Graphic Novels: connecting to students

Back in August I happened across the Graphica exhibition at The University of Mebourne’s Giblin Eunson Library. Here is a link to the material in the exhibition: Graphica Exhibition – Celebrate Reading! Stories, Images & Text @ the Library – LibGuides at University of Melbourne.   One of my keen interests has always been the use of ‘story’ as a part of teaching, especially in science. This exhibition helped me to consider how this genre might be useful when working with teenagers.

This exhibition was great, and I was lucky to have Kat and Rachel as my Guides, showing me the coolest books for Science. Graphic novels are not a genre I am really familiar with. In my reading about literacy I know they can be powerful texts for many students, who seek a different writing style. I was aware that these graphic novels have been produced for a long time (one of my Nephews loves them) and that many of the ‘English’ texts are available in this form. I was amazed at the number of books available that relate to other subjects, including science and wider real world issues.  I borrowed a ‘1 World Manga’ book to read myself and think about how I could integrate these into my own classes.

Three books that stood out for me are:

Charles Darwin’s on the Origin of Species : a Graphic Adaptation – Michael Keller Which wasn’t available to borrow, but will be now.

The Manga Guide to Physics – Hideo Nitta Which wasn’t available to borrow, but will be now.

1 World Manga – Annette Roman and Leandro Ng which I have borrowed and plan to use in a class in the next couple of weeks.

Even though this is a genre I am not entirely familiar with, I feel that is is important to explore how these resources can be used to help my students make connections with the content and life. In reading the 1 World Manga book, it took me a while to find the voice this was written in and connect with the text.  I can imagine this is how many teenage students feel when faced with a text book or similar in class (this is a big ‘blocker’ for many students, so using a format they are comfortable with will help).  After a couple of ‘read throughs’ I was able to make some great links to sustainability issues and how these books may be a vehicle for supporting students to make these connections in more meaningful and powerful ways.  Another idea that intrigues me is to combine the study of a text in an English class and support this with Science classes to have a cross curricular topic, allowing multiple, deep links to be supported. At Secondary school level I know this can, and does, happen in some schools, but it would be great to see this approach in more schools. In saying this, I realise that graphic novels may not be the answer for all students to be engaged in reading, however I think that in trying to incorporate these types of texts and other approaches into our classrooms, students can see that learning and teaching can take many different forms. It may even help some students to discover a new text that can support them in their learning. There is such a wide range of topics available in ‘graphic novel’ form I encourage teachers  to hunt some of these titles down and explore if these may be of benefit to your students, and help them make connections for their learning.

I wonder if you have been involved in cross curricular units of work, perhaps using different topics and materials? I would love to hear your story!

Until next week

Fiona T


Creating New Spaces for Students and Teachers to Learn.

The last couple of weeks have seen me working with my students on reflections on their teaching journey and the learning of their students. I am also reflecting on a range of aspects of my study as it emerges, and what I want to address in my learning journey. So it is probably no surprise to you that I’m a big fan of reflective practice.  Here is a reflection on reflective practice by an Australian educator…A PLPeep’s reflection from the Australia Community | Powerful Learning Practice. I did find it a while ago, but it still resonates with me. So have a read, then pop back here…I’ll wait for you 😀

Ok, so now you are back…what did you think? I like to think of the challenges that pop up on any learning journey as an opportunity. I also liked her lines: “Learning is the trips, stumbles and falls on the journey not the arrival at the destination.” and ” Student voice is powerful“, these are two ‘mantras’ all beginning teachers should have, and things we need to model and instill in our students also. Perhaps what I like most about the blog above is the honesty, we can see the shift in Margo’s thoughts about what the best PD is and what it really means to ‘learn’.

At this point in my journey I know how lucky I am to have this time and space to research and reflect upon education; my own (past and present), my WH’s and my sons’ (LT), and even that of my current students (young and old). I have blogged before on games, play, blogging with students and how they can be used as, of and for learning. These are all examples of things that I think are simple tools that can wield great power for students to start to build the skills they will need for their future, whatever it may hold.

Here is a link to a school in the US that has taken up this challenge. They have designed real curriculum (meets their state mandated curriculum) around World of Warcraft. It also has a you-tube of the students talking about their experiences in this class. I was excited to read and see the range of skills the students have developed by being involved in this unit, beyond just being engaged and motivated to research. The skills students have experienced include being active in an immersive world, collaboration with students in their class and students beyond, working at their own pace and challenging themselves too. Their teachers have successfully merged an online game and mandated curriculum. Most of all, they (students and teachers) have had FUN…they have enjoyed their learning experience and they want more!

This is what excites me about the future of education…it is an adventure in itself.

Fiona T

The Importance of Imaginative Play

As a teacher I have known that play is an important part of learning. The discovery and modelling opportunities lead to such rich and deep learning I am amazed at the connections Children can make. As a Mum I have developed an even stronger belief in the power of play, and it seems I am not alone.

While reading a blog this week I was reminded of the games my Sisters and I used to make up as children when we played…here is the link to the blog from Nicky Johnston.

