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Thursday, August 17, 2006 

More art than writing projects?

Blogger Betsy Newmark is a teacher by profession, just like both my parents have been over the years,* and one of her first postings when she began blogging in 2002 was about how comic books were making a comeback as teaching tools in schools. The Wash. Post article she linked to back then that spoke about the subject is no longer available, but she herself still had something quite eyebrow raising about just how comics are being put to use as teaching tools:
As a middle school teacher, it seems to me that too many assignments are actually art projects. The children put all their effort into the "creativity" of the assignment. Teachers and parents can ooh and ahh about the results. However, the students still need to write focused and well-written essays. That skill is less fun to teach and grade. It's less fun for the students. That's why I have to read so much writing by gifted students who still confuse 'there,' 'they're,' and 'their.' Maybe they can learn plot development from Spiderman, but they still need to be able to present a well-reasoned and logical argument in their writing.
Not just that, but, they also need to learn how to write good storytelling, which is just as important as good grammar and spelling. I can see what she's getting at, and how, unless schools who use comics as a teaching tool were to encourage their students to try a little harder, we'll probably end up in the near future with far more artists than writers! Certainly good artwork is a plus for every comic book, but then so is good writing. And without learning how to be a scriptwriter, what good is it really to use comics as teaching tools in schools? Even if it's just 5th or 6th grade, there's still room for a class in which to teach some kind of scriptwriting assignment, which could get children ready for the really heavy duty assignments they'd end up facing in their adult years. And then, with any luck, you'd have a new generation of Gerry Conways, Cary Bateses, Roy Thomases, Marv Wolfmans, Len Weins and Paul Levitzes waiting in the wings for a chance to write comic books, and maybe even bring back the great times when comics could offer up a fun adventure or even a suspenseful thriller like they did years ago!

Now there's something for anyone who's into teaching and tutoring who wants to employ comics as a teaching tool to think about.

* My father worked as a Spanish teacher in western New Jersey years ago, and my mother's worked in both schools and tutoring for almost all her life, ever since she was in her early 20s.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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