Resource Review: Classical Comics

Classical Comics

‘CAUTION: The factory where this product is made also handles creativity. Whilst every effort is made to prevent cross contamination, trace amounts may be present in this product.’

Sometimes that’s what my mind’s eye sees when I pick up some resources.

They can be bland and deep down you hope they have been infiltrated because they need all the help they can get. The opposite is true of other resources.

The publisher Classical Comics specialises in creativity and produces graphic novel adaptations of classic literature that are bursting at the seams with imagination and I want to know where the factory is.

Comics and graphic novels have been around for ages but they have mostly been considered as recreational texts rather than educational reservoirs to tap into.

But times have changed and now, quite rightly, they are making their way into classrooms as legitimate forms of art and literature.

Research has shown that comics and graphic novels are highly motivating, they support reluctant and struggling readers, they enrich the skills of accomplished readers and they are brilliant at teaching dull, dry or archaic materials. They really do have the Kerpow factor.

Take Shakespeare as an example. The original texts can be stupefying, plunge students into a lingo jam and deter them from engaging with masterpiece stories. It’s a stiff lid that can’t be opened.

Poetic and beautiful as they might be, Early Modern English can be sticky, confusing, obscure and inaccessible. Whilst there are plenty of modern translations that help students get to grips with Shakespeare, none do it as intelligently as Classical Comics. They recognise the importance of the original and bring it up to date.

What they do is give us a piece of classical literature and serve it up in three formats: original, plain and quick.

Far from dumping the original text, Classical Comics offer one text using the entire script and unabridged. Then there is a translation into plain English with a further text available that features reduced and simplified dialogue.

Multiple text versions is differentiation at its best and opens up classical literature to students of all ages and skill levels magnificently as everyone can read from the same page.

The publication list includes Shakespeare, Dickens, Shelley, Stoker, Priestley, Wilde and Brontë, and more.

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The books themselves are engagement personified teeming with life, colour and action. The scriptwriters range from teachers, playwrights and novelists and the artists include Spider-man creators and Eagle award winners.

As such, these high-impact titles appeal to students with massive enthusiasm, particularly boys.

Research shows that boys who read comics enjoy their reading more and are more likely to read other text-based material.

The three E’s of comics are engagement, efficiency and effectiveness and the titles produced by Classical Comics satisfy all these areas effortlessly.

The books impart meaning through the reader’s active engagement with written language and juxtaposed sequential images allowing them to enjoy more emotion, action and detail. The comic format conveys large amounts of information and the sequential art provides plenty of opportunity for connecting a story together, predicting what will happen, inferring what happens between panels and summarising.

The graphic novels all allow for a greater insight into use of metaphor, symbolism, puns, irony and points of view.

One of the advantages of sequential art is that readers don’t need to be able to decode text to learn and practice comprehension skills; processing text and images together leads to better recall and transfer of learning.

Research has shown that pairing images with text leads to increased memory retention and so using Classical Comics could easily allow students to learn material faster and better.

Students will want to read these titles because they are visually stunning. Confronted by solid pages of text with the odd picture here and there can be intimidating and overwhelming but with these resources students will dive in eagerly devouring every page.

The titles have been very carefully planned with a page count of 120-180 pages so as not to discourage some reluctant readers but still offer a satisfying read to the more accomplished.

The books can quite easily be used as sources of inspiration all by themselves and they offer students plenty of opportunities to design cartoons of their own, adding to a story or inventing their own.

But help is at hand as there are Teaching Resource Packs available that contain all manner of activities for going deeper and further. These include background to the books, ideas for exploring characters, language, and themes.

There is plenty to excite, challenge and engage  including compare and contrast charts, comprehensions, Venn diagrams, scene analysis, writing frames, word jumbles, crosswords, word searches and more. Each teacher pack comes with a CD of resources for printing and displaying.

Image based storytelling can be an incredibly rewarding teaching tools for a variety of learners. They are thoughtful, insightful, challenging and motivating. They divide up the text into manageable chunks and the visuals inject life into the words.

Classical Comics can enrich reading, writing and thinking, they can develop creative and higher order thought processes, and serve as a valuable assessment and evaluation tool. With these resources stirring imaginations will be easy.

The Classical Comics mission is to create exciting and engaging graphic novels of classical literature; to introduce new generations to the world of classic fiction; and to make the works of masters available and accessible to all.

Mission accomplished I’d say.

The books are dynamic, they engage children, stir their imaginations and challenge them too.

These resources aren’t ordinary brown cows but purple ones; they stand out and will stand out in children’s minds.

Classical Comics deserve to go viral because it fosters curiosity, feeds creativity and links art and literature beautifully.

Prices for books are £9.99 and Teacher Resource Packs are £19.99 and represent excellent value for money.

Classical Comics Teaching Resource Pack: A Christmas Carol : Ian McNeilly (author), : 9781906332570 : Blackwell's

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