Thinking about problems arising from the lack of understanding about the very real trials and tribulations caused by forced migrations, and trying to adjust to a new land, new customs and new ways of living, I thought back to this passage from my dissertation about a very creative project in West Florida.
One of the more interesting programs using graphic novels to investigate social justice takes a very different approach. Rather than using existing graphic novels to start conversations, a team of educators provided instruction about the formal elements of graphic novels, similar to the material found in McCloud’s (1994) Understanding Comics. The students then created their own stories and in order to explore their shifting identities. This project, called Graphic Journeys’ Project was developed in a in West Florida school district to teach middle schools students towrite their own stories in the form of graphic novel, theorizing that graphic novels can assist people in their community transitions from immigrant or refugee to new resident in order to gain a better understanding of who and what they are becoming as well as the process itself.
This project was done with 32 middle school English learners who told their personal family stories about immigration through graphic novels. A critical component of this project was to help them explore their shifting identities from where they came from (leaving behind families, friends, communities and cultures) to a new country where they were required to learn and adapt to the language and customs. Graphic Journeys was a multimedia literacy project that took place over a period of six months in the ESOL classroom of a diverse public middle school on the west coast of Florida. Asa multimedia, personal writing project, Graphic Journeys engaged teen ESL classes in the composition process while building bridges to help them acquire academic English language skills. This project offered 32 ELs the opportunity to research their family’s immigration narratives and depict them as graphic stories. The stories were compiled and published in hardcover books that were distributed to each participating student at a large-scale family/community event. The context of The Graphic Journeys project was to create a framework for students to explore identity-as-narrative, situated in an ESL classroom. The students created a conceptual framework for their telling own stories in detail in the graphic novel and comics format. The teachers “supported the students’ reflections on the implications of this type of project, and provided recommendations based on integrating a multi-literacies pedagogy with academic English language instruction” (Danzak, 2011, p. 187). The result of this is that students were able to increase their knowledge of the English language by using a multi-literacy pedagogy to telling stories that they were intimately familiar with-their own.