Project Members

Justin Switzer


The project entails that a 9th grade Language Arts class will read “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury and, while working in pairs, develop a 9 - 12 panel comic strip that shows either a major scene, a summary of the plot, or a specific topic of their choosing regarding censorship using Comic Life. This helps them develop a better understanding of the material and will allow them to revisit the material prior to writing a research paper.

The Topic & Standards
Students will have read the novel “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury for 9th grade language arts class. After a week long discussion of the novel and the introduction of the “Fahrenheit 451” graphic novel in the classroom, students will have acquired a clear understanding of the novel’s plot, character, themes, and symbols, as well as how the text can be interpreted.

After activation of the knowledge has occurred, students will then begin the assignment specified within this lesson unit, which will be taught within the larger unit on “Censorship Within Literature.” While working in pairs, students will develop a 9-12 paneled graphic novel/ comic strip that will either give a synopsis of key plot events within the novel (adoption/extension – students may also select a specific part of the story that has resonated with them to develop the graphic novel/comic strip) or a personally developed, scripted account of what censorship means (adoption/extension). If students decide on the censorship topic instead of the synopsis of the novel, it would require more effort due to the students having to find one valuable source on censorship and develop a skit, that will then be turned into a graphic novel/comic strip, based on the information obtained.

Through classroom discussions, students will be able to better design an effect portrayal of key points in the novel. With the incorporation of digital cameras and the online software Comic Life, students will learn useful skills such as how to import and export images, have experience with editing images, and learn effective ways to write succinct and informative sentences to express complex ideas. Along with developing useful skills that some or all of the students may not have enough experience with, students will also reorganize information to better suit their understanding of the novel/information, develop speaking skills when sharing their project with the class, and understand the textual differences that graphic novels/comic strips have when juxtaposed to novels and more lengthy works of literature.

*This developed lesson unit involves the integration of technology within the classroom to better meet the students’ needs and interests. With the popularity of graphic novels among the YA audience, to incorporate the usage of them into the classroom allows for an unfamiliar idea, such as censorship, to be displayed in a familiar format, graphic novels. Since the development of graphic novels and the assimilation into the American culture, they have only gotten more substantive in style and subject matter. Now that much of classical literature is being converted into this format, it would be instantly entertaining and fun for students to develop something of their own and gain exposure to free software that will allow them to display their creativity in a format that most already know.


AASL Standards:

2.1.2 Organize knowledge so that it is useful.

2.1.6 Use the writing process, media and visual literacy, and technology skills to create products that express new understandings.

3.1.4 Use technology and other information tools to organize and display knowledge and understanding in ways that others can view, use, and assess

3.1.6 Use information and technology ethically and responsibly

Common Core:

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
7. Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

Conventions of Standard English
1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
a. Use parallel structure.*
b. Use various types of phrases (noun, verb, adjectival, adverbial, participial, prepositional, absolute) and clauses (independent, dependent; noun, relative, adverbial) to convey specific meanings and add variety and interest to writing or presentations.

2. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing
a. Use a semicolon (and perhaps a conjunctive adverb) to link two or more closely related independent clauses.
b. Use a colon to introduce a list or quotation.
c. Spell correctly

3. Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

The Setting and Context

The school in which this lesson is taking place is within the Baltimore City Public School system. The city has been making massive strides to better the educational process within the Greater Baltimore area, and with that said, the school now has a computer lab with 28 functioning PC computers. Also, the Library Media Center (LMC) now has such useful technology tools as 2 laptop carts with laptops, a portable SmartBoard, Elmo document cameras, 5 flip video cameras, and 5 digital cameras (which were donated by parents). Most of the technology within the LMC has been acquired through federal grant funding that the LMS has applied for or through numerous fundraising endeavors. The computers were actually donated to the BCPS from a local business, so they are older with some out of date software, but are better than nothing.

Most of the assignment will take place within the LMC, but within the classroom there is an Elmo document camera and a stationary SmartBoard. Although, the effort has been great, the school has not yet met AYP in 3 years, so educators are undergoing a major push to better prepare students for statewide tests. The school is a Title 1 school, with >80% of the school population on FARMs.

Sample class demographics:

Within a randomly selected class of 28 students:

- 4 have IEPs

- 5 have 504 plans

- 10 are below reading level

- Of the remaining 18, 9 are reluctant readers

- The last 9 are at or above reading level and high achievers within their 8th grade year

- Majority of the class are African American

  • Sample was given to display an idea of what to expect within any given class.

Given that students are from poor backgrounds, they tend to lack the essential skills required in much of the technological world. With the introduction of full keyboard smartphones, students do have some typing skills, but lack much of the grammatical and structuring skills needed in English composition. Only <20% of the students lack home computers, but of those who do indicate that the amount of use is minimal or used for non-educational purposes. Students know of Google search, but many do not understand searching strategies. This is an issue, but not one too difficult to rectify. Given that students do have typing skills and have access to technology outside school, either within their homes or the public library, they have been exposed to the many uses of the Internet and other technologies that come with computers. The most important thing is to make sure students are developing appropriate English grammar and expose them to multiple usages of the technologies that most of the students have been exposed to already. If they experience a constructive and instructional approach to technologies they already know, then they will acquire lawful usage of technology skills.

