Graphic Novels: Writing in Pictures and Words
By Eric Hand and Hareem Atif Khan
This groundbreaking unit—the first writing unit from TCRWP that focuses specifically on graphic novels—stands on the shoulders of all the narrative writing Units of Study, helping children transfer what they’ve learned of narrative craft into a new medium.
The new Graphic Novels unit asks you to reinterpret your definition of writing. You will teach true writing skills, but they will be disguised in a fun new format that will help your students grow much smarter at reading and writing stories in multiple media. Even though students may not create pages and pages of paragraphs, they will be writing:
- Structuring a well-paced story is writing.
- Zooming in on a moment to highlight importance is writing.
- Showing not telling is writing.
Your writers will do all of this and more in this unit as they tell visual stories.
Like other writing Units of Study, this unit focuses heavily on process rather than product, and the flow of lessons reflects this. Instead of handing students a printed grid of panels to fill out, you’ll teach them to build a panel layout to highlight what they deem important on that page. Instead of having them cartoon out a preexisting story, you’ll preserve the true writing process by teaching them to doodle the very start to a story idea. This makes for a messier process, but it also makes the process intellectually demanding. In preserving the independent decision making that is the hallmark of the authentic writing process, you are actually teaching true writing skills disguised in a fun new format.
This unit comprises two bends. Each bend takes students through a complete writing cycle, which means children will have written two graphic novels by the end of the unit.
Bend I: Writing a First Graphic Novel
- Students doodle a character into being and set this character up with a challenge or problem, then immediately think up a believable resolution to this problem.
- Kids learn that stories are seldom thought up in the order that they are told, and that plotting a story requires having an end in mind.
- Students plot a story arc for their character, building tension until a turning point appears.
Bend II: Powering Up Your Visual Craft
- Students think about inserting suspense through cliffhangers at the end of every double page.
- They decide how to adjust the timeline of their story to maximize impact on the reader.
- Across this bend writers learn to use important narrative craft moves through a rich and engaging new format.
Click on the image below to download the Table of Contents and Session 1.
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