Powerfull Voice of Kids - Digital & Media Literacy Education

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Creating a non-fiction comic about the life of a homeless person




Young children learn so much from the world around them. Getting children out of the classroom and into the world can help them use a wider variety of language, pictures, and photographs to develop critical thinking, research skills, and creativity. Field trips, neighborhood walks, and other out-of-classroom activities are good at promoting learning.  Such work involves teacher improvisation and senstivity to unexpected encounters. There is an inevitable balance between order and chaos that can occur in collaborative and creative multimedia production environments.


In this IDEA, we see work from a Grade 3 classroom where children accidentally encountered a homeless person while doing another outdoor media production activity. Children's questions about homeless people inspired the teacher to alter the planned activity, which was a digital storytelling project using the software tool, Comic Life. Instead of composing a fictional story, children learned all they could about homelessness  and made a non-fiction comic.   Learn more about the context of this lesson by reading Chapter 3 in Discovering Media Literacy.  We also produced several research reports on this particular case study, including one on improvisation and risk-taking and one on bringing the world to school.


Comic books are one way to combine visual (drawings, photographs, and comic symbols like word balloons), language (narration and dialogue), sound (written or symbolic sound effects), and montage (arrangement of panels on a page). Similarly, digital storytelling -- in which a voiceover is paired with a collection of photographs or assembly of shots -- is, at its foundation, a combination of essential elements. Even relatively simple multimodal productions can support students' development in reading, writing, critical thinking, inquiry, and reflection.


ACTIVITY: Exploring and Creating a Non-Fiction Comic


1. Start with Experience. Download or display The Life of a Homeless Person. Read aloud or ask learners to read aloud. After reading, discuss:


  • How did this comic make you feel?
  • What are some of the main ideas in this comic?
  • Who created it? What information is provided about the authors?
  • Why do you think it was created? Is it to inform, to persuade or to entertain?
  • How was this comic created?


ACTIVITY: Working with a partner, ask learners to generate a list of the steps in the process that may have been used to create this comic.


2. Explore Examples to Consider Adaptation to Learners and Contexts. View the short video, Comic Book Creation. In this, you see some moments from the classroom where children developed this project. Discuss: What did you notice about how children worked together? What did you notice about the teacher? What are the characteristics of a classroom where children are being creative? Download or display A Teacher's Journal, which is a brief description of the teacher's reflection about the process she used in helping students to create a non-fiction comic. As you read, consider which elements you had anticipated or predicted when you created your list of steps in the process. Which elements does the teacher describe that are new, surprising or important?


3. Compose, Create and Take Action.  Develop a project where you and your students create a non-fiction comic. You can start with our Lesson Plan, Creating Realistic Dialogue, to brainstorm new ideas. You may want to use Comic Life, a simple comic creator software. Check out the LINKS section to see other good resources. Become a Powerful Voices for Kids Partner and share your students work here, along with your reflections on the process, on this website.

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  • created 10 years ago
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