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Info-Comics

The grade 8 students in Andrew Adam's class used Comic Life and digital cameras to create their own info-comic on an issue of their choice. Students applied the principles of comic book making in order to present information gleaned from their research. By creating their own comics, for a real purpose and an audience of peers, the students gained a better understanding of how comics work and why that format is so successful with its target audience. 

 

Immersion

Since students will be creating their own comics they need to understand that everything on the page reflects a conscious decision by the comic writer to convey a particular meaning or message. Working in groups, students explore a range of comics and graphic novels to discover how the codes and conventions of comics work.

Students draw on their own background knowledge to identify and record what they consider to be key elements that go into making a comic and consider how these elements contribute to the telling of the story.  Have the teams share their thinking with the whole class.

Introduce students to the work of Scott McCloud, and discuss the five elements that comic creators must consider : moment, frame, image, word, and flow.

For example, have students analyze one frame and consider some of the choices that were made in terms of the distance and angle.

  • What is the perspective of the frame? 
  • Is it from straight ahead or from above? 
  • Where is the reader?
  • What is his viewpoint? 
  • Why do you think these decisions were made?

Have students look at the different transitions between frames in the comics they are reading. The transition is the way the comic writer moves the reader through the story.

  • How do transitions make the story come alive?
  • Were they used successfully?
  • What would they like to try in the production of their own Info-Comics?

Click here for additional information about different transitions and examples from actual comics that can be used with students.

Preproduction

Working in small groups the students create a three-page comic to present their findings on an issue of their choice.

Groups work together to :

  • brainstorm ideas/issues for their info-comic
  • share ideas with other teams, receiving and giving feedback, and extending their own thinking in the process 
  • narrow down their ideas to a manageable focus 
  • research credible information on their topic, synthesizing what is most important and bringing it back to share with their group
  • provide feedback

Teach students some of the basic elements of both the language of comics and the language of photographs so that they can use this knowledge in creating their own info-comic.

Together we compared different shots, e.g. the establishing shot, in each medium. The students began to think about the purposes of the different shots and the basic elements of the comic and how they could be translated into photography. After teaching the students the basics of the camera they tried shooting some pictures. These were projected on the large screen and the students talked about what worked in the photos, what didn’t work and how and why they were framed in the way they were. It was important for the students to be aware of what they were looking for.      Andrew Adams

Once the groups have a clear plan they :

  • write up a script for the story ;
  • create a storyboard, (click on image to enlarge) ;
  • gather necessary props and decide on actors and camera person for the shoot ;
  • present finished storyboards to the teacher for approval. This is an important step as it makes the production part of the process much easier.

Production

This might be the most challenging section of the project depending on available equipment and school rules about students in the halls. Some teachers might choose to have students shoot their photos outside of class time.

  • Decide on a schedule for groups to shoot the photos for their comics depending on your particular situation.
  • Have students use their storyboards to guide the shooting of their frames.
  • Suggest they shoot each frame a few times to avoid having to retake photos later. (It takes about 30 minutes for a group to shoot their photos)

Postproduction

Before groups begin to work on their individual layouts give them a brief introduction to Comic Life. 

Have students :

  • download their photos onto the computer ;
  • create an album with the group’s name and transfer all of their photos into the folder ;
  • open Comic Life and find their folder of photos ;
  • use their storyboard to guide the creation of the comic as they build their page layouts, add narration boxes, titles and bubbles. They can also choose different lenses to make their photos look like paintings or comics.

Students present their finished comics to the class and talk about the process they used, the production choices they made, as well as their reflections about what worked and what they would do differently another time.

Assessment Possibilities

Students can be assessed in many ways. Class discussion and brainstorming allow students to explore ideas in more depth and to get feedback from classmates. At different points in the project, rubrics could be created to cover :

  • Individual research on the topic
  • Presentation of photos/description of photo composition
  • Creation and presentation of the storyboard
  • Group log detailing decisions made and steps in the production process
  • Finished comics
  • Presentation of the comic including production choices, and attention to audience
  • Participation in different steps of process

Connections and Adaptations

Using the same research and essentially the same production process the students could make a Public Service Announcement (print, video, or radio), create a photo essay (using Comic Life), or write a newspaper or magazine article. They could also use the same images and information to create simple web pages for their peers.

 

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Mary Sauvé developed this project to help her grade 9 students examine how word and image work together to construct meaning. The students learned (...)