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Comic Club Weeks 1-4 / Drawing Words Update
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Article by Scott Tingley, January 02, 2009

Drawing Words Chapter 1 (first half) and Comics To Go by Mike Herrod

A little while ago I did a review of Drawing Words and Writing Pictures and since I was planning on using the book as the guide for my first school based comic creating club anyway, I decided that I might as well give semi-regular updates on its progress. These will act as an extended, more in-depth review of Drawing Words, highlighting what I think does and does not work; and along the way I will introduce and review other books that I use. The club started mid-Novemeber and I had planned on updating regularly, but it didn't happen and this is over a months worth all at once. Oops.

Week One:

The first session of the Riverside Consolidated School Comic Club took place a couple of weeks ago, and it went pretty well. There were only seven kids there from grade 2 to 5, but I think there will be more over the next couple of weeks. Also though, I teach at a really small school (a public but quite rural k-5 school) so the percentage of the school population that attended wasn't so bad.

I started talking about the vocabulary of comics so I wouldn't have to explain over and over again every term I used from then on. We talked about panels, splash pages, gutters, the various speech bubbles, text boxes and whatever else crossed my mind at the time. I also talked to them about not needing to be the best artist. Comics are about story telling and clear art- which is not necessarily always the best art. I think they got it.

The above can be found in Drawing Words, but I have been starting comic camps and workshops with that information for a couple years before the book came out. It is information and advice given by many and it is a great place to start.

Then I gave the kids this page from Comics to Go by Mike Herrod, a book of cartooning activities for younger. It was a great warm-up activity for the 7-10 year olds in the group. They had fun with it and I think the story situations in the rest of the book would be very fun for 5-8 year olds. It is a great book that I assume I can photocopy out of for the class since the entire thing is available HERE in pdf form. The actual hardcopy of the book contains full colour pages for the story and black and white pages for the drawing sections. I am very pleased with it and I will be incorporating it into the club's regular routine.

(Comics to Go: ISBN: 1934706388 - ISBN-13: 9781934706381 - Hardcover, 64pp - Published by Blue Apple Books)

I then gave the kids one of the homework assignments from Drawing Words. They were given five moving objects to draw on a single sheet of paper in order to explore how movement is shown on the comic page.

WEEK TWO

A couple new students joined up this week. They showed off their homework for the first few minutes and then we went to the Drawing Words website which has a great teacher section for each chapter. I set up the smartboard and we went through the examples given for the scenarios the kids had to draw. It went great. The kids were happy that they did a lot of the things the artists did in their examples. I think it went better that I didn't show them the examples before they did their own - it allowed them to discover what they could do instead of being shown what they could do.

For the last few minutes of class and for homework I gave them the Super Squirrel pages from Comics To Go. I thought it would be a bit kiddish for the 4s and 5s, but they had a ball. They really took their time designing the costume (open this PDF to see what I mean). I did make up a blank page with the names of the villains instead of using the one provided. For the older kids I thought they would have a better time designing the costumes instead of just the heads.

For the class, the Comics to Go pdfs are great, but the kids have been eye-balling my copy. It is spiral bound, with full colour (except on the drawing pages) and a hard front and back cover - great for pulling out anywhere. I think I will see if I can get some cash from my principal so I can get a copy to give away when the class is over. You can order one HERE .

WEEK THREE

It was announced that today was the absolute last chance for new students to join. I should have told those that had come to the first two to stay away today. They were great about it, but they sat through the same talk for almost the third time.

We went from having a class of about nine to having almost twenty-five kids. We had to bring in extra tables and chairs. We had about 33% of the school in attendance J . We soldiered on and began the next section of the first chapter of Drawing Words . They were given two scenarios to choose from and for homework they could do the other one or make one of their own. One was something like: A ball crashes through the window into the kitchen. It tears through the newspaper and hits the person in the face (that wasn't it exactly, but you get the idea). I showed them this scenario first so they could get an idea of how to go about it (it involves guns, so check it out before showing it).

They did some really nice work.

WEEK FOUR

We lost some of those 25 kids today, but that was a good thing really. We had about 14-15 stay and those that stayed seem pretty keen. We had a short session due to the Xmas drama practice (one of the reasons we lost some kids) so we reviewed the homework (the scenarios from last week) and I gave out another activity from Comics To Go for next week.

WEEK FIVE

Again, with Drama going nearly every noon recess, there are not a lot of kids able to attend at the moment. So, instead of a major lesson I simply gave them a nine panel (3x3 grid) blank page I created using tables in my computer's word processor and told them to create. I also made the same grid on a piece of chart paper and titled it "Snooping for Presents". I then drew the first panel establishing that a brother and sister are searching their house for Christmas presents. The students took turns drawing their own snooping panel. The final product was put on display in the hallway. The response from passerbys was quite positive and the kids had fun.

CLASSES POSTPONED

A lot of the kids keen on being in comic club have had to miss sessions because of the Xmas drama practice, so I decided to postpone official classes until January. Any kids that want to stay in once a week to draw can stay in while I have chess practice (tournament in Feb!! The pressure is on!)

More updates in the new year.



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