Bill Ayers: How To Use Comics In The Classroom

On Saturday, February 4, over 60 educators braved the first snowstorm of 2012 to participate in The 12th Annual Language Series opening workshop, The Language of Sequential Art: Comics in the Classroom.
Throughout the day, Bank Street alum Bill Ayers and cartoonist Ryan Alexander-Tanner led dual-language, bilingual, Special Ed., and monolingual teachers through a theoretical and practical exploration of comics (which is, as they said time and again, a medium—and not a genre) as a powerful tool for literacy and social justice in the classroom.
Ayers began by sharing his own introduction to comics, skillfully illustrating his own “aha moment” through the introduction of his classic book, To Teach, where, for the third edition, Ayers partnered up with Alexander-Tanner to reinterpret the text as a graphic novel.
Over five panels, Ayers’ cartoon character comes to the realization that by combining words and pictures, “a third, all-new form” is created.
Where at first he thought he was simply employing Alexander-Tanner to illustrate his words, what he discovered through the process was, in his words, “a dazzling dance of the dialectic”—a collaboration “where reader’s imaginations are called upon to make connections and invent meaning” in a much more accessible and democratic way.
Literacy, for Ayers, goes beyond the usual skills of reading, writing and speaking. For him, literacy is access to the culture. It’s access to meaning making.
“In a complex culture such as ours,” he said to the audience, “being a democratic person requires engagement with different media and different ways of interpreting and making sense of the

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