Tag Archives: Sweden

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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‘From now on everything is just going to get worse’ by Rikke Platz Cortsen

‘From now on everything is just going to get worse’ [1]

This is the message that the unsuspecting infant receives from its caretaker right at the threshold of life in Sara Granér’s one panel drawing from the book Det är bara lite AIDS [It is only a little bit of AIDS]. The book is a collection of mostly one panel gags which use a combination of expressive line, vivid colours and absurdist dialogue to point to the problematic relationship subjects often share with authorities, society and each other. As the title suggests it offers surprising statements concerning illness and uses these to circumvent the idea of the hospital as a place of care and comfort. Usually, the birth of a child is an event of joy and celebration, and it is assumed that the child has a long and hopefully healthy life ahead of it. But the depressing forecast from the nurse deflates this happy note and underlines the potentially distorted power balance in any discourse between doctor and patient. From the moment we enter society at birth, what the authority says holds the potential to determine our fate indiscriminately; we are born into the power structures inherent in our society.

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Conference Review: The International Bande Dessinée Society’s Seventh International Conference by Matthew Screech

The Joint International Conference of Graphic Novels, Comics and the International Bande Dessinée Society’s Seventh International Conference

July 5-8 2011

Manchester Metropolitan University

The bande dessinée part of the joint conference took up the baton after two very stimulating days with GNAC and SIC. We too were pleased by the quantity and quality of papers and we ran parallel sessions. The morning of 7th July began with panels comprising two distinct strands: bandes dessinées and Francophone Africa, and BDs drawing upon the European Classics. The first strand began with Laurike in’t Veld’s insights into how the Rwandan genocide was represented in comics, and continued with Michel Bumatay’s study of Sub-Saharan African Francophone BDs. The focus on Africa continued with Mark Mckinney, who drew upon (post) colonial strips to argue that autobiography began in BDs earlier than is generally recognised. This was followed by Cathal Kilcline’s analysis of Boudjellal, who depicts an immigrant family in Toulon. The European Classics strand began with papers by Linda Rabea-Heyden and Matthew Screech on comic strip adaptations of canonical literary works: Goethe’s Faust and Voltaire’s Candide. Next came a re-examination of bande dessinée Classics with Bart Beaty, who closely scrutinised panels from Bravo’s re-make of the best-selling hero Spirou. Another strip to enter the pantheon of classics, Lieutenant Blueberry, was discussed by Martha Zan, who established its similarities with ss.

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