Teach What It’s About? Click HERE for the full lesson on Teachers Pay Teachers
“Long Way Down” by Jason Reynolds is about a young teenager who loses his brother to gang activity. His brother is shot down in a drive by shooting while on the basketball court. The protagonist of the stories family has generations of gang members who have been killed over the years including his father and his uncle. There are a set of gang rules that the protagonist must follow and one of them is to get revenge for his brother. The problem is once he gets revenge for his brother, a member of the opposing gang will get revenge on him and he is as good as dead. He heads to the building of the gang member who killed his brother and when he gets in the elevator he sees various ghosts who have died due to gang violence. He has the tough decision to either participate in revenge and die, or to break the cycle of gang violence and feel guilt or shame.
Teach Long Way Down Jason Reynolds: 5 Characteristics of Graphic Novels
5 characteristics of graphic novels are essential to teach students prior to reading the graphic novel. What is a graphic novel? A graphic novel is a compilation of graphics and text structured on pages at the length of a novel. How long are graphic novels? Anywhere from 100-500 plus pages. The difference between a graphic novel and a novel is that the graphic novel has graphics (images). The difference between a graphic novel vs comic book is the length. Graphic novels text features are different than a novel just like nonfiction text features. The 5 characteristics of a graphic novel are: shapes, perspective of frame, angles, structure, and layout.
Teach Long Way Down Jason Reynolds: Arguments Against GN
There are arguments against graphic novels. However, I have found that I can refute those arguments. The main argument is that students are not able to use their imagination to picture characters and setting. However, there are activities that can be supplemented to fulfill this standard. For example, providing text for a scene in a graphic novel and having students create an image of the scene based on text description. Another argument is that the length of words is to short in the graphic novel. However, Students can read more graphic novels, which beats the alternative of not reading at all.
Graphic Novel Basics
How do graphic novels work? When teaching a graphic novel, it is essential to teach students the basics. I pass out a graphic organizer and use a PowerPoint to go over the 5 characteristics of graphic novels
Teach Long Way Down Jason Reynolds: Characteristics of Graphic Novels
The first out of the 5 Characteristics of Graphic Novels is:
1. Basic Shapes
Horizontal=a calm and stable atmosphere
Movement Triangle=a stable and unified atmosphere
Whole Diagonals=signal action
The second of the 5 characteristics of graphic novels is:
Teach Long Way Down Jason Reynolds: Perspectives of Frame
2. Perspectives of Frame
Close ups=establish an emotional relationship between the viewer (you) and represented subjects or characters
Medium Shot=establishes objective (without judgment) relationship between viewer (you) and represented characters or subjects.
Long shot=a long shot establishes a relationship between represented figures or characters and surrounding environment
The 3rd of the 5 characteristics of graphic novels is angles:
Teach Long Way Down Jason Reynolds: Angles
Vertical Angle=situates the reader (you) and the subject/character on an equal level.
Low angle=situates represented subjects or characters in position of power. Imagine being down low, looking up high.
High angle=situates the reader in a position of power, omniscient view-point. Imagine being up high looking down as we are in the image above. We are situated as the “all-knowing” figure to what is happening on campus.
The 4th out of 5 characteristics of graphic novels is:
Teach Long Way Down Jason Reynolds: Structure
Given=information that is known to the reader, and taken for granted or not given much thought. An example would be the main character in “Smile” having braces in her mouth. This is not a surprise because we/the audience accompanied her to the dentist.
New=information that is previously unknown to the reader and therefore catches the readers attention. For example, when George Takei’s family is picked up by the American police and placed in a concentration camp in, “They Called US Enemy”. This would be new information in the book.
The 5th out of 5 characteristics of graphic novels is
Teach Long Way Down Jason Reynolds: Layout
A distinct segment of the comic, containing a combination of image and text in variety. Most graphic novels have consistent panels with mixed-in-single panels.