As for the educators technological ability, educators have been trained how to properly operate the SmartBoards and Elmo document cameras through seminars/webinars given by the LMS. Teachers understand basic searching skills, the ethical use of information, and how to properly operate technology such as projectors, digital cameras/camcorders, and desktop/laptop units. If there is any technology related question, the LMS is always ready to assist, but there is a regional technology department that will be more than happy to answer tech related inquiries.

The students have many challenges within their lives and school. Education is difficult when faced with pressures from the outside world, but it is the school’s vision to mold and shape these young minds into productive members of society. With that being said, this unit will be taught in a collaborative effort between the school librarian and the Language Arts teacher. Prior to the school year, the language arts teacher and the LMS met briefly to discuss any potential collaborative efforts. Each year this happens because, now that the administrations key focus is meeting AYP, educators have little to know time during the school year to participate in new collaborative efforts. If a collaborative effort is established during “off” season, it is more likely the LMS and teacher will be more effective in the collaborative lesson plan development.

At times, it is quite difficult for the LMS and educator to have substantive meetings in person, but after the initial collaboration interview, where ideas are formed and curriculum is shared, LMS and educator are better equipped to share responsibilities in the development of the lesson unit, sending correspondence through e-mail or electronic chatting. In the age of technology, people can meet without ever having met in person.

Aside from the lack of prior knowledge and time, technology isn’t always reliable. If there was some sort of technological failure -- albeit a computer, or 5 computers, aren’t working – students will just simply have to work together. For the lower level students, the educator/LMS would give them the opportunity to work in pairs. Prior to the initiation of the unit, the LMS would make certain that each computer has a USB port that is compatible with the digital camera cord, Comic Life software is working properly and downloaded onto all of the computers, and that each class will have an assigned electronic folder to save their work on (the computers are all networked). If there is any issue, the LMS will then rectify it by taking the necessary steps (i.e. downloading Comic Life if not on the PC yet). Now, Comic Life is a pay-for software, but you can receive a free trial for 30 days. The LMS would have to either dish out the money for the software – which I think would be beneficial – or simply develop a list of “dummy” e-mail addresses so that students can use the software. Also, the LMS should make sure that each PC has photo viewing software on them that is compatible with either flip cameras or the digital cameras. If not, simply install the drivers necessary, and it should simply allow you to view the photos as PDF files, which then leads to ensuring that each PC has Adobe reader. Along with the cameras, the LMS should ensure that the cameras do, in fact, work. If we do not have enough cameras to use in the classroom, the LMS will just have to allow students to search Google for appropriate images to use for the assignment, or the LMS could compile a file folder of images that students may use prior to the unit. Lastly, if the SmartBoard were to not function properly while the LMS/teacher are demonstrating how to use Comic Life, the LMS can just have students view the tutorials on individual monitors.

The Materials and Technology Tools You will Need

All students will have been supplied with a copy of the novel, “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. Students will have read the novel prior to the lesson.

Example of graphic novel of “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury – This is to show what the students could do. Seeing the novel in the format, in which, they are about to create something similar will make the assignment more defined for visual learners.

Students’ notes given in handout form.

The following materials have been made available through the Read, Write, Think website, a free source for educators to find lesson ideas:
1) ****
2) ****
3) ****
4) ****
5) ****

Read, write, think #1: This defines certain aspects to what makes a comic a comic. This will give students an idea of what their project should include regarding text.

Read, write, think #2: This defines certain aspects to what makes a comic a comic. This will give students an idea of what their project should include regarding design. This aspect is less important, given that Comic Life does the majority of the design work for you.

Read, write, think #3: This defines certain aspects to what makes a comic a comic. This will give students an idea of what their project should include regarding angles. This will help students decide on what images they choose, or if they need to take more pictures to better suit their panels.

Read, write, think #4: This is a graphic organizer that has been developed to assist in organizing the students ideas and the break down of the panels.

Read, write, think #5: This is another resource made available for the students as an example of what they should have after developing their ideas on the graphic organizer.

Panel planning sheet (sketching) – This will be used after the graphic organizer to allow students to display what their final project may look like. This will be handed in as a form of formative assessment. (Supplied by )

Final Project Rubric – This will be the summative assessment used in determining the final grade of the project. (Supplied by )

Presentation Rubric – This will allow students to critique their peers and force them to pay attention to other presentations.

Flip cameras – these basic camcorders can also capture images/pictures and act the same as a digital camera. The images will then be exported to the student’s image file folder to allow for easy access while uploading the images to comic life. These little “do-dads” are everywhere. They are inexpensive and easy to use. They will help students develop skills in interpretation of the world by using pictures/images that students have taken to express a cohesive idea around a centralized point of reference, “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury.

