Student Created Graphic Novels! (Middle School)

I was nervous when I initially assigned the task of creating a personal narrative in the form of a graphic novel. The groans could be heard throughout the room and I worried that students would either turn in sloppy work or give up hope when they were faced with the task of both writing and drawing their story. However, each day brought new hope! The students were getting excited about it and saw the potential in their work. They realized that they did in fact know how to draw and just needed help here and there to get a picture just right.

We started by brainstorming ideas for our personal narratives. Then students filled out a graphic organizer that helped them outline the major parts of their story. After they got that approved, they started on their thumbnails to plan the layout of their graphic novel. I conferenced with students daily once they had started the thumbnail process. I wanted to make sure they knew what they were doing and guide them if it turned out they were missing something important.

As we moved from the thumbnail process to our drawings, I printed out large panels for the students to use. We created 7 different templates using Microsoft Word. We also talked about Faith Erin Hick's blogpost on how she makes graphic novels. As they saw her process and worked through their own, it started clicking. Suddenly, they had confidence that they could make this novel happen!

As they worked on drawing their large panels (which would become their final copy), we spent at least ten minutes each day going over basic drawing techniques. Everything from how to draw simple humans with all their parts (eyes, nose, mouth, ears, hair, etc.) to more complicated parts like how to draw vehicles or drawing from different perspectives. Students eagerly raised their hands to throw out ideas for our drawing lessons, and I obliged their requests by drawing on the board.

As students finished penciling their drawings, I met with them one-on-one to go over their story. We both looked for gaps in the narration, descriptive language, and dialogue, and searched for any grammar / spelling errors. Then they were ready to ink. This year, we used Paper Mate's black flair pens. Next year, I would like them to try brushes and ink pots so they have various techniques under their belt.

Finally, the day had arrived: publishing day! Students brought in their final inked graphic novels and shared them with the class. I was so impressed with how far the stories (and students) had come. They didn't believe they could do it, but now I have proof that they can! This proved to be a great end of the year project: the students stayed engaged and motivated, but were still learning!

Below is a copy of one of the Middle School Personal Narratives. This student chose to do their story in color (though most chose black & white due to end of the year time constraints):