Why Comics? As/A level (age 16-18) English Language/Creative Writing Lesson Plan

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Why Comics? AS/A Level (age 16-18) English Language/Creative Writing Lesson Plan: Fiction and Non-fiction Writing


Looking to engage your students in contemporary human rights and social issues? Based at SOAS University of London, Why Comics? Education Charity brings contemporary humanitarian and social issues into the classroom (such as racism, conflict, migration, trafficking and climate change) through interactive literary comic books based on real-life testimony.

Our free easy-to-use Key Stage 2-5 resources build empathy and enhance learning for 7-18-year-old students and teachers alike, alongside UK national-curriculum relevant lesson plans to support multiple subjects.

Each sample UK National Curriculum based Lesson Plan is provided as a Word.doc – so you can use it as a building block. Please feel free to adjust the content to suit your teaching style and students’ needs, all the content is only suggested.

Our innovative resources help enhance learning to support multiple subjects (such as English, ESOL, Personal, Social, Health and Economic [PSHE] education, Citizenship Studies, Art, Media Studies and Geography). Our support materials are intended to inspire teachers and enhance teaching practices and different ideas.

Why Comics? resources are embedded with a wealth of age-appropriate contextual multimedia (such as news articles, maps, videos, infographics and reports) to educate and inspire pupils across a wide demographic.

Our materials encourage learners to make connections between their own lives and the lives of others throughout the world, promoting critical and reflective thinking on vital global themes. In this way, Why Comics? can help combat racism and intolerance in schools.

Already, over 600 schools in 27 countries have provided detailed feedback on our free interactive educational resources to overwhelmingly positive feedback. From September 2017, our materials will be disseminated to over 25,000 schools worldwide.

Please help us by filling out a short anonymous SurveyMonkey questionnaire after you have used our materials for our funders. This helps ensure that our great resources remain free.

Please email info@whycomics.org for more information. Thank you.

Why Comics? Charity number - 1172791

Table of contents

Introduction 2

UK National Curriculum Creative writing requirements: 4

Why Comics? English Language Lesson Plan: 5

Learning through literary comics: Fiction Writing 5

Aims: 5

Learning objectives: 5

Lesson plan 1: 6

Follow-up Lesson Plan: Writing non-fiction 9

Aims: 9

Learning objectives: 9

Lesson Plan 2: 9

Feedback 11

Future Plans 11

Who backs Why Comics? - About PositiveNegatives 12

UK National Curriculum Creative writing requirements:

[Source: AQA creative writing subject content and assessment objectives]


The aim of this coursework unit is to introduce students to regular writing practice across a broad range of forms. In this specification, forms are defined as: prose fiction; prose non-fiction; poetry; script.

This unit introduces the notion of writing craft, with particular focus on the processes involved in developing creative work, such as generating ideas, drafting and redrafting, using different forms and genres, and critical reflection.


In preparation for this unit, students must read and write in all four forms specified above: prose fiction; prose non-fiction; poetry; script. Through regular reading and writing assignments students will develop their expertise as writers. Students should keep drafts of their work, building a portfolio that includes examples across all four forms.

Students must choose two forms on which to focus for their coursework. Although classroom learning will be teacher led, it is the intention of this unit that students are free to develop their own ideas and interests. In preparing their coursework folder, students will identify their strongest work, redrafting as necessary.

The following are examples of types of writing that students and teachers may like to explore. This list is intended as exemplification only and is by no means exhaustive:

  • Prose fiction: short stories, novels, flash fiction

  • Prose non-fiction: articles, travel writing, blogs, website content, memoir, biography, essays, monologue

  • Poetry: a variety of poetic forms, prose poetry

  • Script: radio plays, screen plays, stage plays, dramatic monologue

Coursework in this specification involves individual creative writing arising from students' own ideas. Students are encouraged to choose two forms on which to focus, to suit their own skills and interests, in consultation with their teachers.

Please note teaching notes are in purple.

Why Comics? English Language Lesson Plan:

Here is a suggested introductory lesson plan about fiction and non-fiction writing. The lesson covers a variety of social and humanitarian issues featured in our comics. It is 50 mins long consisting of a reading in class, followed by group discussion and an assigned homework. We have also included ideas for a follow up lesson. The class can either read the chosen comic collectively via projector, or at home via the web (www.whycomics.org/comics).

This lesson allows students to investigate a contemporary world issues while applying critical and creative skills in the production of texts and discourses. Students will practice writing both prose fiction and prose non-fiction imaginatively and creatively around the issues features in the chosen comic.

