Cartoonists or Authors?

Our teachers are keen to embrace every genre and style of writing for every child. Some pupils still see the writing process as a challenge to use as many words as possible to tell a tale. Using a cartoonist’s approach to writing helped ‘illustrate’ that brilliant stories can be shared with less text. It also raised awareness of the importance of drawings throughout the writing process. Comic book art is at the forefront of media attention and children are enjoying a revamp of characters and stories. Few children remember such classics as The Broons and Oor Wuillie but many can identify with Pop Art and abstract compositions. Who hasn’t seen Spider Man? Wayne Chisnall’s Spidey Pods are now recognised by many as modern art. This was a great opportunity to develop a variety of skills and learning with cartoon writing as a context. 

Fairy Comic - Glenlee Primary

Inviting the Etherington Brothers to visit was an opportunity to inspire the pupils to try a fresh approach to story writing. Prior to the visit the pupils brought in anything with artwork that they felt created a character or a story. We looked at comics, annuals, adverts, games packaging and book covers. Groups shared their views on what makes an impressive character. This provoked interesting chatter. The Etherington Brothers then surpassed expectations to fire up the creative juices! Their animated sharing of the writing process helped many pupils to view it in a different light; planning and discarding ideas on paper hadn’t seemed as exciting before. I decided that my ideas page would look like a crammed brain in future! The Brothers acted out ideas in motion as part of their planning process and the pupils were enthralled.

Mind Map - Glentree Primary
My plan of action included Literacy, Art & Design, HWB, Computing Science, Outdoor Education, and Drama. The process was more important than the end result, which was a comic that was to be shared with primary 4 pupils and others. It was important to me that the pupils drove the project but one or two comics per group should be completed within the time scale provided.

At the onset I noticed that all the pupils were contributing and animated about their part in the project. None were reticent to start planning and sharing ideas. Everyone was contributing, being heard and their views were valued. Definitely a bonus of small groups and support with pacing! Storyboard templates were created with block colour pastels and flow arrows. Publisher and Comic Life were utilised. Characters, illustrations, scenes and perilous choices were decided. The 5 key comic elements were discussed. Art inspiration came from from the Brothers, Wayne Chisnall and superhero characters, Roy Lichtenstein’s scenes, Post Impressionists, Picasso and the Cubist period. Pupils were visiting the woods for scientific discovery so were also able to take bark rubbings and pictures for possible use in scenes. Manmade structures and angles were to be closely observed too for buildings in storylines. Drama work with characterisations, facial expressions, actions and scenes were a key part of the process and led to lively fun and feedback from others. The pages came alive!

King Cookie Comic - Glentree Primary
The end came all too soon and comics were read, and dramatised, with the primary 4 pupils. The evaluations of the pupils for this project will lead me to use forms of this process when writing again for any genre. I found it to be motivating to all involved and the pride in the work and eagerness of the pupils to share the work at home says it all! 

Many thanks to The Scottish Book Trust and the Etherington Bros for a fantastic experience!  

You can view the Glenlee pupils' work on our feedback page.

Wilma Crawford

Wilma Crawford has been teaching primary 1 to 7 pupils for 17 years. She currently teaches at Glenlee Primary School.