Days 3 and 4: Introduce Vocabulary, Discuss Social/Political Issues and Create a Storyboard

Have students take out their list of issues and ask who would like to share. Chart the issues and have them share any ideas they have for a scenario for their narratives. Remind them that they will be placing Capt'n Eli in a situation where he must respond to the issue. Refer back to The Undersea Adventures of Capt'n Eli and have them brainstorm instances where Eli was heroic.

It may take you longer to conduct the mini lessons needed for artistic techniques, but remember that students will be developing a storyline in conjunction with their artistic creation. The vocabulary listed below needs to be introduced and shown by example. Also, make sure you tell the students that their final comic strips will all be included in an online classroom Comic Newspaper. Knowing that they will be published provides great incentive and gives them a worldwide audience. Combining comic strips and using a newsletter template will allow you to easily create the online newspaper. Make sure to publish the newspaper online when finished.

Introducing Storyboarding:

By examining the graphic novel, The Undersea Adventures of Capt'n Eli, students begin to understand narrative by looking closely at the frames created. Storyboarding will help the students formulate and visualize the ideas they have for their original comic strip. While looking at the graphic novel, have students pay attention to how the sequences are framed out and have them note how the pictures tell the story.

Explain to the students that a storyboard is a map with visuals that tells their story. Each frame should continue the storyline. On the storyboard they sketch the basic action but use very few words. The program Comic Life can be used right from the beginning for sketching the story or students can sketch with pen and ink. They should keep in mind a few key guides.

The Story:

  • First they must ask themselves what the overall story will be about and what will happen to the characters. They should also keep in mind the message or the "why" of the story. This will help both organize and focus the story.
  • The script can be brief. Because there is such limited text space in each frame, they need to know what each character will think or say.
  • You may want to have students read a feature story from a newspaper and actually storyboard it so they can see the sequencing of events.

The Characters:

  • Tell students that they are the director casting the actors. Character design will reflect the kind of person they are portraying. Give basic instruction on positioning of eyes, facial expressions, angles etc.(see character example) Explain that a character must look the same throughout the strip even though it may be drawn from different perspectives.
  • Have students sketch a full-length picture of the main character and minor characters.

Drawing the Storyboard:

  • Have them determine what will take place in each frame and decide what size would fit the action.
  • Have them place the characters in the frame and draw out the balloons so they can see how much text will fit the action.
  • Teach them about action and how it must face inward from the ends rather than outward (see example below - Establising shot).
  • Make sure they know that this sketch is very rough and meant to be modified if need be. They will be drawing the final copy separate from this rough sketch.

How to use Balloons - (see example below)

Explain that a balloon is the space used for the dialogue of the story and is important to the overall meaning of the story. There are a few simple things to remember about using balloons.

  • 1.Balloons should be read from left to right and from the top to bottom.
  • 2.Balloons should be simple (using Comic Life this is not an issue)
  • 3.When lettering by hand, leave adequate and even space around your lettering.
  • 4.Balloons provide variety to the layout and can include thinking balloons, whispering balloons (jagged balloon), and when emphasizing a word make it bold or heavy.
  • 5.Captions are added as text in square frame or separate.
  • 6.When sketching, write the text first and then the balloon so that you will have enough space.

Reviewing your Storyboard:

Remember that the storyboard is a kind of timeline and when you are finished with the sketch, ask yourself if the storyboard adequately explains the story. Peer edit by pairing up with another student as you talk about the story itself:

  • 1.Who is the main character and what is his/her intention or need? How does this get resolved? Does the action here capture your interest? Is it lacking in any way? If so, how?
  • 2.Did the story fit the length of frames? Was the conclusion interesting?
  • 3.Ask about the artwork. Are the drawings well integrated with the text? Choose a panel where the words and art fit nicely together and talk about it. If you find one that doesn't mesh well, talk about possible solutions.
  • 4.Discuss the writing and how well it fits the characters. Do they have distinctive voice?

Eyes in center of head: human
Eyes above center: ape-like
Eyes below center: alien
Establishing Shot
Worms Eye View
Birds Eye View
Close Up
Extreme Close-Up
Anatomy of the page

Comic Vocabulary

Wide shot Long shot Medium shot Close up Splash panel
Spread Gutter Speech balloon Recto/verso Caption box
Borderless panel Bleed Indicia Sequential art  


Wide shot - the name for a shot taken from far away. The subjects appear small in this kind of shot. Usually a scene that introduces the reader to the place occurs in the beginning.
Spread -Two pages facing one another in a printed book
Borderless panel - Panel or frame without dark border
Long shot - this is closer than a wide shot but you can see the person top to bottom and see
what surrounds them.
Close up - Shows just the head of a person. This is important when showing the emotions of characters.
Gutter - The space between panels in a comic strip
Bleed - When the image runs off the page (full bleed is when the entire image runs off the page on all sides)
Medium shot - This shows a person from just below the waist to above the head. You can see their expressions, and what they are doing with their hands.
Speech balloon - The space used for dialogue of the story.
Indicia - Important legal information/copyright printed in the beginning of a book
Recto/verso - The technical terms for pages in a spread. Recto- right page and verso -left page.
Sequential art - telling a story with graphics in sequence
Splash panel - full panel drawing (can also be a splash page if it is a whole page)
Caption box - Square text box around narration

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Educational Materials authored by Laura Richter

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