Help me give my students graphic novels and reference books to help them learn how to analyze visual rhetoric.
Our school is a public college prep charter school that exists specifically to offer high-quality educational opportunities to inner-city students.
My students are the anomalies.
They come from diverse, inner-city backgrounds and have had inconsistent schooling experiences throughout elementary and middle school. Many arrive from settings in which they are expected to fail and with skills that are far below grade level.
However, rather than be swept along with the crowd, they choose to attend a rigorous college prep charter school for grades 9-12. In four years, they transform from under-confident, under-performing freshmen to high-achieving seniors ready to succeed in college. Indeed, 98-100% of our senior class graduates and goes on to higher education. By the time they get to my AP English Language class their junior year, they've generally bought into the school's mission and can see their work paying off. Because they can see the value of this education, they are willing to work hard and give it a fair chance. Though the work is long and demanding, they buckle down to get it done, and as a result, they master it.
Recognizing rhetoric is one of the most vital skills our students can learn. That is the focus of AP English Language and Composition, reading and writing rhetorically. To this end, we are beginning the school year with a study of graphic novels: how are they constructed, what is the creator suggesting, and why did he or she do it like that?
Visual rhetoric - in this case, graphic novels - makes rhetoric accessible to everyone.
Not all students can differentiate between the subtle tones that words create, but all students can identify and understand the difference between a panel of intense, angry action in a cartoon and, say, an excited one. Thus, graphic novels provide an ideal tool that allows a diverse range of students (especially language learners) grasp the basics of rhetoric quickly.
Persepolis, Maus, and American Born Chinese are highly acclaimed graphic novels the focus on individuals' unique experiences within a hostile culture. Students pick one book to read and work in groups to analyze the author's purpose as well as the strategic decisions the author makes in conveying that purpose.
That's where the reference books come in: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style, and Picture This: How Pictures Work will be available to students as they begin to question the artistic decisions each author makes in specific scenes that intensify the action--and consequently, the overall message.
All of this provides a solid foundation from which to branch into other realms of visual rhetoric (commercials, political ads, music videos, etc.), eventually leading students back to the written word. By then, though, they have a firm grasp on how the parts of rhetoric fit together because they were allowed to see it first.
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|Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History • Amazon Business||$13.19||10||$131.90|
|Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art • Amazon Business||$14.48||6||$86.88|
|American Born Chinese • Amazon Business||$8.10||10||$81.00|
|Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (Pantheon Graphic Library) • Amazon Business||$6.49||10||$64.90|
|Picture This: How Pictures Work • Amazon Business||$17.23||1||$17.23|
|99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style • Amazon Business||$16.80||1||$16.80|
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