Coming into college, I was determined to improve my writing through an untraditional and interesting English class. I was able to truly better myself as a writer through Professor Morgen’s English 101 Secret Language of Comics course. I was able to achieve all the learning outcomes of this class through completing Sunday Sketches, analyzing graphic novels, writing reflection posts, and more. In the very beginning of the semester, Professor Morgen made sure that we feel comfortable sharing our ideas in class and on our personal website by establishing a no-judgement or assuming-good-intentions zone. In this letter, I will elaborate on how these assignments helped me improve my creative thinking and writing skills.
One of the most unique feature of the course is Sunday Sketches. Sunday Sketches are weekly assignments that require us to learn through the utilization of different means of technology. From learning how to photoshop to taking visual notes for the first time, these sketches allowed me to explore the most effective way for me to learn. Through the weekly sketches, I have reached the first learning outcome for this course- to be able to compost texts in multiple genres using multiple modes such as written, aural, nonverbal, and digital. I was able to experiment with creating digital images right off the bat with the very first Sunday sketch assignment- creating an avatar. Through this assignment, I learned how to photoshop for the first time, which helped me not only with future assignment in this course, but outside as well. I was also able to reach the learning out “Employ technology appropriately and engage responsibly in online spaces, be able to explain and practice good digital citizenship, and utilize the concepts of intellectual property (including copyright, fair use, and creative commons licensing)” through sketches like this one.
The most beneficial sketch assignment was the visual note taking one. For that week’s Sunday sketch, I created visual notes for my Italian class. After drawing out the notes, I realized that I had already memorized the vocabulary. I decided to continue taking visual notes for my Italian class and it has helped me tremendously.
Mapping Climate Change was an assignment very similar to a sketch assignment. We had to recognize repeating images throughout the graphic novel “Climate Changed”by Phillipe Squarzoni. The graphic novel felt like a textbook, and emphasizes on the issue of climate change through graphs, interviews, and data from research. I created my “map” with photoshop, which I learned how to use through Sunday Sketch assignments.
Of the many graphic novels we have read in this course, most dealt with trauma. To start off the semester, we read “Maus” by Art Spiegelman, where he displays his family’s holocaust experience through the form of comics. Our first major assignment of the semester was to analyze the techniques used by Spiegelman and trace two pages from the graphic novel. I never realized how much I enjoyed writing the analysis for this graphic novel. In my reflection post, I said, “The process made me realize what I am drawn to first, which later led me to understand Spiegelman’s choice of moment, image, flow, word, and frame while writing the rhetorical essay. “ this assignment allowed me to achieve the learning outcome “Demonstrate visual thinking strategies to analyze and interpret visual information and to experiment, assemble, and arrange visual and written documents of their own.”
Another major assignment was the comparison essay between “Stitches” by David Small and “Spinning” by Tillie Walden. Quoting my comparison essay, “While Small’s memoir shows the struggles of family relationships and health complications, Walden’s tells the story of her struggles with pretending to be someone she isn’t. Both authors slowly discover how to find their voice through different courses of actions.” What made this assignment more challenging than the other ones is because it required us to connect these memoirs to the ideas of Hillary Chute, Expert on graphic novels and comics. I had a difficult time structuring my essay and I had to visit the writing center for help. Fortunately, thanks to the guidance of Professor Morgen and tutors at the writing center, I was able to understand the texts on a deeper level and reach the learning outcome of “Summarize, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the ideas of others as you undertake scholarly inquiry in order produce your own arguments.”
My improvement in writing is most evident in the literacy narrative assignment. Professor Morgen gave us roughly the entire semester to work on it. We started off the first draft with some free-write. As a writer, I often spend too much time pondering what to say, so the in-class exercise aided my writing process greatly. During my first individual meeting with Professor Morgen, I learned that my narrative did not have a strong structure and I had trouble connecting my ideas together. I tried tying two separate stories together since I misunderstood the prompt of the narrative essay, but did not know how to fix it- until the storyboard assignment. In this assignment, we had to create a rough sketch of our narrative essays in the form of comics. I decided focus on my story of writing a novel with my sister and was not very successful at it at first. Fortunately, we were given one hour of class time to read other students’ comics and give/receive feedback. After reading the comments from my peers, I realized that the ending of my story was too abrupt and did not really connect to the main idea. I therefore went back and redrew my storyboard. This time, I was able to really visualize the story as I illustrated each panel of the comic. I also considered and utilized the techniques I learned from reading other comics in class such as switching the angle and adding attention to detail. To make my comic more straight-forward, I added more text boxes as well. My second draft of the comic turned much more successful. Having the storyboard as a reference also helped me write my final literacy narrative essay. With the help of my storyboard, I had a clear idea of what to focus on for my final narrative essay. After discussing it with Professor Morgen, I decided to cut out my first story completely and focus only on my story that was illustrated in my storyboard. This time, I found it much easier to connect my ideas together so that my essay is structured. This helped me reach the learning out, “Practice writing as a process, recursively implementing strategies of research, drafting, revision, editing, and reflection.” This assignment has even helped me with writing outside of this class. For the final paper of the Seminar class, I found myself writing without structure again. To smoothly connect my ideas together, I tried to visualize my argument in my head, This way, it was evident which points are important and worth elaborating one and which ones are not. My paper turned out to be very effective and clear thanks to the techniques I have learned from Professor Morgen’s class. This class taught me how to think visually as well as reflectively. Because of this class, I have become a more proficient and confident writer. In the future, I plan to further develop my writing skills through similar classes.