A large component of the 10thgrade English/Language Arts curriculum is reading and analyzing nonfiction texts (essays, editorials, and speeches). It’s engaging work for sophomores requiring focus and attention to detail. I incorporate many editorial cartoons, advertisements, and propaganda art sources to supplement our studies. Last year I began asking students to create their own editorial cartoons to demonstrate their understanding of a nonfiction text (author’s purpose, central assertion, tone, etc.). The results were inconsistent: Some students were clear in their visual presentation of comprehension; others were “just drawing.” I think with a bit more focus and higher expectations, students can use visual art to demonstrate their understanding of a nonfiction text.
Grade Level/Age: 10thgrade (15-16 years)
Curriculum Addressed: Students read nonfiction texts to comprehend an author’s purpose, his or her central assertion, supporting arguments, fallacies, tone and theme.
Process Goals: This activity is a fun way to assess students’ understanding of a nonfiction text as they learn the process of rhetorical analysis. Typically, we read a text together in class, and then go through the process of rhetorical analysis using a rhetorical square to identify individual parts of the essay. As the semester goes by, students move from an all-class discussion, to small groups, then pairs, then individual analysis. Typically, formative and summative assessment is written analysis; however, a student-created editorial cartoon depicting the central information from a text can serve to assess a student’s understanding of a text as much as a written analysis.
Materials: Nonfiction text (pretty much any short essay or editorial can be used with this assignment), paper, and pen or pencil (could also use colored pencils or pastels).
Desired Understandings: Students will visually depict a central argument from a nonfiction text. Their visual art will demonstrate either the central claim the argument asserts in the essay or connect that argument to a “bigger picture” in the scope of the argument.
- Students are presented with a nonfiction text. Students read the text and analyze it using the rhetorical square process.
- To demonstrate their understanding of the text (purpose, persona, claim, supporting details, scope), students create an editorial cartoon or other visual art that clearly communicates the author’s central claim.
- If applicable, students will compose a Quick Write analyzing how their editorial cartoon successfully depicts the rhetorical elements of the original text.
Standard 2: Reading for All Purposes
- The development of new ideas and concepts within informational and persuasive manuscripts
- Context, parts of speech, grammar, and word choice influence the understanding of literary, persuasive, and informational texts
Standard 3: Writing and Composition
- Organizational writing patterns inform or persuade an audience
Standard 4: Research and Reasoning
- An author’s reasoning is the essence of legitimate writing and requires evaluating text for validity and accuracy
Assessment: I use our English department’s Quick Write rubric to assess students’ understanding of the nonfiction text. If needed, I extend the assignment to include a Quick Write in which students explain their visual argument based on the central text, and then use the Quick Write rubric for evaluation.
Adaptions/Accommodations: This assignment is easier for some students with accommodations in my class because of the visual component. If needed, I could have students orally explain their visual arguments for clarity while assessing.