Strategies for beginning a narrative can be applied.
  • Conclusion/Ending – How did you end the comic?  Did you bring your comic to a conclusion?  Or are you ending it on a cliffhanger?  Strategies for ending a narrative can be applied.
  • Word Choice – With so few words in a comic, the quality of the words is even more important.  Are there simple/common words that could be changed to add detail to the picture you are creating in the reader’s mind?
  • Setting –  Readers need to know where the characters are, especially at first or if there is more than one setting.  How are you letting your readers know where your characters are?
  • Flashbacks – How can you show this event is from a different time?  How can you set it apart from the other events?

Fortunately, my son is an avid comic book reader and received many new ones for Christmas.  And…he shares!  So, after reading several comic books I have learned a few more things that writers do when writing comics.

  1. Onomatopoeia – There is an abundance of onomatopoeia on every page, regardless of characters/series.
  2.  Dialogue vs. Thoughts – When writers want to share what the characters are thinking he/she puts it in a box (vs. using speech bubbles for dialogue).Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 6.32.23 PM
  3.   Tone/Volume –  Tone/volume is sometimes communicated in the shape of the speech bubbles.  While the typical speech bubble is talking, a bubble with a lot of spikes holds dialogue that is yelled or said with a lot of anger.Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 6.11.27 PM.png

There is one week left of this unit when we get back from break and I can’t wait to see their work and share what I have learned.  I also plan on reading more comics for two reasons.  One:  In order to be able to help my students, I need to be familiar with the genre.  Two:  They are really addictive and well written!

Consider giving students an opportunity to choose their own genre and don’t forget that as teachers, we need to immerse ourselves in any genre that we intend to help our students read or write.


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