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Unit Plan: Solar System Comics

Dom's CoverSUBJECT: Science: Astronomy: Solar System
GRADE LEVEL: 5-8

DESCRIPTION: Students create comics that introduce and explore specific regions and features of the solar system, using astronomical vocabulary and mathematical comparisons.This unit provides a student-directed, engaging, and self-documenting project that combines science and art. The students can do the bulk of the research and artwork outside of class, which reserves precious class time for science content instruction, skill-building, and sharing our discoveries.

OBJECTIVES: Students will be able to…

  1. Identify and describe major parts of the solar system (planets, moons, dwarf planets, regions, satellites, etc.)
  2. Conduct scientific research using books, websites, and other resources
  3. Create clear, informative artwork to communicate scientific concepts and data
  4. Plan and produce simple informational mini-comics
  5. Execute a multi-stage project, tracking progress and self-evaluating with a content-specific rubric

MATERIALS:

  • Astronomy texts and websites
  • Pencils
  • Rulers
  • Felt tip pens (black)
  • Markers (black)
  • Letter size paper (8.5″x11″)
  • Pages: Project intro page, project planning page, project rubric, “fact slip” page (all to be posted soon!)

PREPARATION: Students have studied heat, radiation, light, and basic wave mechanics. They have also been reading some comics from their classroom comics shelf!

PROCESS:Class days are not necessarily consecutive days; artwork will require extra days to complete as homework.

  • PRE-ASSESSMENT: Students work in pairs to draw up “maps” of the solar system, including as many features and descriptive data as they can recall from memory.
  • DAY ONE: Students bring in a printed astronomy resource, and share two interesting facts from it. (This gets students thinking about their own interests, and surveying their texts to find important facts.) Students choose solar system locations (planets, dwarf planets, moons, sun, etc. as per the size of the class).
  • DAY TWO: Pass out and review “Solar System Comics” intro sheet and rubric. Introduce concept of a guided tour of the solar system, in comics format.  
  • Introduce “Soonipi-1” character, a human-made satellite that will be the main character of each comic.
  • Introduce the “miracle exception” of each comic: That Soonipi-1 has whatever equipment it needs to survive any situation it encounters.
  • Students begin researching their locations.
  • DAY THREE: Students collect facts about their locations and share some in class. Encourage (and model) mathematical comparisons, estimations, and hypotheses. Begin collecting important new vocabulary words to display in classroom.
  • DAYS FOUR-SIX: Continue research. Introduce physics concepts in “comics lecture” format, so that students are learning content while practicing comics planning and composition. Introduce margins, pencil-ink-erase process, panels, and basic panel and page layouts for starting the artwork. Also, review importance of artwork size (if art will be reduced on the photocopier).
  • DAY SEVEN: Students finalize, check, and share facts. (Middle elementary grades may need time to organize facts.) Work on penciling pages. 
  • DAYS EIGHT-NINE: Students who have completed some pages may bring them in for class critique. (We practice the “Likes + Questions” format of constructive criticism.)
  • DAY TEN: Students complete projects, do a self-score on the rubric, and turn both in.
  • POSSIBLE EXTENSIONS: Students can self-publish mini-comic collections of their work to share with families or other classes (via photocopier, or online). Students may want to provide cover artwork, extra pages, or do dramatic readings of their comics for other classes.

ASSESSMENT:(One for each OBJECTIVE item)

  1. Students read each other’s work (photocopied), and complete an in-class quiz making comparisons between two locations.
  2. Students document their sources, and maintain detailed “fact slip” notes of their research process.
  3. Students and teacher score readability and content on the project rubric.
  4. Students maintain 1+ “planning pages” (plus rough drafts of penciled pages) demonstrating artistic and authorial process.
  5. Projects range between 4-8+ pages, and satisfy the project rubric.

STUDENT ARTWORK SAMPLES:

db-01.jpg  kw-01.jpg  cw-00.jpg

Developed at Hopkinton Independent School.

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