Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Bucky C of the EN/SANE fame wrote a dandy of a piece on 21st Century literacy skills and the backlash therein. It involves comic literature in the classroom and is worth your time.

In paragraph six, Dr. Carter nails the proverbial documents to the door when he writes: "Literacy is a continuum." Simple. Succinct. Perfect. He goes on to say:

"That's why I am so keen on focusing on how comics can help students develop functional literacies, cultural literacies, critical literacies, and certainly New/Multimodal/21st century literacies. Getting at one literacy skill doesn't and shouldn't mean ignoring others."

I'm all in on that one, but how do we help others see our comic literature efforts – not as "either/or" works set on kicking all classic (non-comic) literature to the door – but as one piece of the larger literacy puzzle?

Thoughts, anyone?


Bucky C. said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Chris. :)

One way I get at that is by simply *telling* the teachers I talk to that I don't advocate for throwing the baby out with the bathwater (which means "you don't throw away the good stuff with the used stuff," but you'd be surprised how many people assume it's an abortion reference!!).

My first edited collection is all about the complementary/supplemental approach to teaching comics in the classroom: do so by matching them up with similarly-themed materials you're already teaching. It's a comics-oriented approach to Joan Kaywell's excellent series _Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the Classics_. That has been an important book for validating the use of YA lit in the classroom, but it took a while to catch on.

As for how we get the people to listen who don't want to listen? Well, we might just need to accept that we can only reach those who want to be reached.

As I often tell people, everything when it comes to progressive education is baby-steps.

Mary Worrell said...

I just gave a book talk this morning on "Teaching Visual Literacy" (Frey and Fisher, editors) for my methods course. James Bucky Carter authors one of the articles in the book.

I'm a pre-service teacher and very interested in utilizing comics in the classroom.

A lot of questions we've discussed in class are these sort of either/or questions - comics OR classics, YA lit OR classics. It's frustrating. I foresee them working together in my classroom, but I'm not sure how to get that across to folks that don't believe comics have a place in the classroom.

Claire said...

Visual literacy will be (or should be) a goal of educators and comics offer the perfect media for taking what we think about literacy (reading) and translating it to how we process information (visually) in multiple formats. Educators talk about using comics for reluctant readers, but I have seen very successful lessons with pages of Art Spiegelman's Maus to illustrate how authors (advertisers, web designers, etc.) use imagery to draw out emotions in people, highlight subtle themes and add nearly subliminal messages to our interpretation of the literature.

The study of symbolism in classic literature may lend itself to the comic format--The Scarlet Letter is as full of imagery as any comic, but combining the two in the classroom could open discussion of the way we use symbolism/imagery to evoke emotions or connections. (Among many other ways you can use both canon and comics)