Learning through literary comics: Fiction Writing


This session will explore writing prose fiction about social and humanitarian issues.

  • Students will discuss what prose fiction is, with examples;

  • Students examine different literary devices and will put literary devices into practice;

  • Students will draft and write fiction prose (e.g. flash fiction, novel excerpt or a short story) using the chosen comic as inspiration;

  • Students will read true stories of migration.

Learning objectives:

By the end of the session, students will be able to:

  • Explain what prose fiction is and provide examples;

  • Explain and utilise the different literary devices;

  • Understand how to draft prose fiction and why it is important to create a draft before writing;

  • Write engaging and creative prose fiction about the chosen comic;

  • Have greater and more in depth understanding of the migration of refugees.

Lesson plan 1:

  1. Read through your chosen comic as a group - Project the story in class and go through the comic panel by panel. (15 mins)

  2. Classroom Discussion – As a class, discuss what prose fiction is and provide an example of prose fiction. Discuss how prose fiction can be used to encourage readers to empathise with a character and to understand a wider issue from a personal perspective. Go through the various literary devices. (20 mins)

Teacher's Notes

What are Literary Devices? [Source: http://www.literarydevices.com ]

From the very first time humans began sharing stories, literary devices have played a key role in our history. Along with the creation of storytelling came the development of narrative elements like plot, character, and tone. As storytelling evolved over the millennia, so too did the range and complexity of techniques available to authors. Many of the elements that authors use are so fundamental that they are not necessarily conscious choices, such as theme or tone (though these two examples, of course, could be consciously constructed by the author). Other techniques, however, are more intentional, such as foreshadowing and red herrings.

We will explore the difference between literary elements and literary techniques, and look at examples and definitions of several popular literary terms. We’ll also look at how these literary devices function in two popular works, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Literary Elements vs. Literary Techniques:

Literary elements are the universal constituents of literature and thus can be found in any written or oral story. Plot and character, for example, are necessary to story and are present in stories from every culture and time period.

Literary techniques, however, are not universal or necessary in the sense that not all works contain instances of them. Simile and irony are examples of literary techniques. While many poems contain similes, not all do. Simile, therefore, is a literary technique instead of a literary element.

Examples of literary devices: There are many hundreds of terms that refer to a unique aspect of literature. Below, we’ve chosen three popular literary devices to examine in depth.

Metaphor. Common in all forms of literature, metaphor is a way of comparing things by stating that one thing is the same or very similar to another seemingly unrelated object. Metaphor is a type of analogy, and is often mistaken with simile. The difference between metaphor and simile is that a simile includes “like” or “as” in the comparison (for example: “O my luve’s like a red, red rose), whereas metaphor is an assertion of the comparison without modifiers or conjunctions. One of the most famous examples of metaphor is from Shakespeare’s play As You Like It:

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players.

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages.

Here, the character Jaques states that the world is a stage, which we know not to be literally true. However, by extending the metaphor, Jaques compares the lifetime of a human to acts in a play, with birth and death being merely “entrances” and “exits”, respectively. Psychologically, the use of metaphor often expands the way the reader or viewer understands the world around him or her, as it does in this example.

Alliteration. Most common in poetry, though also present in some lines of prose and theater, alliteration is the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of adjacent words. This was a very popular literary device in Old English storytelling, as the presence of alliteration made the oral stories easier to remember and retell through the generations. The Mother Goose rhyme “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” is an example of alliteration due to the repetition of the letter “p”. Alliteration is a special case of consonance, which is the repetition of consonant sounds anywhere in the word (the “ck” sound from the previous Mother Goose rhyme is an example of consonance, as it comes in the middle of the words rather than at the beginning, though the repetition of “p” sound can also be described as consonance).

Point-of-view. Point-of-view is a term for the narrative mode, and is a primary characteristic of prose. It is the way in which the author narrates the story. There are many options, the most common of which are first person singular and third person limited; authors also sometimes choose to mix different points of view in the same novel. Here is a list of the types of point-of-view:

  • First person singular: This point-of-view uses an “I” character to narrate the story. The narrator is not necessarily the protagonist, though this is often the case as this point-of-view is the most intimate and allows for the most direct access to a character’s thoughts.

  • First person plural: A relatively uncommon choice for point-of-view, the first person plural uses the pronoun “we” as the narrator. In this case, there must be some uniting factor between the group of people narrating the story. One example of this is the 1993 novel The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides in which a group of unnamed young men from a small town observe and comment on a family with five sisters. For example: Whenever we saw Mrs. Lisbon we looked in vain for some sign of the beauty that must have once been hers.

