Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8

Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path" in Graphical Representation

Tools

The Lesson

Introduction

Eudora Welty.

Eudora Welty.

Credit: Image courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.

A good snapshot stops a moment from running away."
—Eudora Welty

 

Few would argue anymore with the notion that comic strips and graphic novels can be high art. They not only get translated into film (Ghost World), but make it onto the walls of museums (Chris Ware at the Whitney Biennial). They often combine the pleasures of estimable literature with estimable art, wittily, sometimes beautifully, often provocatively. This lesson makes use of graphical form to illuminate Eudora Welty's “A Worn Path”. By rendering aspects of the story into carefully considered "comic strips," students learn to appreciate elements of characterization, setting, and plot in a manner that engages them actively in the production of meaning. The method highlights reading as the creative art it can be.

Guiding Questions

  • How can the form of the comic strip inform the reading of a short story?

Learning Objectives

At the end of this lesson students will be able to

  • Appreciate how form affects meaning in short stories
  • Think critically about the relationship of the part to the whole in short stories and comic books or graphic novels
  • Begin to engage in analysis of the short story as a genre with parallels to visual arts
  • Engage in creative work directly supported by critical thinking
  • Express in writing the relationship between students' creative re-figuring of a short story and his or her analysis of that short story

Background

A short story's first pleasures for the reader come from the uncorrupted first read when the story comes bullet-like in its intensity, all whole and no parts. In the best of reading experiences, one gets immediately absorbed in the mind of character(s) and the details of time and place; and there is often the sense of being mid-story already from the first line, involved in something moving quickly and inevitably toward its resolution.

Additional pleasures, of course, come in the scrutiny of parts that leads to both a more profound understanding of content and an appreciation of form's role in meaning. The comic strip or graphic novel—often a sophisticated form of literary cartoon—can provide a set of tools for a particularly creative and visual approach to making sense of stories.

After some introduction to the craft of constructing graphic stories, this lesson will help students to identify important aspects of character, setting, and plot through visual representations of each. By re-figuring the story as graphic panels, students will make choices about what elements warrant highlighting and for what purposes. Writing explications of their graphic panels will provide students the opportunity to defend and explain their choices with textual evidence and thesis-driven arguments.

Preparation Instructions

  • Review the lesson plan and the websites used throughout. Locate and bookmark suggested materials and websites. Download and print out documents you will use and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
  • Students can access websites and worksheets for this lesson via the EDSITEment LaunchPad.
  • Read and have the students' read Eudora Welty's "A Worn Path." Many links to critical and biographical information on Welty and her stories are available on the Eudora Welty page of the EDSITEment-reviewed American Collection Educator's Site. See, for example, the sites listed under Selected EDSITEment Websites for this lesson.
  • You can find a history of the comic strip at Comic Art and Graffix Gallery and basic terminology for the form through various links from Comic Books Internet Resources at the University of Buffalo Libraries, both available through the EDSITEment reviewed Internet Public Library. Also bookmark the comic vocabulary interactive on the ReadWriteThink website.
  • Students' goals here do not necessarily need to include sophisticated form in their comic strips. However, for those students interested in developing their style, you could also consult the more advanced projects described at the National Association of Comics Arts Educators website.

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. Character, Setting, and Plot Development

Begin by discussing the story by drawing out students' observations of character, setting, and plot. You may want to review those terms with the class before continuing with the activity. Try to get students to focus on the visual details accessible for each element. Go over the following questions with the class, asking students to make lists of the various story elements as they discuss them.

  • What key aspects of Phoenix Jackson's physical appearance stand out for you?
  • How does what she wears or carries add to your sense of her character?
  • How does what she does with her body add to your sense of her character?
  • What metaphors (especially visual metaphors) add to your sense of her character?
  • What biographical information does the author provide to flesh out her portrait?
  • What key aspects of setting stand out for you? What details (color, tone, and particular props) stand out for you?
  • What changes in setting strike you as important? What details in those changes stand out for you?
  • What is most vivid for you about the hunter? What stands out for you in his appearance, dialogue, actions, and behavior?
  • Which other characters seem particularly important to Phoenix's story? For each of them, note what stands out in their appearance, dialogue, actions, and/or behavior.
  • List any thoughts and quotes—from Pheonix or other characters—that seem especially important. Explicate them.
  • Plot the sequence of events.
Activity 2. Combining Words and Pictures

Before starting this activity, you may want to suggest that students take a look at the ReadWriteThink interactive comic vocabulary. Then discuss the different ways of combining text and imagery in a comic book panel. From least to most complex:

  1. The pictures and words communicate the same thing—e.g., a drawing of Phoenix smiling and a caption reading "Phoenix smiles."
  2. The picture speaks for itself without words—e.g., two juxtaposed frames, one with an unsmiling Phoenix and the next with a smiling Phoenix.
  3. Either the words or the picture offers more information than either could alone—e.g., a picture of Phoenix smiling and a caption reading "She was as happy as she'd ever been." These can accrue complexity when either the words or the picture really needs the other to make sense—e.g., a picture of Phoenix smiling and a caption reading "She pretended to be happy."

In class, you can ask students to frame a scene of their choosing from the story in one of these combinations of words and imagery. (You may want to use the frames provided in Worksheet 1 for this activity and the next.)

Activity 3. Translating Stories into Comic Strips

After experimenting with individual scenes, you may want to try something more ambitious. Again using the Student Worksheet, ask students to represent a complete aspect of the story or sequence of events through comic strips. They can choose between telling the story through a series of portraits of Phoenix at various stages in her journey, or through a broader selection of plot, highlighted with quoted passages. In either case, they should also be encouraged to fill in details of the setting as well. You can adjust your expectations of detail depending on the amount of time made available to students to work on this activity, both in and out of class. This is also a good small group activity that allows students to share their various talents in graphical and narrative storytelling in creative ways. Worksheet 2 will help students organize and plan their comic strip.

Assessment

Students should be asked to write what their work in Activity 3 reveals about their understanding or appreciation of the story. Depending on the writing goals of the project, students can be required to defend their choices with textual evidence. A lesson about how to quote text smoothly and correctly could be incorporated at this stage.

Extending The Lesson

Offer students some comics or graphic novels to read from this selected list of Comic Book resources at the University of Buffalo Library or elsewhere. Let them create some work of their own. Brainstorm story ideas in large or small groups or in pairs. Consider collaborations of student authors and student artists.

 

Selected EDSITEment Websites

The Basics

Time Required

1-3 class periods

Subject Areas
  • Literature and Language Arts > Place > American
  • Literature and Language Arts > Genre > Short Stories
Skills
  • Creative writing
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Interpretation
  • Literary analysis
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
  • Writing skills
Authors
  • Diane Moroff (New York, NY)

Resources

Activity Worksheets
Student Resources
Media