I have to mark a lot of reports. I teach a unique Dutch cultural subject which translates as Cultural and Artistic education. It potentially touches on all sorts of cultural themes, visual art, architecture, film, theatre, fashion, photography, street art and design in all its forms. A large part of the subject is giving the pupils (aged 15-16] a kind of cultural orientation. As teachers we provide the class with cultural input, experiences and excursions and the pupils reflect on what they have seen or done.
It’s a subject that I love teaching alongside my more practical orientated art lessons. However, with quite large classes, and multiple groups to teach, the reflection part does often mean that a significant number of reports are written and in turn, must be read and marked.
Recently I watched movies in class with three different groups, around seventy pupils in total and the plan was for them each to produce a 1000-word report. I decided to offer an alternative, partly because pupils generally like have a choice, partly because I know I have creative spirits in all my classes who love to draw when they can, and yes, partly for myself to break the boredom of having to read so many reports. The new approach was to make a more concise report (and in terms of text much shorter) in the form of a two A4 page graphic novel inspired design.
I gave those who chose this more creative route an extended deadline that stretched over the Christmas holiday, hoping that they would respond well to a less rushed time frame. Did it work as I would have liked? Yes absolutely, both in terms of content and design. And oh, so more enjoyable to grade and give feedback on.
The purpose of the assignment is to require the pupils to think carefully about the film we watched and to reflect on how the skills and approaches used by the film makers have been applied. Ultimately, they are required to explain their own opinions of the film involved, its strengths and its weaknesses. Having looked through the resulting pieces of work I think I would say that by having to think about which images from the film to recreate the pupils have taken an extra reflective step before beginning on the creative work.
A second, and for me significant extra aim, is for the pupils to combine the use of language with image making and creativity. My lessons are taught in English, which for these Dutch pupils, is their second language. The graphic novel form forces a lean and to the point use of language in the text. This is certainly a skill worth learning alongside considering how image and text can be integrated and support one another.
I’ll certainly be using this graphic novel inspired work form again. I find myself wondering if it could be applied in other areas, a book review perhaps? Or could it go further? A diary of a school exchange to another country as a graphic novel, a report on a biology dissection lesson as one?