We can’t seem to stay away from Vocamus Press OR the Guelph Public Library. Earlier this year, Jason and I ran a workshop through Vocamus for teen storytellers at the library, so to be invited to the launch of anthology of teen storytelling (which includes a submission from one of our workshopees!) was a lovely gesture and we were honoured to participate. The mere fact that these storytellers have started their work decades before us (we were clearly doing other things in high school) is so impressive and the packed library of family, friends and supporters was an inspiring sight.
Yesterday, we had the pleasure of running a story writing workshop for teens at the Guelph Public Library. Sponsored by local book advocates Vocamus Press, the workshop had a fairly broad scope (see below) so we focused on what we knew and what we’ve learned over the process of creating and releasing Group of 7. As for our expectations, we weren’t sure how many would show up (five did – on their PD Day no less!) or what they wanted to get out of hearing two middle-age new-ish story creators talk about Star Wars, Margaret Atwood, mythologist Joseph Campbell, comic books, character development and plot devices. We asked each to pitch us their story ideas (which ranged from personal stories of struggle to dystopian sci-fi thrillers) and then discussed some techniques the writer could use to move their idea forward. By workshop’s end, the participants were noticeably more comfortable talking about their stories with us (then they had been at the beginning) and each other (it didn’t appear any of the five knew each other previously). The workshop ended with the group recommending stories / films / shows to each other based on which story interests were shared in the workshop.
“You haven’t seen the Goonies yet?!” 😮
So far, Group of 7 has taken us to elementary schools, high schools, comic clubs and now library workshops. Wild ride. Can’t wait to see what’s next.
We finished off our 2017 on a high note with a visit to the Bishop Macdonell Library Anime / Manga / Comics Club, our first non-classroom school visit! Invited by school librarian Heather Thelwell (who we met at the Guelph Book Bash back in October and purchased 10 copies of Issue #1 for the school library) it was an opportunity to discuss the comic (and comics in general) with comic fans (some of who had read Issue #1!) in a relaxed setting. The Club (made up of students from grades 9 to 12) even provided a sweet spread of snacks which was greatly appreciated. There’s a good chance we’ll return once Issue #2 is released in early 2018.
One observation we had was that the Club was 90% female. Back when Jason and I were in high school (the ’90s), there were no official school comics clubs and all comics-talk was generally male and superhero dominated. So being able to have a discussion about a variety of comic genres with a group of interested and engaged young women was an unexpected development that we’re fortunate to have been a part of.
Looking forward to more opportunities like these in 2018.
A few months back, we were asked to present the comic and related resources at the Ontario Heritage Fairs Association AGM. The Association “offers students the opportunity to explore the many aspects of their Canadian heritage in a dynamic learning environment and to present the results of their efforts in either French or English in a public exhibition” (stolen directly from the website). These kinds of presentations are invaluable to both Jason and I as there’s always an angle or lens or suggestion we hadn’t yet considered in terms of how best to develop and share the comic with scholastic audiences. Overall, the meeting was vigorous and engaging and yet again affirmed the value of using resources like Group of 7 in a classroom setting. If we can help start a conversation about Canadian history, we’re pleased to do so.
(don’t mind the photo, I should have hit the lights beforehand)
Our first high school visit!
One thing very much leads to another with Group of 7. Case in point, last month we presented the comic to the history heads of the York Region District School Board. In that audience was Sara Faulkner, a history, political science and ELL (English Language Learner) teacher. Sara reached out to us about visiting her ELL class and conducting a workshop. We were obviously delighted to do so.
Until today, we had yet to present to a high school audience so Sara’s class at Unionville High School will now hold a special place in our hearts. Having delivered a series of G7 presentations over the past year, there’s a certain rhythm to our content and delivery but today, we added a few additional components including a live-reading (I was McCrae, Jason was Currie). Sara also introduced an element of critical thinking as we used the graphic text to make connections to Canada’s experience in the First World War including military uniform and dress, trench warfare and life on the home front.
We have always believed in the positive impact G7 can have in a classroom setting but finally seeing it in action was something else. Sara had used the comic to create an ELL-specific classroom resource and we couldn’t have been more thrilled. Furthermore, using G7 as an ELL resource in general is a development we hadn’t anticipated but is most welcome and demonstrates the value of using comics in the classrooom in a variety of situations and for a diversity of audiences.
Our second high school visit can’t come soon enough!
(second photo taken by Sara Faulkner, Unionville High School, October 24, 2017)
Today, Jason and I travelled to Newmarket to present the comic to the History Heads of the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) and facilitate a discussion about its application in secondary school classrooms. It was a very positive and productive meeting with both sides suggesting possible avenues for student exploration including: history, art, ESL and critical thinking. One suggestion that we hadn’t thought of was translating the book into French, which now is something that’s on the radar.
Jason and I were always aware of the educational potential of Group of 7 but today’s meeting really brought that home. At the end of it, our 15 minute presentation had evolved into a 30 minute discussion and we had a number of requests for running comic-related classroom workshops across the region – a most welcome development. Looking forward to launching our first workshop sometime this Fall!
(April 2017: Chris and Jason with Grades 5 and 6 at Central Public School Guelph, Ontario. Notable alumni – John McCrae, Photo by Kate Brennagh)
Creators Chris Sanagan and Jason Lapidus facilitate exciting workshops to support student engagement with Arts, History and Language curricula.
- Exploring the process of creating a comic book
- Developing characters from the pages of history
- Writing and/or illustrating stories
- Exploring graphic novel literacy
- Drawing figures in action
- Enhancing creative collaborative practices
- Connecting history and fiction
- Using Research to support creativity
We are happy to collaborate with educators to customize a workshop for the needs of the group.
To book a school visit or for more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past week we had the pleasure of visiting Central Public School in Guelph and talking to the Grade 5s and 6s about the comic. This was the first of what we hope are many school visits over the coming year as the comic is released and made available in full. We see the comic as a natural resource to help facilitate the introduction/exploration of Canadian history to/for younger audiences. This was clear as we walked the students through the seven characters. Everyone knew John McCrae (not surprising given his Guelph roots and the fact he attended Central as a boy) while Lester Pearson and Norman Bethune were virtual unknowns. We were pleasantly surprised to discover more than a few knew about the actual Group of Seven as well as the First World War and Battle of Vimy Ridge. Over the course of an hour we also discussed Canada 150 and examined the types of objects and primary sources we leave behind (photos, correspondence, artwork, report cards, etc.) that help document our lives and can provide the inspiration for storytelling. During the talk, Jason live drew an illustration of John McCrae, which we then left with the school as a gift.
The highlight for the students was definitely Jason’s presentation of his illustrations and artistic process. From sketch to ink to scanning, the students were very engaged. Jason also created a handout to help them add movement to their own drawings, which the students consumed back in their classrooms following the presentation. What we planned to be a one hour visit turned into two. A good sign.
BONUS! We visited the kindergarteners and had them colour John McCrae from a page that Jason created. Some added classic comic word bubbles to their pictures while others asked Jason to draw boats and trains. We all then read comics on the floor. Kindergarteners are awesome.
Thanks to Kate Brennagh, Central’s teacher-librarian for inviting us and organizing the visit. Thanks also to teachers Mr. McPhie, Mr. Anderson, Miss Benham and Mrs. Storey for allowing us to spend time with your students. If you’re interested in having us talk about the comic at your school, please contact us.