A Public Service Announcement! ;)

A Public Service Announcement! ;)

Friday, August 31, 2007

New Book on Visual Literacy Forthcoming!

My friends and colleagues Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey have an edited collection coming out soon, and it is all about Visual Literacy!

Teaching Visual Literacy :Using Comic Books, Graphic Novels, Anime, Cartoons, and More to Develop Comprehension and Thinking Skills is currently in the copy editing stage and is set for an early 2008 release from Corwin Press. Here's how Corwin describes the aims of the project:

"Educators today understand that literacy involves at least five processes: reading, writing, speaking, listening, and viewing. This thoughtful and practical book by a team of literacy experts offers classroom teachers a guide to using visual forms of information as tools for literacy development. Teaching Visual Literacy offers strategies for fostering visual and critical literacy competencies and increasing student engagement through the use of picture books, comic books, graphic novels, traditional films, anime, and other visual sources of information. Each chapter examines relevant research and theory, and presents practical applications for the classroom."

Among the chapters is an essay I wrote that details one possibility for why sequential art narratives are still struggling for legitimacy in the classroom and how teachers seeing themselves as active policy makers can change that.

Here's the full table of contents. Lots of great work on sequential art in there!

About the Editors
About the Contributors
1. Visual Literacy: What You Get Is What You See
(Lynell Burmark)
2. Graphic Novels: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
(Jacquelyn McTaggart)
3. Comics, The Canon, and the Classroom
(James Bucky Carter)
4. Seeing the World Through a Stranger’s Eyes: Exploring the Potential of Anime in Literacy Classrooms
(Kelly Chandler-Olcott)
5. “Literary Literacy” and the Role of the Comic Book Or, “You Teach a Class on What?”
(Rocco Versaci)
6. That’s Funny: Political Cartoons in the Classroom
(Thomas DeVere Wolsey)
7. Learning from Illustrations in Picturebooks
(Lawrence Sipe)
8. An Irrecusable Offer: Film in the K-12 Classroom
(Lawrence Baines)
9. "It Was Always the Pictures…": Creating Visual Literacy Supports For Students With Disabilities
(Paula Kluth)

I'm very excited about this project and to have been a part of it! Look for this book from Corwin Press soon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bloomberg News Article on Graphic Novels and Education

Bloomberg News just (8.28.07) published an article on comics/graphic novels and vocabulary, discussing Kaplan's SAT prep graphic novels in light of the recent news that SAT scores are down. It is a good article, and I'm quoted in it, but there are a few statements that might need some clarification.

What the article does well is examine the financial aspects of graphic novels publishing, and it reveals why companies like Kaplan and Scholastic might see the format as a viable economic investment. It is always nice when concepts of capitalism and better education for all (a free market ideal???) work together. It also mentions the important role that librarians have taken in advocating for adolescents' literary interests and thereby advocating their literacy development. I'm not sure about the Library-GN-NCLB connection that is made, though.

As for other elements of the story:

1. The article says comics were once considered "trash literature." Though this is largley true, and I can think of many who probably still hold this point if view, it gets a little tedious for me to keep reading this sort of thing in a news article. Not to blame anyone here, but maybe one day sequential art will be so accepted in education that no one even considers the word "trash" when thinking about it.

2. "Literary skills" vs. "Literacy skills." I'm quoted as saying the "literary demands" are greater for students now than they were. I wonder if this is a slip of my tongue or a misedit. I usually say "literacy demands" or "literacy skills." It's a rather small change to some; a big one to me. I recently had an academic essay edited such that "literacy" was changed to "literary" and it really bothered me. This usually happens when someone outside of the field of English Education or Literacy sees the word. The one good thing, though? If we accept a new or expanded definition of literacy, we are most probably also expanding a definition of literary. So, though this little "c" vs "r" thing is becoming a pet peeve of mine, it might not be such a bad little mistake. It actually politically charges the word "literary" in ways that really appeal to me.

