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Abstract: Far from being simply trivial pulp fiction or ‘easy read’ picture books, comics and graphic novels are a rich and diverse genre that offer a multitude of opportunities to design impactful learning experiences, for a variety of learners (from A1 ESOL learners to EAP post-graduates).

Comics and graphic novels make use of a combination of text and image and a range of features (e.g. panels; narration; speech bubbles for direct speech / internal monologue; use of onomatopoeia for sound effects) to create meaning (McCloud 1994). This multi-faceted mode of communication often conveys subtle and nuanced layers of meaning, that require the reader to interpret the artists message (El Refaie & Hörschelmann 2010). More simply put, comics and graphic novels can be read in a variety of ways, and so are particularly suited to mixed level classes as each reader can bring their own interpretation to the story.

In this practical session we will explore how non-fiction / semi-autobiographical comics and graphic novels (on topics such as the lived refugee experience (e.g. Positive Negatives); the Black Lives Matter movement (e.g. Hot Comb); attending to matters of mental health (e.g. Rock Steady)) can offer us a way into ‘serious’ subject matter and facilitate meaningful and transformative learning experiences for adult learners.

We will play with a set of learning activities related to given extracts and there will also be the opportunity to experiment with making our own mini-comics. The aim is for participants to leave the session with teaching ideas that can be adapted to their own setting, a resource list of comics /graphic novels (online and print) and links to the growing network of practitioners using comics and graphic novels for educational purposes.

References:
El Refaie, E. & Hörschelmann, K. (2010) Young people's readings of a political cartoon and the concept of multimodal literacy, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 31:2, 195-207, DOI: 10.1080/01596301003679719
McCloud, S. 1994. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: Harper Collins

Bio: Jess Poole is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Leeds Language Centre. Her interests are linked to fostering learner autonomy through creativity and Exploratory Practice. She is currently undertaking a scholarship project to explore the ways in which Comics and Graphic Novels can be used in to fuel engaged and transformative language learning. She has previously presented on Using Padlets to Enrich Reading Circles (NATESOL 2016 annual conference), Exploring Creativity Through Reading Tasks (NFEAP 2016 conference), and Is Engagement In Extra-Curricular Activities Important For International Students? IATEFL RESIG Teachers Research Conference (Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul, 2018).


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