As a San Diego resident, it is impossible to escape the incredible force of nature that is COMIC-CON. Each year the downtown area comes alive with super heroes, villains, zombies, comic book aficionados, and some of the strangest (read that as awesome) cast of characters you could possibly imagine. It is spectacular. Getting tickets? Not so easy! It sells out in literally seconds.
One of the essential questions of Teach Like a Pirate is, “Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets to?” I always encourage educators to look at events like COMIC-CON with the mindset of “How can I use that?” I was blown away by some Twitter posts I saw from Barbara Deeley, a 4th grade teacher from Massachusetts, and I asked her if she would write a guest-post for my blog. She graciously agreed and I am including it below. I love how she has taken something that she is passionate about, and that many students are passionate about, and woven it into a school-wide, cross-age, cross-curricular experience. Notice the great connections to character building, writing, reading, speaking, creativity, math, collaboration…and more! I think it is spectacular.
Here is Barbara…enjoy!
Somewhere around year 23 of teaching literacy to my fourth grade students, I finally began to follow my own advice: Write what you know; draw upon what you love. Keeping kids engaged all the way through day 180, particularly in writing, was growing increasingly difficult. We wrote memory books and survival guides for the upcoming classes, but neither really captivated or motivated the students. They still groaned when it came time to work on their projects.
The conversation around what to do began, as it usually does, with some questions:
What did I love as a 10 year old?
What do I love now?
And then most importantly…What if?
The answers were simple: I loved comics when I was a kid. I’d go to the newsstand every Saturday to get Sixlets and comic books. I would watch Batman and Robin every day after school and spun around in my backyard screaming, “Oh, mighty Isis!” I still love any superhero themed comic or movie, and I regularly grumble that I have never been to Comic Con. What if we built on our existing fantasy writing unit (already a kid favorite) and created our own Comic Con?
We begin in late May, reading and analyzing comic books. We look for the language, the format, characters, how the writing is different from what we have done so far in class. We watch episodes of the 1966 Batman and Robin series for plot examples, onomatopoeia, and dramatic language. We gather lists of possible superpowers and watch the series of You Tube videos by Bruce Blitz in which he documents the steps to creating a comic book.
Additionally, the comic theme extends into reading and math. Students create scale drawings of superheroes, which are used to decorate the gym. Reading classes are spent meeting in book clubs reading superhero themed books. (I highly recommend Powerless by Matthew Cody)
During this week of research, we are also brainstorming using guiding questions: Who is your hero? What powers does he/she have? Sidekick? Kryptonite factor? etc. When we have a rough idea of our story based on the answers to those questions, we create the cover. Students are anxious to see their heroes on paper.This year I brought in my daughter, an aspiring comic author/artist. She showed the class some basics about how shapes can evoke heroic or villainous traits, and she helped them refine their sketches.
The next step is to write the narrative. This year was the first time we put the drafting slides on Google Classroom. When the pages are complete, we print them out, illustrate, add speech and thought bubbles (another mini lesson), ink, color, and bind.
While all of this is happening in class, I meet with my former 6th grade student volunteers a few mornings a week. They help create all of the photo booths for Comic Con.
Former fifth grade students also get involved as peer editors.
The day of Comic Con each student dresses as the hero he/she has created. They stand behind their chairs, preferably in a heroic pose, and wait until someone pushes the red button.
Each superhero prepares a speech about his/her identity, powers, archenemy, and the crime that took place.Comic books are on the seat of the chair.
Classes are rotated through the photo booths, which are staffed by the sixth grade volunteers who distribute and collect the props and take the pictures.
This event has become tradition at our school; this year marked our seventh Comic Con. It not only helps the kids stay engaged throughout those difficult last days, but it helps keep me motivated as well!
Howe Manning School
So what do you think? How can you take inspiration from this post to create something amazing at your school? We would love it if you would add your thoughts on what Barbara and her friends have created in the comments below and/or tweet to us using the #tlap hashtag and mention @burgessdave and @deeleygrade4