Category Archives: Classroom

The Power of Para-sites: Graphic Novels in the Classroom

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

Juvenal, Satire VI (347–8)

What do you think about graphic novels?

What are graphic novels?

This week at university, I led a seminar-workshop exploring the ways in which graphic novels can be used in the KS3-KS5 classroom to support the curriculum. Schwartz (2006) argues that “in a media-dominated society, one traditional literacy – reading and writing of print – is no longer sufficient”. We are bombarded and saturated with images and so we need to find different ways of capturing the attention and the imagination of the young people we teach. Graphic novels can be used as a gateway to access personalised learning via multimodality: the reader can decide where to begin and how long to look. They can choose to look at the words or the images first – or take in the whole page as an integrated design. With their thematic connections, social dilemmas, and interdisciplinary cross-curricular connections with English, art, history, and design and technology, graphic novels can be used to explore and negotiate traditional themes in a new and engaging way  – not only to support EAL / SEN students, but to extend the more able through companion literature and comparison.

If comics, graphic novels, and manga “can create a bridge that is wide, stable, heavily trafficked, and easy to cross” (Wilson, 2005), perhaps graphic novels are not these “sub-literary parasites”, traditionally discarded and banished to the wastes of non-canonical ridicule, but can instead be regarded as “para-sites” –  accessible and engaging entities that run parallel to the main site of the national curriculum.

For more detailed information and title suggestions, please find the link to my presentation below:


The Importance of Being Earnest: Considering Classroom Codes of Conduct

“Love all, trust a few. Do wrong to none.”

― William Shakespeare, All’s Well That Ends Well

Observing lessons this morning and listening to staff and students discuss barriers to learning was invaluable and does require time for more in-depth personal processing and reflection during the course of this week. However, what I would like to mention today was that I loved working with Paula, Katie, Jacqueline, and Emma in the afternoon and that, possibly as a result of recently being bombarded with an abundance of acronyms in education, we collaborated fabulously by creating a ‘Classroom Codes of Conduct’ acronym so potentially powerful that would make Aretha Franklin as proud as a peacock and as pleased as punch (- and like many more celebrated similes, I’m certain of it)!

Drum roll, please……………………

“In the classroom, we will all be R.E.S.P.E.C.T.E.D!”

Originally, we had thought of the ‘S’ as “Self-Evaluation” – and, of course, it still could be, but I wondered whether or not it was too similar to “Reflective”. There was also an abundance of important concepts beginning with ‘E’ and perhaps Effort and Encouragement might seem crowded together on the same line, but I think they also compliment each other strongly… It’s still a work in progress with lots of room for negotiation and personalisation, but working together was a positive and fun end to a busy day.

Great Expectations: An Emergent Classroom Manifesto in Eight Adjectives

‘The Poet Dreams of the Classroom’

I dreamed
I stood up in class
and I said aloud:
why is algebra important?
Sit down, he said.
Then I dreamed
I stood up
and I said:
Teacher, I’m weary of the turkeys
that we have to draw every fall.
May I draw a fox, instead?
Sit down, he said.
Then I dreamed
I stood up once more and said:
Teacher, my heart is falling asleep
and it wants to wake up.
It needs to be outside.
Sit down, he said.
Mary Oliver, Swan.

We were asked to think about and write down our personal “classroom vision” – a mini manifesto consisting of a few sentences describing how we would like our lessons to be. Here goes the first draft:

“In my lessons, I hope to create an engaging, open, fun, interactive, comfortable and safe environment where everyone feels valued, included and respected equally as unique and creative individuals within the group in order to encourage enjoyment and passion for learning and the development and support of students so they can achieve their best.

I wonder how much my vision will change with experience this year…

In addition to the classroom vision, we had to create five pre-placement A targets.

  1. Develop the areas highlighted for improvement on my emotional intelligence audit (empathy, developing others, and adaptability).
  2. Re-explore poetic devices and poetry analysis, as I still feel I need more confidence in this area.
  3. Consider and create my personal “Code of Conduct” in classrooms and explore methods of introducing this in classes with students using some activities.
  4. Update my Magic Box of Tricks ( – invaluable when teaching in Japan, I always carried a box full of different 10-minute activities, worksheets, board games, questions, starters that also included props – just in case I had extra time in the lesson or if I was covering another lesson and there was no lesson plan available).
  5. Be prepared and plan.