Multimodal Assignment Design Series: Comics Creation

This is the first post in an ongoing series on multimodal assignment design created by the lecturers and postdoctoral fellows in the Writing and Communication Program at Georgia Tech. Several committees have come together to work on this project: Professional Development, Curriculum Innovation, and TECHStyle. Our goal is to produce a group of Petcha Kucha (20×20) presentations, among other formats, highlighting a multimodal communication assignment that we have taught at Georgia Tech. Each post will include a brief write-up, an accompanying presentation of the multimodal assignment, and links to assignment sheets and other pedagogical resources. This presentation was given to fellow Writing and Communication Faculty members in April 2019. My comics creation talk was also presented at the 2019 USG Teaching and Learning Conference in Athens, Georgia.

Course: ENGL 1101 & ENGL 0999, Autobiographical Graphic Novels & Co-Requisite
Assignment: Create a 12-24 page autobiographical comic
Scaffolding steps: memoir essay, script, thumbnails, draft, final
Supporting text: Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics

Comics and graphic novels are increasingly popular texts to include in composition courses, particularly the multimodal classes that we teach at Georgia Tech. The task of assigning a comics-based project can seem daunting to students and instructors alike, but when using multiple drafting steps the assignment is an excellent semester-long project that highlights the written and visual aspects of multimodal composition. My course on Autobiographical Graphic Novels allows students to consider how authors and artists present personal experiences in a graphic format and then adapt one of their memories from an essay to a short comic. My creation of this course was aided by Teaching Graphic Novels in the English Classroom, edited by Alissa Burger.

If you are interested in doing a similar project, please check out the video below, which contains more details and student samples, all of which are used with permission. Note our distinctive Georgia Tech train whistle, which marks the changes between classes on our campus, that comes in around 4:30.

You can also find PDF copies of the detailed assignment sheets for the Descriptive Memoir Essay Assignment and Graphic Memoir Assignment via these hyperlinks, as well as the Thumbnails Comic form I use when students begin sketching their comics.

Keep an eye out for future posts in this series on multimodal assignment design from current and former WCP faculty, including posts on children’s books from Rebekah Fitzsimmons, web projects from Courtney Hoffman, and more on comics from Leah Misemer.

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Rachel Dean-Ruzicka

About Rachel Dean-Ruzicka

Rachel Dean-Ruzicka is a Lecturer of Writing and Communication, where she specializes in teaching the department's corequisite composition courses. She received her PhD in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University in 2011, with an emphasis in film and media studies. Her book, Tolerance Discourse and Young Adult Holocaust Literature: Engaging Difference and Identity, was released in a paperback edition from Routledge in 2019. She has previously published on paranormal teenagers who defeat serial killers, all-ages feminist comic books, female engineers in YA fiction, and the films of director Wes Anderson. She has a forthcoming article on the podcast My Favorite Murder, to round out her pop culture crime publication credentials. Her current research investigates models of maturation, YA Weird fiction, and contemporary feminist theory. Despite all the murder and mayhem in this bio, she's really quite a cheerful person.
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