So yesterday, when it was cold and rainy, and LT was busy retrieving items we were trying to throw out, I again reflected on the value of this imaginative play. Here is a picture of the ‘game’ he was playing: The box has been around for ages, it was salvaged by LT to make into a slide (hours of fun there, for him and his soft toys). It gets put away for a while,and each time we try to throw it out he insists it can’t go. Yesterday it was combined with his lego and his own ‘heroica’ board game ( he has a full set of heroica at his Nana’s house, but is happy to imagine and build his own at home) and the characters were having adventures that were narrated very well. He included aspects of challenges styled after ‘the biggest loser’, building inventions from ‘Phineas and Ferb’ with some ‘Starwars’ thrown in for good measure. The level of creative play was great, I was happy to watch him and get involved every now and then with questions as to why a particular character was doing something. He would patiently explain 🙂  So it seems the box has been ‘re-incarnated’ and will stay in our house a while longer.

Kids are naturally creative, but we do have to give them opportunities to shape their world and grow. Opportunities to talk, play and create their own  games…we don’t always have to provide the rules. As a Mum (and a teacher) I think letting children take the lead and supporting them while they experience and learn is very important, it helps develop self confidence, creativity and social skills.

Can you recall imaginative play in your childhood? What did you enjoy most about it? Do you have a story about your own children/students/nieces/nephews and their play?

Please feel free to share below as a comment…or maybe you would like to do a guest blog about it? Please contact me via mypaperlessphd facebook page if you would like to guest blog.

Until next week





Stories and Narratives in Education

First I would like to thank all my new ‘likers’ from Facebook and those who have found me via google (seems the evernote posts are quite popular). For those who would like to know of new posts from this blog, you can follow me on twitter (fiona_trapani) or ‘like’ my facebook page (!/pages/My-Paperless-PhD/204188786308872 ) for up dates.

Now to this weeks Blog, following on from last week on methodology…

I have always loved stories. Stories from books, TV and people around me have always fascinated me. Perhaps that’s part of what drew me to teaching; the fact that working with and getting to know people would mean sharing my stories with them, and having their stories shared with me. I was definitely excited when I began my Master’s studies and found that my supervisor was also interested in stories. Our research group explored stories from interview data, and then probed deeper into the meanings of the interactions and resulting actions. In our methodology we go beyond simply ‘re-telling’ stories told to us. We use positioning theory, umwelt and a few other analysis tools to present the lived world of our research subjects.

The area of inquiry is termed ‘narrative inquiry’ (   Narrative Inquiry has grown over the last 20 years to be used broadly across disciplines and cultures. One of the foundation papers is that by Clandinin and Connelly titled: ‘Teachers professional knowledge landscapes: Teachers stories; stories of teachers, school stories, stories of schools.’ Despite it being written 15 years ago, it still has much to bring to defining the spaces used by people to disclose their stories, especially in professional situations. Their work is as much a foundation for my past studies as it is for the study I am about to embark upon. What follows is a very brief overview of some main ideas in ‘Narrative Research’.

Clandinin and Connelly describe three main types of Narratives that people tell, with specific reference to schools, though I am sure these are transferable to other work places and professions. First there are the stories presented to parents and the wider community, these are called ‘cover stories’, and may be presented through things like newsletters and advertisements. Second are the stories shared with students and other teachers, these are called ‘secret stories’. Third are the stories of teachers that are driven by policies and rules within the school, known as ‘sacred stories’ these may only be shared with select colleagues. More detail is given in a recent article by Jean Clandinin

An example of the above story types is that the things you tell different people in your life will change, depending on the person you are talking to and the place you are in. The conversations you have with your boss, or a colleague, will be different to those you have with your best friend. Sometimes you will be giving a ‘cover story’: “yes, I love my job and don’t mind working late”, sometimes it will be the ‘secret story’: “He’s asked me to work late again, why can’t he be more orgainsed?”,  or the ‘sacred story’: “He’s always asking me to work late, I can’t wait till I get that other job and get my life back”.  Can you pick who the Narrator is talking to by the type of story? Again, this example is brief and obvious. When working with conversational interview data the analysis is much more involved and detailed.

I was pleased, in a recent blog from educator Jane Nicholls, to see her pondering the use of these stories to continue to explore the professional knowledge landscapes of teachers with reference to ICT: *** ICT U Can!: Professional knowledge landscapes. I read her blog and felt that Narrative Research is an amazing field to be a part of. I have since (in the last few weeks) found may other articles using these story types to shed light on the professional interactions of teachers in many different settings, subjects, countries and cultures. There is even an emerging branch focusing upon written narratives and conversations from journals, email and social media, which I think is also quite exciting.

So, this week, try and reflect on who you are talking to and the version of the story you are telling. Is it a cover story, secret story or a sacred story? How much of your life narrative are you really sharing with others?

Next week’s Blog will feature a couple of recipes…not sure if they will be quick things to cook, or bulk things to cook, but one things for sure, they will be tasty 🙂

Until next week,

References: (in addition to in text links)

Clandinin, DJ & Connelly FM (1996) Teachers professional knowledge landscapes: Teachers stories; stories of teachers, school stories, stories of schools. Education Researcher, 25 (3) pp 24-30

Past Posts

May 2021
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