Everything I Learned From Comics: Caveman and Cave Students

Everything I Learned From Comics_

 

The comic above was taken from “Caveman“, a great series by Tayyar Ozkan. This strip was first published in Heavy Metal, and is one of my favorites to share with fellow teachers.

The young caveman is clearly so proud of his self expression. He is excited to show what he has done, and his parents are clearly impressed and supportive. The juxtaposition at the end of the strip is made so much more powerful by the smooth transition in the second to last panel. The modern reaction is not one of support or encouragement, but instead of recrimination and shaming. The focus has shifted from celebrating what has the child been able to do, to condemning them for doing it in a way that is not approved of.

The question is, how often does this occur in classrooms?

Some students were doing a scrap book activity. They had to put the illustrations of the story they had read into the correct order and use comic bubbles to re-tell the story. Three of the four teams followed the instructions to the letter, carefully retelling the story.

The fourth team decided that they didn’t like the original story, so decided that they would use the images to create something new. Their tale included violence, intrigue and death—not the sort of thing you are comfortable reading from a group of 6-year-old’s, but the things they find fascinating none-the-less.

In many regards they were taking the tools they were given and expressing themselves in a non-approved manner. They failed to show the teacher their understanding of the material, rendering the established pedagogical goal of the class useless for that team. It is worth noting however, that they were displaying mastery in several other fields while “goofing off” like this. They had a clear understanding of how stories are made up by components, and how these components can be remixed or reused for different tales.

As teachers, when confronted by these situations, we have a choice for how we can react. We can seek to understand the skills that the students are trying to share with us, or we can refocus them on the task at hand. The decision is, of course, incredibly context-bound, with a wide range of factors to be taken into account.

But, in the long run, as teachers, we are going to be confronted with the question, which is more important, the art or the wall?

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