This 25 minute lesson gives students a basic sense of how critical literacy and awareness help a reader gain more control over the meaning of a text by reading and creating Dinosaur Comics.
(Estimated Running Time: 25 Minutes)
Students will be able to demonstrate some or all of the four suggested techniques by constructing and analyzing Dinosaur Comics.
Students will be able to critique each other’s comics by examining how critical literacy techniques affect their reading.
Required materials are normal text, recommended but not required materials are italicized
How can a reader’s sense of control help them?
- Critical literacy can offer readers control
- Having control is empowering for readers
- Readers are more likely to engage with a text if they have a sense of control
- As teachers, we can create a sense of control
- A text is controlled by different factors including the language, the author, the reader’s background knowledge and the reader’s skill
- A reader can have control of a text
- A reader can never fully control a text
- The more control a reader has, the more engaged they’re likely to be
Lay out a series of Dinosaur comics. Pick one. Read it. After reading it, consider whether or not you understood it, whether you found it funny, and what you think someone would need to know in order understand it. If you didn’t understand it, think about what you feel you were missing. Share your comic with a partner. Allow them to read it as you read theirs. Explain how you felt about each one and what you felt you needed to understand it.
Choose another comic, lather, rinse, repeat!
Introduction to New Material:
Chapter 3 of Teaching Students to Read Like Detectives focuses on the types and features of narrative texts. It offers several examples of simple routines to engage with a text. Each routine attempts to fulfill one of the four steps of critical literacy.
TSRD defines Critical Literacy as “the practice of evaluating information, insights and perspectives through an analysis of power culture, class and gender.” TSRD suggests four techniques to do so:
- Question the Commonplace in a Text
- Consider the Role of the Author
- Seek Alternative Perspectives
- Read Critically
Since we’re working with these four questions, let’s look at one of these comics and dissect how each technique can be applied to Dinosaur Comics.
Firstly, what’s the “commonplace?” What’s commonplace in a comic? What’s commonplace in these comics? How do you think Dinosaur Comics plays on the commonplace in comics?
Next, the author, Ryan North, chooses what text goes in these comics and how that text relates to the images. What can you tell us about North based on your comic?
Each comic has a topic that’s different. What is your comic about? What in your background allows you to read or not read the comic? How was your partner’s reading the same or different?
Finally, what does it mean to read critically? How does Dinosaur Comics require or encourage you to read critically or not? How are you involved in creating meaning when reading the comic? Do you feel included in the process?
Take a copy of a blank Qwantz comic. Today, we’ll be making our own comics. Because we want this to be focused around our control and sense of agency, I would like you to write the four techniques of critical literacy on the comic, one outside each of the four edges. Keep these techniques in mind as you make the comic, since the people reading your comic will need to either experience them or experience the lack of them.
We’re going to choose a common theme. Brainstorm a theme. What elements do you think we need in the text to make the comic about this theme?
(If this hasn’t been established during the intro/inquiry) Because Dinosaur Comics uses the same image over and over, how can we use that repetition, that representation of the commonplace, to our advantage?
Now think about the theme in relation to your life. I want you to brainstorm silently for a minute a few things you think you’ve experienced in relation to the theme that others may not have. Think about how you would include that.
One of my favorite things about puns or jokes is that they often use double meanings for the humor. Find a term or two from our brainstorm list and think about possible alternate meanings and whether you can use them to add depth or make a joke.
Finally, the majority of comics, especially Dinosaur Comics are referential. Do we need to do anything more to bring us to thinking critically?
Now that we’ve written up a comic together, we can already see that even variations on a theme come out differently.
This time, I want you to go through the process on your own. Afterward, we’ll trade comics, and as we read each other’s comics, I’d like you to think about how much control you have over what the comic means and how much control you feel your partner allowed you in reading this comic.
Critical Literacy is really a means to create agency and grant control of a text to a reader. The techniques it suggests and the routines TSRD recommend allow students to gain that sense of control. The best authors and books allow the reader at least some control, but by expanding beyond the text and using the four techniques, the reader can effectively take more control and therefore engage more fully.