  • Second person: Even less common is the novel narrated with “you.” This is a very difficult point of view to sustain, as the reader must identify with the “you”, or it must be clear that the “you” character is, in fact, a way for the narrator to reflect back on his or her own actions. The most successful examples are the Choose Your Own Adventure series, in which the reader is encouraged to imagine himself or herself as the protagonist. For example: You are a deep sea explorer searching for the famed lost city of Atlantis. This is your most challenging and dangerous mission. Fear and excitement are now your companions.

  • Third person limited: This point-of-view uses “he” or “she” to refer to the narrator of the story. It is less intimate than the first person point of view, yet being limited to only one person’s thoughts it can still provide psychological access to that character. However, it also allows for the author to add descriptive and narrative details that the character doesn’t necessarily notice.

  • Third person omniscient: Here the author uses the pronouns “he” and “she”, but can access the thoughts of any character in the story. This point of view creates the most distance between the reader and any one character of the story.

Literary Devices in Hamlet: Shakespeare’s classic play Hamlet is full of literary devices. Below is an excerpt from the most famous soliloquy from the play (and, indeed, perhaps the most famous soliloquy ever written):

To be, or not to be, that is the question—

Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer

The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,

Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,

And by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep—

No more; and by a sleep, to say we end

The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks

That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,

To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause.

In just this short excerpt, we are able to find many literary devices at work. There are many instances of repetition, especially of the word “sleep,” which functions as a metaphor for death. There are other metaphors in this excerpt, such as the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and the “sea of troubles.” Fortune does not literally shoot arrows, and there is no literal sea of troubles, yet the reader or viewer is able to connect the two concepts mentally. In this excerpt, Hamlet is contemplating death, both murder and suicide, and thus the mood is quite somber. The soliloquy provides access to Hamlet’s motivation for whether or not to avenge his father’s death.

Literary Devices in The Great Gatsby: The Great Gatsby is famous for its use of a third person limited narrator who is not the protagonist. This is a relatively uncommon method in which to narrate a novel. Nick Carraway tells the story, and yet the plot revolves around the actions of his friend Jay Gatsby. There is much juxtaposition in the novel between West Egg and East Egg, and the comparable fortunes of the men who arrive at Jay Gatsby’s famous parties. Fitzgerald also uses irony throughout the novel, including readers’ knowledge of Jay and Daisy’s affair of which Daisy’s husband Tom is unaware (dramatic irony) and Daisy’s decision to stay with Tom at the end of the novel, contrary to readers’ expectations (situational irony).

See the full list of Literary Devices at http://www.literarydevices.com.

  1. Classroom Activity/Homework: Ask the students to write prose fiction (e.g. flash fiction, a novel excerpt or a short story) using your chosen comic for inspiration. Remind the class to draft their writing before they begin. (15 mins)

Please help us by filling out a short anonymous SurveyMonkey questionnaire after you have used our materials for our funders. This helps ensure that our great resources remain free.
Please email info@whycomics.org for more information. Thank you.

Follow-up Lesson Plan:
Writing non-fiction


This session will explore writing non-fiction prose about social and humanitarian issues.

  • Students will discuss what non-fiction prose is, with examples;

  • Students will learn the different techniques that can be used to write non-fiction prose (including applying literary devices for fiction prose to non-fiction prose);

  • Students will draft and write non-fiction prose (e.g. articles, travel writing, blogs, website content, memoir, biography, essays, monologue) about the chosen comic;

  • Students will read true stories covering social and humanitarian issues and will learn extensive background information about their chosen story.

Learning objectives:

By the end of the session, students will be able to:

  • Explain what non-fiction prose is and provide examples of appropriate uses for non-fiction prose;

  • Explain and utilise the different techniques which can be used when writing non-fiction prose;

  • Draft and write informative, coherent and impactful non-fiction prose using additional information provided with your chosen comic;

  • Have greater and more in depth understanding of the social and humanitarian issues featured the chosen comic.

