Middle School News

Eighth Graders Explore Cultural Graphic Novels
Antonia Ehlers, director of communications

In addition to reading some cool graphic novels, eighth graders had a movement break this week—they ran around their houses searching for cardboard to recycle, thick pens, and scissors. The scavenger hunt was part of the popular graphic novel unit; students used these items to turn their personal Zoom feeds into frames for graphic novels. 

This eighth-grade writing class is just another example of how Nueva teachers are thinking outside the box to add a splash of excitement and fun to remote learning. The graphic novel unit uses the Canvas platform, and our eighth graders are enjoying a different form of storytelling.

“I am really excited for the graphic novel unit,” said eighth grader Ariane Y. “I have always loved comics and graphic novels, but often they weren’t considered ‘real literature’ by other people. However, I know that just as much, if not more, work goes into writing and creating these pieces of art. I’m just really happy that I will finally have a place to discuss the intricacies of graphic novels with other people.”

“By moving the discussion into the online sphere, we aim to provide opportunities for students to reimagine engagement with text and with each other,” said humanities teacher Cynthia Kosut. “Each graphic novel was selected because of its potential to enrich and deepen students’ understanding of the spring semester’s unifying theme: cultural identity.”

Class time is devoted to understanding the graphic novel genre. Students are exploring profound cultural stories, including They Called Us Enemy, New Orleans After the Deluge, and Boxers and Saints, to name a few. 

“I’m excited to read my graphic novel (I Was Their American Dream) because the author has an unusual ethnic background that is similar to my own,” noted eighth grader Julia S. “I’m hoping I’ll be able to empathize with the story and share my relationship to it with others in my group.”

“With the graphic novel unit, we hope our students will have a worthwhile introduction to the functionality of Canvas and an opportunity to practice the close reading skills required by the graphic novel genre within the context of our interdisciplinary unit on cultural identity,” said writing teacher Jennifer Perry. “We also are hopeful that the two novel aspects of the unit—working with students outside of their gem and language groups and participating in asynchronous, text-based discussions—will provide added incentive and allure for our students."

"In the classroom, Jennifer and I are really proud of the way that the students are coming to grips with Canvas, the learning management system in Upper School, which will get them ready for high school while working on their independent readings of graphic novels and self-chosen classic novels,” added eighth-grade writing teacher Judith Worrall. “We are using Scott McCloud’s Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comic, Manga, and Graphic Novels as the lens through which we explore their individual and group choices of books.”

There have been three discussion posts the students will explore over the new few weeks. The first one this week focused on digital citizenship and the difference between online and brick-and-mortar classrooms, which is applicable to our present situation. The other two discussions will examine the process of analyzing a graphic novel as if it were a more traditional novel.

“I would have never expected that I would be reading graphic novels in writing class,” said eighth grader Santi C. “I also really like the fact that I get to work with people who are not in my gem/language groups. It’s nice to interact with other people so I can get to know them better!”

“I’m so excited about this unit because it gives me an opportunity to work with people I’d like to get to know better, but don’t have any classes with,” agreed eighth grader Mirabelle H. “I also like how we are able to continue our discussions of this unit through remote learning.” 

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