3. The article states, "Because students spend so much time with television, video games and comics, teachers should use visuals to win attention, Carter says. He edited Building Literacy Connections With Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel By Panels, published by the National Council of Teachers of English, in Urbana, Illinois." -- This is somewhat of a simplified summary of our interview. Though I certainly mentioned that using visuals can help grab the attention of students who might otherwise be hesitant to read or be interested in other texts, I sort of feel like this reduction of my overall statement reduces the use of sequential art to a gimmick. That's certainly not what I want it to be used as. I want it seen as a viable format from which teachers and students can sharpen multiple literacy (and sure, literary) skills.

4. The article also mentions that many graphic novels are under $10. This reminds me of a situation in which a peer summarized a comic strip he had read. "What's the difference in a comic and a graphic novel?" one character asks. "About $15," another responds. The Manga she refers to are indeed often under $10, but GN's considered more literary (yes, the "r" is intentionally used there), and even many of the super-hero trade paperback GN's, often run more along the $15-20 range.

But, overall, a solid article from Bloomberg. Please do listen to the radio interview that accompanies the link. I'm able to get much more involved in my statements and you can also compare how the print article summarizes/condenses and how the streaming audio portrays much of the same information in a different manner. By doing so, you're helping hone your critical, multimodal literacy skills as well! :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Comicbookresources.com reports that this year's San Diego Comic-Con, the nation's largest comic book convention, drew over 125,000 unique visitors this summer!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Let's Talk about Sequential Art at NCTE 2007!

Hi, all! Just a word to let you know that I am scheduled to be at this year's National Council of Teachers of English conference in New York City. It's my first trip to the Big Apple, so I'm excited and nervous. But, what will I be doing at NCTE? Discussing comics and graphic novels, of course!

On Thursday I'm giving a presentation at the ReadWriteThink booth over near the NCTE books secton. I'll be discussing some sequential art-related lesson plans that I've created for ReadWriteThink, previewing my other engagements, offering some additional lenses by which to view and thereby teach graphic novels, and feilding questions and generally chatting it up about comics.

On Friday I'm leading a roundtable devoted entirely to teaching graphic novels. Some of my former students and a contributor to my recent edited collection will help the participants gain a full understanding of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to navigating comics through the English language arts curriculum.

Finally, on Saturday, I'm once again hooking up with my friends from San Diego State, Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, and I can't wait! Doug and Nancy always "bring it!" This year we'll be joined by Dianne Lapp, and we'll be exploring how we use comics to get our students writing and use writing strategies to get our students creating their own comics. I'll be focusing on how I got pre-service teachers writing their own comics and exploring the processes involved in making sequential art. The other excellent presenters will be focusing directly on adolescents' use of sequential art to express themselves and to increase their literacy skills.

Stop by and see us, and if you happen to see me walking around the convention grounds (just look for the name tag) and want some ENSANE conversation, don't hesitate to wave me over!!

New Semester Starting 8/22/07!

On August 22 I start my second year as a visiting instructor at the University of Southern Mississippi. This coming semester, I'll finally actually be teaching a majority of English Education classes instead of being a general education filler. I'm excited to finally be working with pre-service teachers, aka "my peeps!"

This semester will also mark my 4th -- that's right -- FOURTH time teaching a graphic novels-related course. ENG 311, the department's variable content course, allows me to teach a "Contemporary Trends and Issues in Graphic Novels" class. This will be the third time I've taught it, and I'm happy to see some former students of mine signed up to take another course with me. I also taught a "GN's as YA Lit" course this summer that went pretty well. I've added a few titles, such as American Born Chinese and the 9/11 Report. I wanted to add Pride of Baghdad and something from Craig Thompson , but maybe next semester. Students will have to read one GN of their choice beyond the syllabus listings, so maybe I'll turn them towards those...

In other news, Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels: Page by Page, Panel by Panel continues to do well. I just saw that it was in the top 70,000 in sales at amazon.com. It reached the top 12,000 at one time and had been lingering around the 250,000 ranking, so hopefully some libraries or college classes are picking it up. It's a great read, if I do say so myself (and on behalf of my contributors). If you're a future or current English teacher who wants to use sequential art in the classroom, I think you'd be happy with a copy. ;)