Search Search
Playlist HTH "Absolutely True Comics" Project
HTH "Absolutely True Comics" Project
This project's final products: the comics

If you visit the website below, you can see some of the comics that students created. If you're thinking about doing this project, take a look at this page first, to see if you want to do something like this with your students!

0 0
PBL Resources

These are "generic" project-based learning resources. I've included them because they've helped me out, and I'm hoping they might help you too!

0 0
0 0
0 0
Basic Project Documents

I start my projects out by filling in a "project plan" like the one under "PBL Resources". Then I distill that plan into a "Project Sheet" that I share with students and parents. For this project, I made a calendar when I was planning (which I did not share with anyone) as well as a timeline (which I shared with students and parents).

0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0
My Project Prototypes

One of High Tech High's maxims is "do the project yourself first". You do this for a few reasons: in order to understand what students will need in order to complete the project, in order to find out whether the project is worth doing, and in order to provide students with a "model" so that they understand what they are doing in the project.

0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0
Step 1: Reading "Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian"

We began this project by reading Sherman Alexie's novel "Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian" and discussing it both in-class and on the "Absolutely True Discussion" blog (see below).

0 0
0 0
Step 2: Critiquing the Prototypes

At this point, I showed students my prototype comic and artist's statement (see above). This was a scary process for me, since I was putting my own work up for critique (but only fair, since the students would be putting their own work up for critique very soon). Working in small groups, students filled in a graphic organizer and then shared their feedback with the full group. I've included some of their feedback in the graphic organizer below.

0 0
Step 3: Developing a Research Question

Once students finished reading the book and understood what they were aiming towards (that is, the comic), students developed a research question based on the book, and their initial research. This started with students posting questions on the blog (see below). When students started posting questions, I saw that they their questions tended to focus on what happened in the book, rather than on the historical conditions that led to the situations in the book. In order to help steer students towards the history, I created a "readlist" with interesting and relevant articles (see below). They then worked with me and with each other to refine and/or refocus their questions. At this point, I also provided students with a "topic sheet" to help them find interesting subjects if their initial research questions were not generating interesting stuff (which happens to all of us sometimes). As this process continued, some students moved away from the project's "essential question" ("Why is Junior's life like it is?"), and into aspects of American Indian history that interested them personally. I don't think this was a problem - in fact, the diversity of topics enriched the project.

0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0
0 0
Step 4: Making a Sketchbook

I didn't want to make students buy sketchbooks for this project, so I bought a folder that would hold three-hole punched paper for each student, and had them assemble their sketchbooks by filling them with printer paper that had only been printed on one side. Once they'd made their sketchbook, students started doing sketches imitating drawings in "Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian".

Step 5: Making a "Story Sheet"

Now it's time for serious research. Students use the "story sheet" graphic organizer (below) to structure their research and make sure they have the information they will need for their comic.

0 0
Step 6: Comic Draft 1 (the storyboard)

The first draft of the comic is a storyboard, which is pretty much an outline for a comic. My storyboard prototype, which you can see under "My Project Prototypes", above, consists only of text, which is actually not ideal. It would have been better to do a mix of sketches and writing, which is what some students did.

Step 7: check-in with the teacher

When I planned this project, I envisioned multiple check-ins with students where I would sit down with an individual student and discuss their work. This was not to be, because these check-ins are unbelievably time-consuming. Having said that, doing a single check-in at this point was very helpful, because it was far enough in the process that students had a clear idea of what they wanted to do, but early enough that I could say "that won't work, you need to rethink the whole thing" and students had time to do this. At each check-in I made a "check-in sheet" as a google doc and shared it with the student. This gave us both something we could refer to to track goals and progress.

0 0
Step 8: Comic Draft 2 (one large panel per page, done in pencil)

For the drawings in the comic, I encouraged students to find images online and draw imitations of them (giving all necessary credit in a bibliography to accompany the comic). I am not an experienced artist, and this was the technique I used for my prototype, so I figured it would work for them too. In this draft, students drew large images, one square per page.

Step 9: Critique focusing on story and information

At this point, students formally critique each other's work for the first time. The first critique focuses on the story the comic tells and the information presented. The purpose is to make sure the comic tells the story the author wants it to tell, and to identify any missing information. All the major critique takes place in this section of the project because the next draft is the one that will be scanned into the computer and used in the final version of the comic, so substantive changes will be extremely inconvenient after this point.