Teach Long Way Down Jason Reynolds: Panels
Panels: offer a different experience than simply reading text:
-The spatial arrangement allows an immediate juxtaposition of the present and the past. On one page we can see a character thinking about the past while being in the present, and looking forward to the future.
-Unlike other- visual media, transitions are instant and direct, but the exact timing of the reader’s experience is determined by focus and reading speed. In the traditional novel we have foreshadowing and hints of what is to come in the future, whereas in a graphic novel, at times we can see what is coming right around the corner, even when a character cannot. This is really helpful for struggling or young readers.
The lines and borders that contain the panels; akin to a picture frame that lines around a picture.
The space between framed panels. The thin space that separates the frame or metal from the actual picture. In the case of an actual picture, this would be the cardboard space.
An image that extends to and/or beyond the edge of the page, this can include a single image on one page.
The panel closest to the viewer. The author may structure the foreground in relation to importance of what he wants the audience to focus on. The background may contain the small details, less important to the plot.
Allows centering of image by using a natural resting place for the reader’s vision. The artist deliberately decides to place the image where a viewer would be most likely to look first. Placing an image off-center or near the top or bottom can be used to create visual tension but using the midground permits the artist to create a more readily accepted image.
Provides additional, sub-textual information for the reader. For example the way characters may be described by how they look in the background. A class-clown wearing a hat sideways, a unique character holding a dummy, etc.
A term that describes the way some images draw the eye more than others, creating a definite focus using color and shading in various ways including: The use of light and dark shades; dark-toned images or high-contrast images draw the eye more than light or low-contrast images do. Colors that are more brilliant or deeper than others on the page.
Faces can be portrayed in different ways. Some depict an actual person, like a portrait; others are iconic, which means they are representative of an idea or a group of people. Other points to observe about faces include: They can be dramatic when placed against a detailed backdrop; a bright white face stands out. They can be drawn without much expression or detail; this is called an “open blank” and it invites the audience to imagine what the character is feeling without telling them.
The positioning of hands and feet can be used to express what is happening in the story.
–Hands that are raised with palms out suggest surprise or confusion.
–The wringing of hands suggests obsequiousness or discomfort, or confusion.
-Hands over the mouth depict fear, shame, shyness or surprise.
–Turned in feet may denote embarrassment-think Goofy in most pictures.
–Feet with motion strokes can create the sense of panic, urgency, or speed, example, Speedy Gonzalez.
These are boxes containing a variety of text elements, including scene setting, description, etc.
These enclose dialogue and come from a specific speaker’s mouth; they vary in size, shape, and layout and can alternate to depict a conversation.
Types of speech balloons: External dialogue, which is speech between characters Internal dialogue, which is a thought enclosed by a balloon that has a series of dots or bubbles going up to it
This is a method of drawing attention to text; it often highlights onomatopoeia and reinforces the impact of words such as bang or wow.
After Filling Out Notes on Graphic Novels
Upon completion of the graphic organizer to fill in the graphic novel information above, we use this organizer to analyze various scenes in the graphic novel. In addition I create “Long Way Down” discussion questions to keep students on their toes. You can practice inference, you make copies of a scene and block out the dialogue asking students to fill it in. You can give a scene cut out and mixed up and have students put it in chronological order. There are so many things you can do with a graphic novel! And it’s so much fun! Click HERE for the full lesson for “Long Way Down” lesson on Teachers Pay Teachers. Students participate in a gallery walk for the exposition through the resolution for “Long Way Down” and have to predict what order they go in. There is a “Long Way Down” question and answer section with chapter by chapter questions. I finish the unit off with a “Long Way Down essay.
By teaching some basics: basics of shapes, perspectives of frames, angles, hands and faces, structure, layout panels, and text captions, students and teachers alike can effectively complete a graphic novel unit. If you teach students and teachers the basics the graphic novel experience can be a great one!
I would love to hear about your favorite graphic novels! I’m always looking for the next graphic novel read. Please share in the comments below! To learn more specifics about the popular graphic novels mentioned above check out my blog on the top 15 teen reads.