Digital camera – students will take pictures of appropriate images that will assist them in telling their story. The images will then be exported to the student’s image file folder to allow for easy access while uploading the images to comic life. They will help students develop skills in interpretation of the world by using pictures/images that students have taken to express a cohesive idea around a centralized point of reference, “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury.

Computer/PC – This will be the main instrument in developing the end product of the assignment. Students will use the computer to use the Comic Life Software and store/edit their selected photos. They will also develop typing skills and usage of grammatically correct sentences.

Comic Life – This is a software made available for a fee, but offers a free 30-day trial, which the LMS should capitalize on. Comic Life will be used to develop the end product of the assignment.

The Implementation & Assignments
[Write a short section on when and in what sequence the lessons will be implemented. Also talk about the assignments the students will complete, and how you will assess their learning. For example, if the project is book trailers, what in the book trailers should we be looking for as evidence that the students understood both the content and the technology?]

Prior Knowledge:
Students will have read “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury and understand important aspects of the novel, such as theme, plot, characters, and motifs. Also, students will have had experience in using digital devices to capture images given prior lesson teachings.

* Classes last for 90 mins

Day 1: Class discussion
Present: LMS and Language Arts teacher
Location: Classroom

10 mins.
Activation – Bring up what we have previously discussed in other classes. And have students pull out their notes on the novel. Students were given summaries of the plot from Sparknotes.

15 mins.
After the discussion has been had, the teacher will then share the project details with the students. The teacher will hand out copies of “Fahrenheit 451” graphic novel and briefly have students flip through to get an idea of what the project may look like upon completion.

Ask students what they see that is similar and what is different between the two formats.

15 mins
Go through the handouts from Read, Write, Think and explain why they might be useful.

Go over the style of text, design, and angles.

- Do you see the differences in how images can change the meaning of the same picture? (And have them explain their answer.)

- What characteristics do you see expressed in the graphic novel version of the novel?

10 mins
Show and discuss Comic Life tutorial.

If Time, ask:
- What did you see in the tutorial that was interesting and that you might want to use in your project?

5 mins
Break up into pairs and have students begin discussion of what type of project they intend on doing (synopsis, segment, or censorship).

35 mins
Give Read, write, think #4& #5 handouts out. Have the students read through the example breakdown of panels, then have them begin filling out the graphic organizer to begin the process in developing their final project

Note: Patrol room to make sure students stay on task. If any pair needs help, assist them, but if there seems to continue being an issue that occurs repeatedly, stop and take the opportunity to educate.

Students must finish working in their pairs in developing a completed graphic organizer.

Day 2
Present: LMS and teacher
Location: Classroom

25 mins.
Remind students of what they should have accomplished thus far and allow some time to put the final touches on the graphic organizers (Remind them also that they can use their notes. ).

35 mins.
Have students transform their graphic organizer into actual panels.
Give out Panel planning sheet (sketching) handout. Explain that from what they have on the graphic organizer, they should be able to put it all together telling the story that they want.

Explain to the students that they have to draw mock up pictures with captions to express their story. Also, they will be able to take pictures and have themselves within their graphic novel/ comic strip. They will, of course be limited to settings of either the LMC, the hallway right outside the classroom, and the classroom, so express this to them to ensure they do not go out side the parameters in their sketches.

Lastly, give out rubric for the final project and briefly explain what is expected of them.

- How do you want to tell the story? Which parts of the story do you think are the most important? (Have them look back at the notes that they have made throughout our class discussion)
- Do you have any particular scene that you want to act out?

30 mins

The last portion of the class will be used to take pictures that match what each group has set up in their sketches. (Hand out the devices. Allow some students to use their own picture taking devices – i.e. cell phone cameras).

Note: While patrolling the room, make sure to offer advice or assistance to students.


Students must make sure that the pictures they have taken match what they have selected in the planning stages of the project.

Day 3:
Present: LMS and Teacher
Location: LMC

Prior to class: LMS should ensure that PCs are operational, Comic Life software is up and running, and the free use electronic file folder of predetermined images are available on each PC.

15 mins
Have students upload all their images to the PC that they are working on. Make sure they have the panel sketches and panel notes graphic organizer. Open Comic Life software (if not opened already). Explain to students that if you are short an image or a panel, there are images made available in the file folder.

10 mins
Show Comic Life tutorial again and show a brief example explanation on SmartBoard.

50 mins
Students will upload images into the Comic Life software and develop their 9-12 panel comic strip/ graphic novel. Offer assistance when needed.

15 mins
Ensure and check progress of the students. Have them save work. Hand out presentation rubric.

  • Optional:
Students should be done the final product at the end of the third day’s lesson. If not, there will be a 15 min allotted time frame given during the beginning of class, in which they will be able to work on laptops that have been borrowed from the LMC.

Day 4: (no lesson, just presentations)

  • Optional:
Students should be done the final product at the end of the third day’s lesson. If not, there will be a 15 min allotted time frame given during the beginning of class, in which they will be able to work on laptops that have been borrowed from the LMC.

Student groups will have 5 minutes to present to the class their projects. While presenting, students will fill out the presentation rubric, which will account for 20% of the overall grade.
Presentation Rubric -