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?

Notes from Christopher Paul Curtis’ Keynote

Curtis Notes from Christopher Paul Curtis‘ Keynote

These are partial notes, as I was taking lots of pictures at the beginning of the session. Curtis shared some stories about his youth and talked about how some younsters get the “Scarlett B” on their forehead and how he didn’t have one. One story that he shared was when his parents bought a set of encyclopedias and that his sister would read from them to him.

He then went on to discuss how he liked reading as a child, but he didn’t like fiction. He would spend time reading Newsweek, Time, and Mad, among others. SRA brought about some great memories, including attaining the level of “plaid.” He couldn’t find a book that “touched him” as a child because there were no books for, by, or about him — from an African-American perspective. For the level of a book being “touching,” there has to be something about you in the book. Many of the books that he read, didn’t give him the “I know where you are coming from” feeling.

Today, he knows that his books, Jacqueline Woodson’s, and Walter Dean Myers’ offer something to a young child who will know the wonder of reading well before he did. Perhaps some time in the future, an African-American can reference one of these books when asked, “What book touched you as a child.”

He talked about himself as a writer and referened his parents, both of them avid readers. His mother is 82 and still “knocks off one book a night and two packs of cigarettes.” His mother was protective, and he shared a story about how trick-ot-treating was off limits in Flint during his youth. Instead, she would go to different rooms in the house and they would go door-to-door. By the kitchen, the thrill was gone. (He told the story better than I am typing it, of course!).

What makes me work as a writer? In the Watsons Go to Birmingham, he talks about how he modeled Byron off of himself as a young man. He talked about a scene in the book between the son and the mother that verges on child abuse and reflected on how that fits in only because it is contextual and related to the spirit of the times. (NOTE: I find that this makes for an interesting point, given the current issue with censorship in Howell.)

As a writer, you are a powerful person. You can speed things up. You can slow things down. You can also use your imagination. Right now, he is working on what is currently his favorite book. It is called Elijah of Buxton. This is a place in Canada, a site of the Underground Railroad. This was a utopia for the excaped slaves. He adopts the persona of a young boy concerned with his place in the community.

From there, he read from his upcoming book, much to the enjoyment of the audience.