Nobis and Cook: Connecting Comics and Essays

Nobis Nobis and Cook: Connecting Comics and Essays

Mitch Nobis and Rick Cook are teacher consultants from Red Cedar Writing Project, and presented a number of ways that they connect graphic novels and expository writing in their writing classes. They will also be presenting a similar session at Bright Ideas.

  • Thinking about what comics are and how they fit in to the curriculum
    • People’s perceptions of “graphic” novels
      • Is it a long comic?
      • Are they just for entertainment?
      • Rick showed up and found out that he had to teach Maus, Mitch always wanted to teach it.
  • Why Comics?
    • Comics offer a way to teach visual literacy
      • Now, Michigan high school content standards address visual literacy and graphic novels
      • Comics are connecting an old media with new technologies
    • Comics offer an engaging meium for memoir
    • Comics invite expository porse and demonstrate how to read with exposition in mind
      • How can comics and graphic novels, especially a vignette, turn into something traditional like an expository essay
  • Comics and Literacy Response
    • Check out McCloud’s Understanding Comics for more on all of this
      • Iconography – everything is a visual representation of something else
        • In a way, we are so involved because we identify all comic characters
      • Closure – the gutter between panels lets you step in to the story and make meaning between the panels
      • Paneling – thinking how motion works between panels
        • From one image of a person to another image of the same person
        • From one moment to another
        • From one idea to another
      • Amplification through simplification
        • Comic art moves from complex to abstract and, in so doing, makes things more general
        • Comics are popular with kids for this reason, because they can connect so easily
        • Universality – we all look like that
    • One of McCloud’s main points is that iconography combined with closure makes something a comic
  • Looking at Maus with McCloud as a lens for visual/literary response
    • Utlizes students familiarity with the graphic medium
    • Capitalizes on the “breaking the rules” nature of using comics in schools
    • Introduces academic discussion of graphic techniques and symbolism
    • Provides scaffolding as students arrempt literary analysis responding the the visual with the verbal gives students a “blank slate” to fill with original responses
      • They are able to go from image to words, whereas they are used to going into the author’s words
    • Introduces using “text” as evidence
    • Text / Terms = Effect
      • By looking at the text, and talking about it with the terminology of visual literacy, they can discuss the effects that the author acheives
  • Comic Prompts for Expository Writing
    • Missouri Boy by Leland Myrick is a graphic poem that covers many adolescent themes
      • Chapter 1 is a prologue about how his grandmother is dying as his mother prepares to give birth to him and his twin brother
      • Writing When You Don’t Know: Visual Memoirs and Research Writing
        • Writing personal experience
        • The move from personal to public
      • Generating prompts = exploring what you want to know more about
    • Moving from personal to public
      • How does Myrick’s birth at the time of his grandmother’s death influence his relationship with his mom?
      • Find broad generalities such as “how do our origins/environments affect who we are?”
        • Context specific: how does farming breed character (it is not the story of growing up on the farm, or the statistics about farming, but the half-way point between the two)
        • How does the structure of school influence laziness, work influences personality, growing up in a church affects morals, etc.
        • How do concrete things have abstract meanings?
          • How is an iPod a shield?
          • How is a football field home?
          • How is a photo a story?

3 thoughts on “Nobis and Cook: Connecting Comics and Essays”

  1. I was glad to find your post as I was looking for blogs on using graphic novels in the classroom. I’m currently in a graduate class which studies visual texts and their possible uses in the classroom. I was excited to see this post because it is spreading the uses of graphic novels/comics in the classroom.

    Before I read McCloud’s Understanding Comics, I did not see much value in this genre. This was due completely to my ignorance. Now, my brain is flooded with ideas for potential classroom applications. Your post added to this by expanding my notions of how to use this genre to help my students and still be seen as a teacher who “follows standards.”

    I was especially interested in the ideas for Maus that pertained to literary analysis as text as evidence. These are difficult concepts for students of all reading levels. However, the use of graphic novels and comics to explore this critical thinking is an amazing tool.

    I am especially interested in how comics and graphic novels can be incorporated into the English classroom to help improve critical thinking skills and improve writing skills. Thank you for your ideas and I look forward to exploring your blog further.

  2. Thanks for your comment here and insights on using comics and graphic novels. I agree that McCloud’s text is great, as it opened my eyes to the many rhetorical aspects that comics uses to make arguments and tell stories.

    The “standards” question is important, too, as it does affect teachers’ day-to-day lives as they teach. Interestingly enough, Michigan has created some new ELA high school content expectations as well as technology/media expectations that rely heaviliy on visual literacy. Thus, Rick and Mitch were making a strong, “standards-based” argument for using graphic novels in the classroom.

    I would be interested in hearing more about your work — please keep in touch.


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