Bridgette Byrd O’Connor
BHP Teacher, Louisiana, USA

About the author: The 2016/17 school year marks Bridgette Byrd O’Connor’s fifth year teaching BHP as a semester-long history course. She teaches ninth and twelfth graders at Saint Scholastica Academy, a private school for girls. Bridgette teaches her 120 students a year in three 90-minute sessions per day.

Student sample for Star Comic.

When I was asked to write a few blog posts about my favorite activities, I knew I had to include at least one of the activities in which students create a short comic strip. Since many of us are either tackling or about to tackle Unit 2, I thought Lesson 2.3’s Universe Comics would be a good one to share with you.

The BHP course offers three of these untraditional activities: Universe Comics (Lesson 2.3), Star Comics (Lesson 3.0), and Evolution Comics (Lesson 6.0). All of these assignments allow students to show their learning in an artistic and creative format. But it’s not just that: This type of activity is actually a great formative assessment to give students after they’ve learned the basics of a process or concept.

In Lesson 2.3, we cover some weighty material that deals with what we know—or think we know—about the Universe. Universe Comics, which serves as the lesson’s closing, lets students illustrate what they’ve learned in the unit. It gives them a chance to explore the questions that are still unanswered about the Universe, and it also encourages them to muse about the answers to those questions. What shape might the Universe be? What do they imagine will be the next breakthrough in our understanding of the cosmos?

One caveat: Every time I teach Lesson 2.3 and we get to the Universe Comics activity, I hear from my students that they’re apprehensive about their drawing abilities. However, once they learn that it’s not about their artistic skills but rather about how they show their understanding of the material, most come up with great ideas.

Some BHP teachers have used the comic lesson format and wound up with some pretty amazing student work. If you’d like to see how using comics can help students understand concepts such as star formation or the progression of the thresholds of increasing complexity, you’ve got to check out the work that Todd Nussen has posted in the BHP Teacher Community on Yammer.


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