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Conference Report: Fluid Images — Fluid Text: Comics’ Mobility Across Time, Space and Artistic Media (Cardiff University, Wales)

by Andrea De Falco

 

‘Fluid Images – Fluid Text’ was the title of an interdisciplinary conference that took place at Cardiff University (Wales) on 23-24 January 2020. The conference, organised by Dr Tilmann Altenberg (School of Modern Languages) and Dr Lisa El Refaie (School of English, Communication and Philosophy), hosted eighteen speakers from twelve institutions spread across seven different countries, featuring a wide range of backgrounds and approaches. The conference received financial support from Institute of Modern Languages Research (London), University Council of Modern Languages, Cardiff Comics Storytelling Network, Cardiff School of Modern Languages and Cardiff School of English, Communication and Philosophy.

The aim was to investigate from a transdisciplinary perspective three different and interlinked dimensions underpinning comics’ mobility: time, space and artistic media. The chronological dimension covers a broad field including the relationships between comics and history and the transformations investing their editorial and reading practices. Translation is the key word to understand how comics have been able to transcend national borders, by means of transmission in different languages and cultures. The last dimension leads us to comics’ adaptation in other media, investigating their relationships with different forms of artistic expression.

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Comics Literacy in the Classroom

by Lars Wallner

Comics as Narrative Tools[i]

Comics are a narrative form combining text and image in surveyable sequences (McCloud 9). In Sweden, comics are common reading for children, young readers and adults, even though comics reading among young people seems to have lessened, as have all types of reading—see, for example, Statens Offentliga Utredningar (231). Despite what these reading trends seem to indicate, publication of comics for children has grown in the past few years (The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books 25). Throughout my dissertation study (Wallner, Framing Education), I came in contact with many teachers from different levels of schooling who were interested in using comics in their classrooms. These contacts indicated not only an interest on the part of teachers, but also an interest on the part of students wanting to read, and to benefit from reading, comics in school.

Comics are also a prime material for studying how students engage in conversations on reading and writing—that is to say, literacy—especially because of how comics combine text and images. Because of this, a study of the use of comics in a school context can contribute greatly both to our knowledge of literacy construction with comics and to a better picture of what literacy entails.

In order to study this ongoing practice in the classroom, I made video recordings of three classes in Grade 3 (age 8-10) and one class in Grade 8 (age 13-15). In total, 77 students and 6 teachers, in two different Swedish cities, contributed to this study. 15 lessons were recorded with work in whole class, pairs and groups. As a researcher, I had no influence over the settings or materials: the teachers had already chosen the amount of time to be spent on comics, the material that they wanted to work with for each lesson and how they wanted to use said material. My role in the classroom was merely to film the activities that they planned and carried out.

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Maus in the Indonesian Classroom by Philip Smith

As regular readers of Comics Forum are aware, the site recently featured a Themed Month which sought to examine comics as cultural production. The issue looked first at the work of comic book authors (Woo 2013) and ended with an autobiographical account of one scholar’s experiment as a comic book retailer (Miller 2013). In the following article I hope to continue to chart the life of a comic book by examining one particular comic after sales as it is read not by academics, but by a much larger demographic of comic book consumers: teenagers, specifically, Indonesian teenagers.

There has been a debate concerning the role of comics in language acquisition and literacy which can be traced back to the 1950s when Frederic Wertham, among others, argued that comics cause retardation of reading ability (Wertham, 1954). Many modern scholars argue that comics serve as a gateway to literacy (see, for example, the Canadian Council for Learning website, 2013).[1] This article will document my experience and observations as a teacher who uses Art Spiegelman’s Maus in the Indonesian classroom with advanced English-learners. I will describe how I prepared the students to read Maus, the concepts and history which I taught alongside the text, and what the students themselves brought to, and drew from the work.

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Posted by on 2014/02/18 in educators, Guest Writers

 

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Using Comics to Teach Philosophy, Inclusively by Joyce C. Havstad

As an educator, I’m always looking for new ways to engage students. As someone who teaches philosophy at a large state school—in fact, at a prototypical American Research University—I’m always trying to convince college students that my subject matter is truly relevant, to their lives and to their budding careers. At the very least, I try to make philosophy fun. And one of the tools that I have developed to help achieve these goals is to use visual arts, especially non-traditional arts like comics, in the classroom.

So, the rest of this post is going to be about what I’ve observed from using comics in the classroom. I’m going to focus on two main things: one positive, and one less so. I think that both of these observations are worth taking seriously.

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Posted by on 2014/01/17 in educators, Guest Writers

 

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Keep watering the rocks by Di Laycock

For goodness sake put that graphic novel down and get yourself a real book to read.

Overheard in the school library, this comment was a short, but far from simple, remark made to a student by a colleague. Given the work I’d done with this teacher as to how graphic novels might be used in the classroom, I was disheartened to hear that graphic novels still struggled to make her literary cut. And whilst another colleague once told me not to waste time ‘watering the rocks,’ a part of me wasn’t going to give up so easily – I enrolled in a professional doctorate and grabbed my watering can.

The above scenario took place nearly six years ago, around the same time that Carter (2007) suggested graphic novels ‘still remain largely on the fringes of the [teaching] profession’ (p. 1). To reposition graphic novels more centrally, added Carter, more success stories of their use in schools were needed.

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