Tag Archives: nonfiction

Graphic Novel Review 253/365: Syllabus

Please keep up with all of my old Graphic Novel Reviews here as I quest for 365 in 365 days! Or search #365GN on Twitter.

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This book might just change the way I teach…

Title: Syllabus 

Author(s): Lynda Barry

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly (2014)

Age Rating: 13+

This notebook-looking text is a collection of pieces from a span of over three years, as Barry sculpted and shaped a multi-discipline class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The book contains her hand-drawn syllabi, assignments, and a great deal of student work.  It’s 200 pages of awesome that has changed how I view some aspects of my own teaching.

First off, next year, I will be purchasing a composition notebook for each kid in at least one of my classes each semester so I can try some of the cool things that Barry exposes us to in this gift of a book.  She has the students journaling, drawing, writing stories, sharing, co-drawing, co-writing, coloring…just to name a few.  And no one is allowed to use digital devices in class or on breaks from her class.  #dope

Up until I read this book, I was a proponent of not making students draw in English class.  It’s English, right?  Not art.

My mind is changed.  Drawing, no matter how terrible, brings us back to exploring again, like a child.  It allows us to alter time.

Plus, there is something to unplugging and interacting with a tangible thing throughout the day, and teaching these students how to interact with an old-school composition notebook during their day instead of a phone or tablet, even if it’s only 30% of the students taking advantage, is a win.  We might be doing these kids a disservice handing them devices with no real restraints.  Toys “R” Us is closing.  The next gen will not know what it is like to walk through a toy store with wonder and awe.  kids are playing with less and less toys.  A May 16th, 2016 article from techcrunch.com states that the average age a child receives a cell phone is ten.  And by now, that number might be lower.

Read Syllabus.  Lynda Barry shows us how much fun and brain flexing can go into being physically interactive with our learning.  I’m seeing lots of articles talking about it’s not the kids with the device problems…it’s the lessons and the school climate.  I say why be afraid to tell the kids to, at times, put it away; keep it away; and color in their composition notebook.

It’s a large, very large discussion.  I just wanted to tell you that the book inspired me.  I was lucky enough to hear Lynda Barry speak at ALA last year.  She is truly inspiring, and I hope you read this book and chat with me about it.  It has the ability to change.

Happy reading!


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