Inspired by Anne: Teaching with Graphic Narrative
One of my most interesting residencies as a teaching artist was at the Bell Academy (IS Q294) in Bayside, Queens, for theAnne Frank Center. I taught a workshop once a week for seventeen weeks with Melinda Spataro, a teacher at Bell. Students read and discussed the diary, kept their own journal/sketchbooks, worked on a variety of drawing projects, culminating in an anthology of the students' graphic narratives inspired by themes in Anne Frank's diary.
Reading is, in itself, an act of imagination. To read Anne Frank’s diary is to imagine ourselves in her shoes: how would we feel, how would we be able to cope? Anne describes common feelings we all have growing up, yet the circumstances in which she found herself were so different from those any of us will ever experience. In this class, Bell students read the diary, recording quotes that spoke to them personally in their own journals. Through drawing and painting, they made self-portraits, and learned how to convey emotions visually. After viewing images of Anne’s secret Annex, they made paintings of their own rooms at home, thinking about how their surroundings reflect their lives.
Students thought about and discussed the many ideas and issues found in Anne’s writing, Then they took a few of these ideas and made them their own, by creating an original work of art inspired by Anne. Their stories are about the consequences of prejudice and injustice, about growing up and about learning what really matters. Many stories describe a triumph over the forces of racism and intolerance. Not all end happily. In some, the victories are small and personal, in others, the world of the characters is changed forever. I’d like to thank Maureen McNeil of the Anne Frank Center for making this project possible, and for all her help and support.