Part 1 of 2: Arts Integration with 2nd Grade (Character Dialog, Spoken Text, Drama, Acting, Graphic Novels)

In December, Ms. Budreau, one of our school’s 2nd grade teachers, and I began taking a class about Arts Integration.  It got our brains thinking and automatically we were drawn to the idea of finding an effective way to integrate art into her classroom and her classroom into mine.  And anyone who teaches art can agree that just doing a project about whatever they are learning is not truly arts integration.  So, we began communicating about the different lessons she was teaching and what I could use to benefit my classroom and what she could use in hers.

Well, in January, I went to Chicago to visit some other schools and I was immediately drawn to a project I saw that involved showing setting of characters.  From there, I found that Ms. Budreau would be teaching her students about character, setting, conflict and resolution – ultimately, dialog between people and how we portray spoken words in text.  Of course, then we had our opening to take this further.

Step One (In Classroom)
We developed a plan that would push students past the norm of learning about quotations and list details from text.  Ms. Budreau came up with a sheet for her students to work on that had a four squared boxed that students would list details about characters, setting, conflict and resolution.  Ms. Hall, our other 2nd grade teacher, jumped right on board with the project.  The sheet then had a place for students to develop their dialog in the story.  Finally, there was a small area where they could sketch out their dialog to show the details they had listed – it was just a quick sketch but helped students carry details through to the end.

This was great! Because I am an arts specialist and she is a 2nd grade specialist so having her set her students up with knowledge in the way she knows with a touch of art, allows me to develop their knowledge further using art and a touch of 2nd grade core skills!

Step Two (In Art Room with help from Classroom)
From there, students came to my class with their sheet filled out.  Before we began on our graphic novel, I wanted to continue on their foundational knowledge. Student dissected a comic strip from Peanuts.  They had to gather information about who said what, who the characters were and on the back, what we use to designate spoken text in comic strips, thoughtful ideas in comic strips and different ways we express emotions and setting in the imagery.  I had students pair up together and work through this.

The most rewarding part about this step was the connections students began to draw between written text and the graphic novels.  Many exclaimed that it was interesting how you could portray spoken word in multiple ways – others said that the graphic novels help you really picture the setting but sometimes the written text gives more away – they were truly gathering an appreciation for what they had learned with Ms. Budreau and Ms. Hall.  I thought, at first, students would be unruly about doing this kind of work in art but they loved working in pairs and being able to answer these questions because they knew so much already – it was a very rewarding day!  You can download our  Comic Strip Study.

Step Three (Art Room with Connection to Drama)
From there, we had a little bit of dramatic fun – quite literally!  After having a great discussion about how we can add expression to written text using exclamation points, changing the font, and adding facial expressions to our characters – I thought, well, what better way to take this further but testing our understanding with drama!  I put a simple conversation on the board for students to practice with a new partner.  Using exclamation points, question marks and discussion the conversation together, students developed a scene using the dialog.

This was probably the favorite step thusfar because then we acted it out!  I had student come up on our “stage” and dramatically express themselves.

Now, of course, it was a simple conversation but just imagine the possibilities! I can’t wait to bring more drama into the classroom.

Step Four (Art Room)
Now, this was the more challenging part because student then took their initial planning from Step One and began to apply it to the graphic setting of a comic strip.  They received another form that served as their Comic Strip Rough Draft (click to download).  It was very simple – just four large squares that resembled the worksheet from class.  We discussed thoroughly how all our textual preparation gave up details about what to draw.  For instance, if we said our setting was the playground – what can we draw to show this?  If the conflict between the two characters is over a baseball, should we introduce a baseball at one point?  We also discussed details of the characters – the hair, staying away from stick people (and how), as well as expressions of the face (we acted at some expressions).

To lessen the initial stress, I had students leave the top half of each square blank so that they could have good space for our talk bubbles – something I decided to leave until after they had worked on their imagery a bit.  After a while, you can see how students developed their detail a lot in their rough draft sketch – I mean, I don’t even have to explain it because it’s evident in the images.

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Step Five (Art Room)
Student are introduced to talk bubbles – very straight forward.  The best way to approach talk bubbles is by looking back at  I real comics.  The talk bubble’s tail is always aimed at the person speaking and the text is written very clearly.  I stress the clearly part 100x because students will always want to rush.  From there, we talk about how we will draw our “V” shape for the tail, aimed at the character speaking.  Using our initial planning, we will carefully copy the text in that area (making sure to leave room for other talk bubbles) and then draw our circle around the text – doing the circle last ensure that the text will not cut into the edge of the circle. I test them by walking around and trying to read their conversations – if I can’t, I have them try again and slow down – if I can, I then look to see if the dialog matches the setting – can I see the story?  Students love being told their story works – it’s rewarding for them after all of the hard work.

Stay Tuned
When we return from Spring Break, we will begin transferring our rough draft onto a formal piece of paper.  The work will be completed, scanned digitally and shared as a digital graphic novel with each student.  A copy of the entire class’s work will be bound and displayed as the class graphic novel “Dialog and Detailing” or something along these lines.  The originals will go home with the students. Students are and will continue to be assessed on their Common Core Standards, Art Standards, Drama Standards Collaborative Skills and more!

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