Writing, collaboration and rich text - all from a comic!

Kaleen Primary School Student Sarvani sharing her 'Comic Re-write'

Recently a colleague and I visited Ryan Lindsay at Kaleen Primary School. To be honest, his energy was quite contagious and it was a pleasure to listen to what he has been doing with his Year 4 students over the past few years.

Ryan teaching 'Comic Rewriting' at Kaleen Primary School 
Ryan’s true passion is teaching and it is so obvious in what he does with his students. Under his own admission, Ryan says he kind of ‘fell into’ the role of ICT Coordinator in his school. Technology is absolutely just the tool used to enhance the rich learning that happens in his classroom. Plus, Ryan says it doesn’t hurt that “It’s never been a struggle to teach with Chromebooks, kids love it!”

Whilst teaching literacy to his students, Ryan found that the use of the ‘G Suite’ allowed students to have purpose in their writing as they had a real audience, other than just the teacher. Their peers were their real audience.

So, to begin?

To start the ‘Text to Entertain’ unit of work, a Google Doc was created displaying 1 page comics which were shared with students to stimulate ideas for their writing. As a self confessed ‘massive comic nerd’ Ryan believes, “Pitch a comic in a rich way and you engage them (your students)!” He would also like to dispel the myth that ‘Comics are for reluctant readers’. He believes that comics are another genre that provide rich texts to students. Students used Google Drive to access the shared comic with the aim to digest the image and then turn it into their own words as a prose Narrative.
1 page comic shared with students to stimulate writing ideas.

Students used Google Docs to create their own narrative piece of writing. Their work was then shared with their peers. The students had the task of reading through each other’s writing with the guide of looking for ‘difficult/challenging/rich words’, ‘beautiful phrases’ and ‘quality punctuation’. Students could be more objective looking at each other’s work, rather than just their own. As they used a shared Google Doc, they had the task of highlighting words, phrases and punctuation, on their peer's work according to the criteria below:

blue = difficult/challenging/rich words

green = beautiful phrases
pink = quality punctuation choices

Criteria given to students to review each other’s work.

This criteria for critiquing the work, allowed the students to look for the positive parts in the writing. This encouraged students to want to include these criteria in their own writing as they knew their audience was their peers and wanted to have their work highlighted throughout! A student commented that writing like this “My vocabulary definitely expanded. It was just fun doing the whole recreation.” We asked if he would have enjoyed it as much if he was writing with pencil and paper and we received a clear ‘No way!” (James, Kaleen PS Student)

A piece of student work, with the rich text highlighted by their peers.

Where to next...

Library of student-created examples of rich text accessible to students in the classroom.

The completed narratives (with highlighted rich text) were combined into a PDF and then printed into an A5 book to display in the classroom. The classroom now has it’s own library of student-created examples of rich text! Speaking about the library of books Ryan thinks it is great “To be able to have this catalogue where I can say to kids ‘flip through these if you’ve finished work quickly and read it’ and when they go through it, if there’s one that’s highlighted a lot, then they know there’s a lot of quality they can take from it and if there’s one that doesn’t have a lot, well they know there wasn't as much punctuation or rich language used in there.”

Kaleen Primary School student James, demonstrating 
the use of 'Wevideo' to create a movie from his narrative text.
As an extension, (and the students absolutely loved it!) they used the iPads to take a digital copy of the image and create their own movies based on their narrative. This integrated drama, speaking and listening, narrative choices and word play. The self-chosen assessment pieces were then uploaded to Google Drive to share with their teacher.

Teacher learning during the process:

  • Let kids make mistakes! When collating each child’s narrative into 1 Google Doc to create the printable PDF, Ryan starts the year saying to his students: “All 27 of you just need to paste your work in here. My 1 success criteria is: I hope nobody cry’s. And they all laugh but a few get close.” He has the expectation (and it does happen) that students will paste over each other’s work or insert their work and it will bump down another person’s work and so on. This is the first learning point for the students to know how it works. “The first time they do it, it’s terrible! By the end of it, they are totally ace with it.” These skills then transfer to the students collaborating in other ways such as creating a shared slideshow using Slides. 
  • As a teacher, using ‘Comments’ on student work in Google Docs allows students to have instant feedback and it stays there! Students can come back and see it over and over and it is possibly more powerful than just telling them a comment which can easily be forgotten. 
  • Ryan admits “It’s a bit of work,” but says it “has such positive outcomes, so it’s worth it!” Kaleen Primary School have Ryan present for 15 minutes each fortnight at staff meetings to share his knowledge. His attitude is to “Lead through positivity!” 
  • Some of the skills teachers would need before they begin are: 
    • How to share Docs with kids
    • How to assign folders (Team Folders) 
    • How to teach collaboration meaningfully