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 The Grade 3 Art Comics Unit started right after Winter Break in conjunction with the Elementary School’s Literacy celebration in January 2023. Students worked on their comics up to Spring Break. The goal was for students to connect art to literacy and learn storytelling through sequential imaging. Reality exceeded everyone’s
goals and expectations.
From Cool Characters to Striking
Ms. Werner began the unit by laying
down creative rules and directing students to first come up with characters. Students could write in their native language if preferred; work together or on their own; use lots or little color, and many or few words – or none at all and let the image sequence tell the story. This established a safe and flexible creative space.
After researching comics in the ES Library, and together with their prior experience of the genre, students started on original characters. “It was a starting point to develop and plan the stories they wished to tell,” says Ms. Werner. She devised distinct art lessons – “no two were alike” – and directed students to reflect the school’s core values in their stories: Kindness, Community and Creativity. This focus freed imaginations from an “anything goes” blank while keeping ample freedom of approach.
The values transpire in a kind girl introducing a broccoli floret friend to roller skating. A paintbrush shares freshly made ice cream with a community. Blotches on the pages of a work- in-progress left by an open window over a rainy night creatively become a perfect watercolour effect for an underwater story.
“I enjoyed coming up with characters the most.” – Foxx
From Ambivalent Ambition to Confident
“The beginning was challenging,” confides Ms. Werner. “There was a bewilderment about how far to go, where ideas would take them.”That had changed by the time students had a story draft for peer review and feedback. “You could sense the shift from uncertainty to confidence.”
With the peer reviewed results came remarkable revelations. “I am a good storyteller!” says one
student. “It’s tough work but I love it!” says another. “I want to write a series, I want to keep going!” pitches a third. A prolific solo production goes on to page 15. “I had to stop him,” Ms. Werner laughs. In the next to last panel,
“TheEnd”isspelledinbigletters.Totherightalittlecharactersays“no!”and reappears in the last panel: “to be continued...”
Ms. Werner appreciates how ES Librarian Lara Ingham was a great support. “She loves Arts and has curated a beautiful collection of graphic novels and comics for everyone to enjoy in the Elementary School Library,” she says.
Back from the Spring Break it was time to move on to other Grade 3 Art topics. But Ms. Werner’s students had had an epiphany: anyone can be an author and an artist! They didn’t want to stop. “They’d have all kept going until the end of the year,“ she says.
The Superpowers of Comics
Little wonder that the little ones loved the comics unit: all humans love visuals. We see text first as an image and our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text. Three days after hearing information, we remember about 10% of it; pair a relevant visual with it and the recall jumps to 65%. Historically, Asian Art gets this: there is a tight integration of visual and non-visual arts in traditional Asian Art. Modern comics from all over the world do, too.
Comics aren’t a lesser, quasi-illiterate art suitable for limited leisure time fun, but a process and product with superpowers. Storyboarding, storytelling and sequencing help organize and effectively express thoughts and ideas that imprint and impress. They turn non-readers into readers and readers into writers and makers.
The! To be continued. The Elementary School Art Department has plans for a Comics Unit encore next academic year 2023-2024. C isn’t just for Comics but also for Creative Confidence, Collaborative Content, Crafty Communicators... and Crazy Characters.
Maria Monteiro FIS Volunteer
  June 2023 FIS World 13

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