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Sample Program: Native Comics

cornspirit01.jpgContext: This workshop works well to start off a year-long study of North American history.

Objectives: Students learn Native American folktales, and develop an understanding of how the tales fit into cultural, geographic, and historical contexts. Students retell orally, and then re-present the tales in comic book form.


  • Each student performs a Native American foltale.
  • Each student presents information about a specific Native American cultural group.
  • Each student creates a comic book based on that folktale.

Samples of Student Artwork:
(Click on the cover to read the story)

cornspirit00.jpg The Corn Spirit (by Aiden)

How Poison Came to the World (by Cara) poison00.jpg


How it Works in the Classroom:

  1. Students listen as the teacher dramatically recreates some Native American folktales. (It’s important to perform the stories orally, as opposed to reading them from a book. Choose a story or two that you know really well, and can comfortably recreate.) We discuss techniques of storytellers in the oral tradition (using dramatic voices, improvisation, involving the audience, etc.).
  2. Students explore anthologies and recordings of folktales. Each student selects a printed version of a folktale he or she would like to learn.
  3. Students learn their tales, and practice summarizing them in format of “Beginning, Middle, and End”. To practice, they tell the tales to each other. (Remember, every time you tell one of these tales, it comes out a little bit different!)
  4. Students research the culture from which their tale originates; they gather sources and record useful facts.  (For sample research documents, see How Poison Came to the World.)
  5. Students also look at several examples of history comics, gathering ideas and styles from the genre.  (Panel Scramble exercises can help students internalize approaches used by other artists.)
  6. Each student retells her or his tale in comic book form, combining pictures and words to capture the “main idea” of the tale.  Students practice peer conferences to revise their work.  Each story must incorporate some of the details from the cultural/historical research.

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