Use these projects to kickstart comics creation in your classroom!
Middle school multi-media unit built around the 1864 prison diary of a Union soldier!
Local history in global context…
PROJECT SEQUENCE: prep | day 1 | day 2 | day3 | extensions
This project works well as:
- an introduction to a period or topic, structuring student research on subtopics & motivating curiosity & connections…
- a summary project where students can make connections & demonstrate how events & themes fit together in a larger narrative.
- Define your subject (time period, specific topics & perspectives).
- Assemble basic research resources (books, websites, media, &c.)
- Artists may benefit from a prep session with a KWL chart or similar non-comics graphic organizer.
- Either before or during the project, I like to guide students through a visual tour / gallery of period artwork, imagery, & (if possible) comics. This both demonstrates research resources, & encourages students to observe & apply techniques in their own artwork.
RECOMMENDED FORMAT: 3-Panel Comic Strip Template
If everyone draws in the same format, it’s much easier to combine final comics into a classroom publication. Drawn at ~11″ wide on standard copier paper, these 3-panel strips shrink down (@72%) to fit in 3-4 layers on standard copier paper (tall).
DAY 1: Research & Penciling
It helps to give each artist a copy of the printed timeline, so they can see how their event fits into the larger sequence.
In a pinch, I’ve also just cut up the printed timeline & given each student their own event as a strip of paper.
I recommend keeping research guidelines clear & concrete. Finding 3 sources or 3 historical facts invites artists to incorporate at least one fact into each of their 3 panels.
For a demo of how I mark up my source texts, see: Hospital Cat #1 >>
Historical cartoonists must find their own balance between imagination & research.
- What are the facts you’ve found in your research?
- What do you imagine (infer) about the event?
- How can you present this information to the reader in a clear, interesting, memorable way?
DAY 2: Conferencing & Inking
Peer conferencing works best for this stage. Optional conferences with a teacher can also help.
I recommend modeling a conference format with the whole group:
- Call for a couple volunteers to show their work-in-progress to the class (projected via document camera, for example).
- The teacher reads the work aloud to the class, and provides some feedback.
- IMPORTANT: The teacher models effective editing techniques & mindset, plus the importance of supportive, positive, & honest feedback.
- The artist decides which feedback to prioritize in the editing phase (according to artistic intent).
- The artist can take notes (in margins) & ask specific questions to direct the feedback, but they do NOT explain their work. All explanation should happen IN the work itself… (If the artist feels the need to explain something, that’s an editing item.)
This final clean-up step is pretty self-explanatory.
“Patching” ink errors (w/ scrap paper & glue) is a pretty great technique, though. Most of my comics pages are covered with little patches!
DAY 3: Sharing & Reflection
These collections are really fun to read, & well worth the effort of drawing them & collecting them & running off copies.
The fact that they’re eagerly read & enjoyed by peers underscores the value of the work put into them!
Sample pages from class collections:
We all create comics at different speeds — It’s a good idea to have a menu of extensions for early-finishers to pick from:
- Students each create 2-3 quiz questions (w/ answers) about FACTS included in their comic strip.
- These questions then go into a class-wide quiz (comics checking is allowed!), supporting general knowledge about key events for the era.