0 0
Step 10: Critique focusing on visual composition

After students have made changes to the story and information (which are the most "high-level" changes they will make), it's time to move on to HOW that story is being told visually - in other words, the composition. The terminology used in this graphic organizer ("choice of moment", etc.) comes from Scott McCloud's excellent book, "Making Comics". I've included a link below.

0 0
0 0
Step 11: Critique focusing on "iconic images"

An "iconic image" is an image that "stands for" more than just the thing itself (the Statue of Liberty is a good example of this). Iconic images are very useful in comics, when you need to say a lot with limited space. I introduced students to "iconic images" through a second critique of my prototype comic (see the presentation below), followed by a critique done in partners, for which students used a graphic organizer (below). The prototype critique was done with support from students who were studying art at Cal State San Marcos, a local university.

0 0
0 0
Step 12: Comic Drafts 3 & 4 (complicated version)

If you want high-resolution comics, here's how I suggest you proceed: first, each student creates a second draft of their storyboard on 8.5" x 11" paper. In this draft, the dimensions of each panel should be EXTREMELY precise. Then, on separate sheets of paper they draw the actual panels as double the size of the panels in the storyboard (don't add any text at this point - it's much easier to do this on the computer). Then, they can scan the storyboard onto the computer, open it in photoshop, then scan in each individual panel and fit them onto the panels of the storyboard, so that they end up with all the panels fitting together perfectly. The photoshop document can then print at 11"x17" with good resolution.

Step 12: Comic Drafts 3 & 4 (simple version)

If you want to keep this simple, just have students draw the panels on an 8.5"x11" sheet of paper and draw the images inside these panels. The drawback of this approach is that they will need to draw the images within fairly small panels (professional comic artists always draw big panels and shrink them). The advantage of this approach is that students will only have one sheet of paper to scan into the computer, and the process in photoshop will be simpler.

Step 13: Editing comics in Photoshop

There are lots of different ways to make comics. The approach I took was to hand-draw them, scan them onto the computer, and make the final drafts in photoshop. I have two warnings about this process, based on my experience: first, make sure everybody's photoshop document has the same dimensions - this will make your life MUCH easier. Second, make sure students aren't trying to scan anything that is too big to fit on the scanner. I had all the students draw their drafts on beautiful, high quality vellum paper that was bigger than my scanner. Words cannot express how much of a hassle it was to scan these into the computer! Anyway, once the drafts are in photoshop, students can darken lines and add text, and end up with a finished draft.

Step 14: "gallery critique" of high-quality drafts

For this critique, I printed out a few high-quality drafts that had already been converted to photoshop. The purpose of this critique was less to get feedback on the work that was on display, and more for students' to think about what their own work needed, based on what they were seeing in the work I'd put on display.

0 0
Step 15: Making an annotated bibliography

At this point, students created annotated bibliographies from their research. I've included a template for the bibliography and a few examples of student work below.

0 0
0 0
Step 16: Making an artist's statement and exhibition script

Students wrote "artist's statements" modeled on my prototype (listed under "my project prototypes", above). Students started by writing journals in response to the "journalling prompts" below. They then used these as a basis for their artist's statement. The artist's statement went onto their "digital portfolio" (the website where they share their work), and also became the basis for the "exhibition script" that they wrote so they had a sense of what they would say to visitors during exhibition.

0 0
0 0
Step 17: Exhibition

We had our exhibition at the Cal State San Marcos gallery. 15 comics went on display in the gallery itself, where they were kept on display for two weeks. These were selected by a panel of outside experts. The rest of the comics were on display outdoors in the gallery courtyard, just for the night. Students rehearsed their "exhibition scripts" for the two days prior to exhibition, taking turns explaining their comic to each other. You can see photos from exhibition in the website below.

0 0
Step 18: Archiving the Project

At High Tech High, every student has a "digital portfolio" - that is, a website where they display the work they have done in their projects. I tell students "the project didn't happen until it goes in your digital portfolio", because without a record, it just disappears (and more to the point, they can't show the work they've done to colleges or people the want to intern with). So at the end of the project, students create an archive of their own work, and put it onto their digital portfolio.

0 0
Step 19: Student-parent discussion

At the end of the project, I emailed feedback to students and their parents. I asked students and parents to discuss the feedback and the project as a whole, and provided them with a graphic organizer where they could record the actions that they would take in their next project based on their experience of this one.

0 0