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Deep Literacy with the Pre-Literate: Using Comics to Engage Newcomer ELLs in Multimodal Narrative
by Mike RobbGrieco
Presented 1/29/11 at Educon in Philadelphia

Published in: Education
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  • NLA is a program house within Rush Arts where we serve new immigrant students who have very little English, often have limited first language literacy or interrupted formal education—We have 18 Non-English Proficient students from 10 different language backgrounds for one year of sheltered English acquisition and acculturation in an effort to prepare them to succeed in an ESOL program in their neighborhood school.We are fortunate to have SmartBoard technology and 20 laptaps available to support our teaching, and we take full advantage…As you can imagine, with 10 different first languages and little to no English, visuals are extremely important to illustrate language, and to bypass decoding issues to deliver key messages/content.
  • Notice the emphasis is not on decoding or lexicon….so much of English instruction for students with non or limited English proficiency focuses on the decoding level, for obvious reasons. But these students also need to exercise their critical faculties or they will stagnate and disengage. One way to do this is by using comics.
  • Comics offer an overtly multimodal narrative where words and images do more than simply illustrate each other—they work together to tell the story. As part of a Halloween unit, we looked at this Frankenstein comic—only 2 students had heard of the monster story. So, as we look at this frame, students know that Victor Frankenstein has just begun at a new school. And we ask, what’s going on here? Who is Victor, who is the professor? What do they study? What feeling do you see? Is he happy or sad? Is this talking or story? Who is talking to who? [Do this with group at educon]
  • After we read, we jump right into creating our own versions of the story. We used Comic Life program, but you could also use powerpoint or even cutouts (No tech). I set up a template with some missing words and images, along with an images folder that they could choose from. [Point out options available]
  • So here are two student pieces side by side. You can see that they chose different images, and sequencing, and they experimented with a range of talk-thought-and narration shapes…Let’s take a closer look to see if any of the analytic thinking from our comic reading showed up.
  • In Lawrence’s comic, you see a violent story unfold in explosive talk bubbles, though I quite like the standard round bubble for a cold, “I will kill you!” from the monster. Also note this inserted narration box where the student uses declarative tone, speaking to the reader rather than in the scene.
  • Thuan added some internal monologue in thought bubbles, and took a humorous approach. Do you know how hard it is to be funny in a new language! [Read through comic, point out triple stem talk bubble for group]. And perhaps the most important frame is this last one where the student takes ownership of the story as THE WRITER.
  • mrg_educon_slides

    1. 1. Deep Literacy with the Pre-Literate<br />Using Comics to Engage Newcomer ELLs in Multimodal Narrative<br />Mike RobbGrieco<br />mrobbgrieco@philasd.org<br />
    2. 2. Key Questions for engaging in“deep” literacy<br />How can we do more than just illustrate the language and deliver content?<br />How can we engage critical thinking about how to tell stories with words and images?<br />Goals: Use visual media to exercise deep literacy skills<br />Inferring<br />Analyzing<br />Story sequencing<br />Actively using narrative techniques<br />
    3. 3. Multimodal Narrative TechniquesReading & Analyzing Comics…<br /><ul><li>Cues for narration
    4. 4. Cues for dialogue
    5. 5. Visual-Lang. Inference
    6. 6. Emotion, tone
    7. 7. Color, meaning
    8. 8. Visual references
    9. 9. Sequence for reading</li></ul>As we decode and interpret, the key question becomes:<br />HOW DO YOU KNOW?<br />
    10. 10.
    11. 11. Student Sample 2<br />Student Sample 1<br />
    12. 12.
    13. 13.
    14. 14. Takeaways<br />Visual literacy as a key component of a broader Literacy<br />Analyzing and Creating Comics offers:<br />Partial bypass of linguistic decoding & encoding issues while engaging narrative techniques and critical thinking<br />Support and motivation for making inferences<br />Analytic practice as we question, “How do you know?”<br />Strategic choices in narrative technique (dialogue, narration, etc)<br />Critical thinking in image choice to deliver messages<br />

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