Fifth grader, Breanne, sent in this impromptu comic that she wrote after taking the Missouri state assessment test (MAP). It is a perfect example of how children can learn to tell stories and relate information in a very natural visual process. Utilizing few words, Breanne tells her story mostly through facial expression.
This comic could be used as a stand-alone piece, as it was here. It was completed for fun, just to pass the time, and that is perfectly acceptable. However, this same piece could also be used to craft a more detailed story, in either a comic or a prose format. I am particularly fond of storyboarding as it helps students define a strong beginning, middle and end. It is a typical format used by moviemakers, but it is not limited to them. Many writers and painters think in terms of images. That is to say, they experience a woman walking a baby, or an old man playing checkers in front of the barbershop, and that image invokes emotion and passion, from which a greater piece of art comes forth. This can be true for children as well. Many see, feel and experience their world as a scene from a movie or a photograph. For these children, being taught to storyboard can tap into their creativity.
Encouraging young writers to record a story in a visual outline – the storyboard – allows them to then focus on the details while still staying on track. It should be noted that great literature sometimes takes a different path than the author originally planned and that should be allowed as well, assuming the child remains committed to the craft of good writing.
Breanne’s story relates a common experience, a universal truth, for preteen girls. It begins with a relationship, a romance. Jealousy plays a large part in the story. The story takes a magical turn as a character is then turned into a fly. Notice the manga influence on the last panel of page 2. The panel is split in half, showing expression from two different characters. Using this as a storyboard, Breanne could expand her story, perhaps as a comic. She could then play around with the transition to the magical scene to make it clearer to the reader.
Breanne, who happens to be a very bright child in the classroom where I am assigned as a practicum student, did much more than just doodle. She wrote about experiences and explored those feelings through comic literature. The most exciting part is that she did so naturally, without a prompt or assignment.