Monthly Archives: August 2015

Real World Assessments (and comics) Part One!

Here we are two weeks into the new school year…at least I am, and I have started the process of figuring out the intricacies of piloting a new senior class elective: a graphic novel/comics class. Many of you know that I have been lobbying for the class for about a year, and I just put in the paperwork for it to be an official class for next school year; however, this year, I’m teaching our district’s “Man, Myth, Monster” elective as a graphic novel/comics class.

Going into the year, I knew a few things. 1.) I was going to be using a bunch of graphic novels that we already had in the district (to save some money). 2.) I wanted my assessments to be performance based assessments that allowed the students to expand their audience to more than just me and the rest of the class. 3.) I was going to ask my administration for a good amount of support throughout the process.

Addressing number one: not a big deal. We have a large array of titles in our district library already, many of which I have not yet taught, and I cannot wait to teach. I’m actually in the middle of Brian K. Vaughn’s Pride of Baghdad right now!

Addressing number two: a bit trickier. If you took the time to check out my thesis that I’ve added to the blog resources, you know that my Hamlet project was designed to increase student audience, and although many of the artists did not get back to me, and looking back, I guess I should not have even considered putting that much work (done for free) on the artists, but a couple did come through and had conversations with my kids, one of them my friend Chip Valecek ( One of his Hamlet pages, created from my students’ vision can be seen below.


Last year, I had my students blog about social issues, increasing their audience.

I used to host an AP Language podcast called The APE (AP English…clever, huh?). A YouTube link to the show can be found below.

So expanding audience is not brand new to me, but this year, I’m taking it to the next level. After having multiple conversations with my MMM (Man, Myth, Monster) and Film classes, we decided to break up the assessments into the following roles:

Podcast show roles for both MMM and Film:
-Social Media Director
-Podcast Show Host
-Podcast Show Guest
-Tech Sound Editor
-Blog Reviewer

The grades will be determined half on performance and half on a writing portion assigned to the role. The Social Media Director will be responsible for the creation and promotion of social media for the show, and they will have to create three formal write-ups (an initial proposal in which they will lay out their plan to create ways to promote and actually promote the show; a mid-way reflection with thoughts on progress thus far and ways in which they should switch gears to increase production; a final reflection upon the entire semester).

The podcast host will be responsible for outlining each show for the guests. They are required to plan the content of the show including talking points, questions for the guests to prepare, and filler material in case of time shortages. Half of their grade will also be determined by how well they actually host the show.

The guests will be graded on their participation during the show, and they will have to prepare reflections that allow them to reflect upon how well they contributed, what they could have done better, and what they should consider before the next show recording date.

The Tech Sound Editor will be responsible for just that…recording and editing the show. They will also reflect in three steps, similar to the Social media Director.

The students that are not participating in the creation of the podcast will be creating blog reviews of graphic novels, comics, films, etc. that will be posted on-line as well, and the Social Media Director will promote those blogs as well.

Addressing number three: it’s all about getting stuff that I need for this new endeavor. I’m lucky to have a very supportive administration, but I am asking for a lot. I already have two new class sets of books requested, and I’ve requested a new computer to be dedicated to the recording and editing of our shows; however, I’m hopeful. We are encouraged to take risks, and this is different than any class set-up that I’ve ever heard of. Fingers crossed!

It’s all about attempting to create a place where kids can engage with materials, and reflect on them in real-world type settings that increase engagement.

We will be participating in a couple of mock-shows this week in preparation for our first recordings: three on September 11th and three on September 18th. I will be checking in every Sunday to keep you posted on my progress, please feel free to ask me any questions you might have or offer up some suggestions.

By the way, I know I did not get to converse about how much my students have been enjoying their first comics experiences, but they have, and I will do a mid-week blog to let you know their favorite titles thus far! I didn’t want to give you too much in one day… 🙂

Happy reading…and listening…and podcasting!