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Create Graphic Stories in Class

October 21, 2014 by Nóra Wünsch-Nagy

The project

If you are looking for a multi-layered, creative and fun learning project for your classes, start a graphic story project with them. It should be a well-planned and supported project with enough time for the groups to develop their ideas and make their own book. Turn it into a project for the whole semester or year with various stages to check on each month.

There should be 4 to 8 people in each group with different roles for everyone. Let your students decide which tasks they would like to be responsible for, and let one student have more than one role if necessary.

The objective is to create a graphic story (original or adaptation of a classic) in a group. The format can be either printed or digital, depending on what tools are available to your students.

Factor in time for in-class planning and project management sessions when you can monitor the groups’ progress.

The illustration is a double spread from David and the Great Detective, our level 1 graphic story, written by Martyn Hobbs and illustrated by Lorenzo Sabbatini. © Helbling Languages

Why do it?

Graphic novels bring visual and textual literacies together, with various text types within the same story. This project will motivate your students to use new language in a creative, interactive and more functional form.

You can create mixed-ability groups as some of your students will have better digital skills and other will have better writing skills.

During these highly collaborative sessions they will be able to:

  • discuss their ideas;
  • see how they can develop a project step by step;
  • learn about project management;
  • work in a team;
  • learn to take and share responsibility in a team;
  • learn to value different competences, some of which may not usually valued in exam contexts;
  • learn from each other.

What are graphic stories?

Graphic novels, graphic stories and comic books are very similar. Here's is a simple but effective definition by Jacquelyn McTaggart:

'Today the term "comic book" describes any format that uses a combination of frames, words, and pictures to convey meaning and tell a story (...) All graphic novels are comic books, but not all comic books are graphic novels. Every publication that uses the format of frames surrounding text and graphics is considered a comic or a comic book. The lengthy ones, referred to as graphic novels, are also comics.' (McTaggart 31)

Source: Frey, Nancy and Fisher, Dougles (ed.): Teaching Visual Literacy. Corwin Press, 2008.

See examples of graphic stories which combine frames and longer narrative texts in a reader: Helbling Readers Red Series Graphic Stories.

How to do it

1 Get the tools

2 Create groups

Remember to have mixed-ability groups with 4 to 8 students.

3 Planning

  • Create a schedule with tasks to complete each month.
  • Ask your students to write down the concept. Will it be an original story? Will they adapt a classic?
  • Plan the layout/storyboard. How many pages will they dedicate to the frames? How many pages to the narrative?
  • The frames. Who will be the photographer? Do they prefer drawing pictures?
  • The design. Which web-tools will they use? Who will be responsible for this stage?

Ask them to write down the following:

  • The title and cover
  • Original or adaptation?
  • Number of pages
  • Number of pages with text
  • Number of pages with frames

6 Student roles 

  • Photographer or Artist
  • Writer
  • Designer
  • Researcher
  • Editor
  • Proofreader
  • Photo editor
  • Digital editor
  • Flipbook creator
  • Project manager

Remember, there can be more than one student for each role. Discuss the responsibilities of the roles.

You can share the graphic stories online on a class blog or social network group, or if you can print them, you can organise a class exhibition. 

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