Comic Strip Writing - 5th Grade Project

This year, I have been working out of our District's Central Office.  It has been a big change and though I have learned a lot I miss seeing my students on a regular basis.  So, when I had a chance to work on a writing project for part of the year with a class of 5th graders, I jumped at the opportunity.  Since the class is made up of 90% English Language Learners, writing tends not to be their favorite activity.  It has been fun to find ways to support critical thinking, language, and writing with this great group of students.

Recently, we spent a lot of time looking at and discussing comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels.  None of the students knew anything about Babymouse, or Squish, or The Lunch Lady or any of the other wonderful graphic novels out there today.  They devoured the books I brought in.

The next step was to try a writing activity where students would write their own comic strip.  Here is a peek at what they created.

One of the requirements of this project is that students would work in teams of 2 on their comic strips.  For many of the students, English is a second language and I wanted to provide a setting in which students would need to discuss with another person the story that they would be communicating in their comic strip.  Initially, it was difficult.  Some of the teams were less than thrilled to work together.  However, I was extremely excited to see how the teams came together during the week they worked together.

Students had to include 3 basic elements of a story - characters, setting, and plot (or what problem needs to be resolved) in their comic strip.  They were given a couple of different blank templates to use for their comic strips.  Some of the stories were fairly simple.  In the above story, two diamonds steal money from a bank, get caught, and go to jail.

This story had a princess stuck in a tower and wanting a cupcake before a tornado set in.  Prince Charming had to rescue not only the princess but the cupcake.

One student gave me a glimpse of his artwork even though his team's comic strip wasn't completed.

Some students moved beyond just one page to create a story.  The two students who created the above story about a penguin egg and an adoption by a bear went on to a second page.  

My favorite comic strip bordered on becoming a comic book or graphic novel.  It was a story about bullying with super mom as the super hero.  The two students who worked on the pages above went onto multiple pages (only 3 of the pages are shown above), even labeling some of the pages as chapters.  What was more impressive is that both were resistant to working with each other at first.  By the end, they not only had worked out an impressive start to a story but also when they presented it, they worked out who would do each character voice.

The classroom teacher has expressed to me numerous times that thanks to the writing projects that we have been working on students seem less hesitant to write.  Writing is still a challenge for many of the students but it has been wonderful to watch them grow as writers and for them to feel successful with the various projects.

Now onto our next project...