When I think of a sandwich the first thing that comes to my mind is bread, one could even argue that it is the most important part. However, when it comes to making a sandwich no one ingredient is more important than the others. A good sandwich can’t be made with just bread alone. It all depends on the ingredients laying in between each slice. The same thing goes for a good English class. When I think of English the first thing that comes to my mind is reading. However, a good class can’t only consist of this one aspect, it all depends on the learning opportunities that are hidden in between the lines.
Compose texts through multiple media and genres
This English class was mainly focused on comics as a medium for both writing and interpreting the works of other writers, so there was an emphasis on the power of using visual techniques to conveying our ideas. This class allowed me to explore different writing styles through various visual media such as drawing, visual notes and annotations, photo taking, and of course through the process of making my own comics. Most of my exploration of different writing genres was done through the semester-long project called “Sunday Sketches”. For these assignments, we had 12 weekly prompts that called for different styles of writing and often visual forms of self-expression. An example of one of the Sunday sketches that reinforced this learning outcome was the “triptych” that we made on week five (figure 1). This specific week’s assignment was the first time I used comics as a media to tell a story. Initially, I faced difficulty with coming up with an idea because this was a genre of writing I was not familiar with using. However, I was able to refer to the works by Scott McCloud that we studied to help develop my idea with clarity.
Fair Use of Technology
One key aspect of this course that set it apart from my other classes was our use of technology and the internet as a digital space to present our assignments. Using more technology in classrooms is a direction our future is heading, so I made sure to take this learning outcome very seriously. When presenting work on an online platform it is important to engage responsibly by abiding by the rules of fair use and copyright. This was one of the first topics that we discussed in this class because it was especially important since we were expected to use digital images in our website, so practicing good digital citizenship was a learning outcome that was emphasized. Personally, for me, I chose to avoid copyright and fair use issues by mostly creating my own illustrations for my website (figure 2). This wasn’t always a requirement for the class, but it was a goal of mine to create my own digital illustrations in order to avoid copyright issues. However, when I chose I use an image from online I made sure include hyperlinks and citations in order to link back to the original source where I found them. Developing a personal website for assignment submissions is a skill I have not gotten an opportunity to utilize in my other classes. However, I enjoyed learning the creative techniques of web design along with updating my website with weekly writing assignments, so I want to continue using online spaces to archive my work. Allowing my work to be potentially seen by anyone who lands on my page was another aspect of this class that motivated me to perform to my best capability, so having a sense of that motivation in my spring semester classes is a goal I want to strive for.
“Demonstrate visual thinking strategies to analyze and interpret visual information”
Using visual strategies to draft my ideas before creating my own written documents initially was counterintuitive for me. It felt it was a redundant step that would break up my normal thought process. This was one of the aspects of this class that initially made it difficult for me to achieve this learning outcome. However, in retrospect, I see this as a very useful skill that helped me further develop my thinking. Tracing Maus was the first big assignment in this class that mixed visual thinking with academic writing. For the Tracing Maus project, the first requirement was to trace the comic panels and imagery of two complete pages from the graphic narrative “Maus”. We traced the pages to mimic the process of close reading (figure 3). These traces became the visual component of the assignment that was comparable to highlighting the key point of a text. The next requirement for this projects was to turn the traces of the comic into written annotations and then finally into an essay. After tracing the pages I found that I had a better understanding of the details that I initially missed when reading the comic the first time. Through this process, I learned that I’m able to organize my thoughts more clearly when I incorporate visuals into my notes. This a skill I have carried over in my note taking processes of other classes.
Use the ideas of others. Produce your own ideas based on inquiries
Most of the written work that I produced in this class was based on my own interpretations of the graphic narratives that we read. However, for our comparison essay about trauma, in the two graphic memoirs that we were comparing, we were required to use an essay by Hillary Chute as a lense text to help us interpret and compare choices used in the books Stitches and Spinning, In this essay I discussed how “due to the conventions of comics and due to the nature of trauma, the authors’ representation of their story is often insinuated by implicit judgments made by the reader”. I was able to use Chute’s ideas about trauma and comic conventions to produce my own arguments.
- Quote from my essay using Chute’s ideas: “Graphic Women by Hillary Chute discusses the ways in which comics facilitate the readers’ interpretation of an author’s trauma. Stitches by David Small and Spinning by Tillie Walden both utilize comics to explicitly “materialize” their experience with childhood trauma (Chute-3).”
Practice writing as a process, drafting, revising, editing and reflection
Many of the bigger projects that we were assigned in this class were assigned in stages. In between these stages, I practiced being a reflective writer by reflecting on my writing process after each submission. Writing reflections after each assignment was helpful for me when I had to revision my assignments. Making revision was a part of this class that was strongly encouraged since all our assignments were online and editable. Being able to reread my past reflection helped me keep track of the challenges and choices I made when writing past assignments, that when I made revisions I would know how to work around my mistakes. Drafting was also another recurring aspect of this class. The Literacy Narrative was a three-part project that consisted of several drafts, revisions, and reflections. The process of this assignment began with writing a personal narrative based on our experiences with reading and writing at an early age. To create this initial narrative we first were assigned a pre-writing assignment where we spent five minutes responding to several prompts to get our ideas flowing. I then chose to use what I wrote in my pre-writing and revise it into my narrative. Finally, we created a comic version of the narrative and a revised final draft of the narrative. In one of the reflection, I wrote after finishing the final revised draft of the narrative I discussed how initially “I found it a bit tedious” to working on this project incrementally. However, by the time I had completed the project, I could see how creating multiple drafts helped my final narrative become much more detailed.
At the beginning of this fall semester, the knowledge I had about writing and translating meaningful arguments into written text was based on the rigid analytical writing techniques that I spent my high school years trying to perfect. The way I learned to analyze texts and structure my thoughts never allowed for much creative freedom, it was always about following a set “formula” in order to check boxes off of a criteria list, so taking the secret language of comic as my first year writing require definitely took a direction that I didn’t initially anticipate. However, the learning outcomes that this class was centered around positively shifted my perspective on writing and the ways I now choose to process my ideas using visual techniques.