Comics in the classroom: Dr. Yen Yen Woo and the Dim Sum Warriors

Dr. Yen Yen Woo is a filmmaker, comics creator and associate professor of education at Long Island University. She’s one half of the creative team behind Dim Sum Warriors, a comic-book iPad app which features pork buns, dumplings and other dim sum dishes battling for the throne of a fabled kingdom. The narrative is designed as a bilingual learning tool including English and Mandarin Chinese elements.

Yen Yen joins us today for her top tips on using comics in the classroom.

Remember, kids love comics. No matter your level of reading, the presence of images that tell a story means there is a point of entry for anyone. I am currently reading Y: The Last Man – pretty much an adult comic – and my two and a half year old is leaning in and asking me what each panel is saying, why is that man angry, and so on. It really changes the point of engagement, and just like using any other form of popular culture in the classroom, you will find students who might not be so engaged with a traditional text engage more actively with comics.

Do not be afraid that you are not a “comics” person – it’s a great opportunity for teachers and students to learn together.

Focus on telling a story with whatever tools you have. Do not wait for the right tools or the right skills of drawing. Show them stick figures and how stick figures can tell stories too. Teachers and students can be creators and writers together, not just consumers. Students love to see teachers’ creative art and we need to take that risk.

Provide a platform for publishing and getting feedback – that’s always encouraging.

Create a learning community by encouraging students to collaborate and give feedback on each other’s works.

Invite local comic artists to be part of your classroom community.

Connect to the many online resources for comic book recommendations, and curricular ideas.

This is one in a series of posts supporting my article in the curriculum supplement to New Zealand Education Gazette, out on June 18th. Find more resources, interviews and features on comics in education via my site’s comicsedu tag.

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