Traditionally, the Holocaust has been taught to middle school students using a novel like Anne Frank: The Diary of Young Girl. However, with the recent adoption of the Common Core Standards many teachers must incorporate new ways of teaching content, including the use of graphic novels. This study examined how two teachers, an English teacher and reading teacher, worked collaboratively to create and implement a Holocaust unit that asked students to use comics to demonstrate their learning. While the premise of the study was to examine how teachers with no prior experience incorporated graphic novels into their classrooms, the study became something altogether different. I discuss how the teachers relied on me to teach students how to draw figures and explain the conventions of comics with the final goal of creating a research-based comic examining some element from the Holocaust. During this study I was present in the classroom four full days a week. Data collection methods included participant observation, interviews with staff and students and document collection and analysis. Findings could be categorized three ways and include resistance, gender stereotyping and the accuracy and authenticity of student-created comic narratives. Resistance occurred from both teachers and students. The English and reading teachers resisted use of the term "comic" because they considered it not serious enough for a discussion of the Holocaust. The art teacher resisted participation because he felt that comics were a lower form of art that had no place in education. Student resistance came in the form of a young man who, for example, did not believe that the school should be dedicating nine weeks to studying the Holocaust. A second significant finding focused on gendered stereotypes and how assumptions about gender were made visible through students' comments and perceptions of drawing. Interesting gender differences also existed in the ways students drew their final projects with male students' comics exhibiting depersonalization. Information was shared in an almost bullet-point manner whereas female students spent more time developing characters and exploring emotions. The final area of focus was on the ways in which accuracy and authenticity of narratives were brought into question through failure to emphasize citation of sources and inclusion of bibliographies as part of the students' research project, thus devaluing the factual value of their comic Holocaust narratives.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2014. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor:Dr. James W. Bequette. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 207 pages.
Johnson, Jeremy Lee.
Comics, curriculum and the classroom: the development and implementation of an arts-integrated Holocaust unit.
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