Lesson Plan 2:

  1. Summarise the previous lesson: recap on the comic and what the class discussed. This time use the tabs around the comic to provide the class with facts and further information on your chosen comic. (20 mins)

  2. Classroom Discussion – As a class, discuss non-fiction prose. Provide examples of non-fiction prose and go through the various techniques that can be used when writing non-fiction prose, including how to use literary devices for non-fiction. (15 mins)

Teacher's Notes
[Source: BBC Revision]

Structure. The structure of a text can refer to:

  • the ordering of the events and particular techniques being used such as flash back or flash forward to draw the reader’s attention to a particular point in time first

  • the ordering of ideas

  • the use of different elements, such as bullet points or dialogue, headings or subheadings

  • withholding information until a later point to shock or interest the reader

Structure of a non-fiction text. The structure of a non-fiction piece could be:

  • chronological – in date or time order

  • prioritised – the most important facts first (like a news article)

  • separated into blocks by subheadings – e.g. in a feature article

  • question and answer – e.g. in information leaflets

  • problem and solution – e.g. in agony aunt columns, or self-help guides

  • letter structure – a salutation (Dear…) and an appropriate ending (Yours sincerely…)

  • starting in the middle of an event, then providing further information to give several possible viewpoints

Using paragraphs to structure a text

Look at the way the key ideas in a piece are ordered. This will help you work out the structure. There is usually one important idea per paragraph, but some texts have more.

Within each paragraph, ideas can be structured in different ways. A common approach is to start with a topic sentence – the big idea – and then develop it with details or examples. Paragraphs often end with a hook to make you consider the ideas included in the paragraph that you have just read, or a link to the next paragraph.

The number and order of paragraphs, the order of the ideas, and how each paragraph is constructed are all features you can comment on when talking about structure.

Additionally, a shortened paragraph that stands out to the reader can sometimes indicate a change in viewpoint or significant point in the text that the writer may offer a counter argument.

Literary devices

Non-fiction texts can use the same literary devices as fiction texts. These include:

  • metaphors

  • similes

  • rhetorical questions

  • repetition

  • parallelism (repeated sentence structures)

  • listing

  • groups of three (or ‘triadic structure’)

  • irony

  • adopting a persona

  • synecdoche

  • pathetic fallacy

  • variation in sentence length and structure

Non-fiction texts are more likely to use direct address, talking directly to the reader, and second person pronouns like ‘you’ and ‘yours’.

    1. Classroom activity/homework: Ask the students to write non-fiction prose (e.g. an article, travel writing, a blog, website content, a memoir, a biography, an essay or a monologue) about your chosen comic, using the additional information about the comic, ensuring it is both informative and persuasive. Remind the class to plan their writing before they begin. Assign the class homework to complete their written piece. (15 mins)


Please help us by filling out a short anonymous SurveyMonkey questionnaire for our funders. This will help keep our great resources free. We will be happy to hear about how it works in the classroom, and are keen to receive any comments or feedback.

We are particularly interested if you would like to receive more resources like this. If so please include on the SurveyMonkey questionnaire which topics you would like us to cover (e.g. Divorce, Migration, Racism/Prejudice, Cyber/Bullying, Identity, Memory, Racism, Conflict, Natural Disasters, Human Trafficking/Slavery, Asylum/Refugees, Homelessness, Climate Change, Remittances & Migrant Workers, and Drug Trafficking & Addiction).

We are also interested to have feedback from pupils so if it is possible, please pass on the SurveyMonkey questionnaire link to them as well. Many thanks again, your help is most appreciated.

Future Plans

Over the coming year, we’re intending to expand our bank of database for KS2 (age 7-11) and KS3 (age 11-14) and KS4-5 (age 14-18) and their teachers, and produce national curriculum based accompanying lesson plans for multiple subjects. You can view all our resources on our Teachers Resources page.

We will continue to design and test our resources to ensure that they are made by teachers for teachers.

If you would like any more information or would like to be involved further, please contact info@whycomics.org. Thank you.

With very best wishes,

Dr Benjamin Dix

Director: Why Comics? Education Charity

Senior Fellow: SOAS University of London
Web: http://www.whycomics.org/

Email: info@whycomics.org

Twitter and Instagram: @WhyComicsOrg

Facebook: Why Comics? Education Charity
Why Comics? Education Charity is based at the Faber Building, SOAS University of London.

Why Comics? Charity number - 1172791

Who backs Why Comics? - About PositiveNegatives

The award-winning non-profit PositiveNegatives produce literary comics, animations and podcasts about contemporary social and human rights issues. We combine ethnographic research with illustration and photography, adapting personal testimonies into art, education and advocacy materials. Since 2012, PositiveNegatives has worked extensively for over four years for an array of international organisations such as United Nations (UN)Overseas Development Institute (ODI)Open Society Foundations (OSF)The Nobel Peace CentreThe GuardianBBC, and with leading academic institutions such as; Harvard South Asia Centre, SOAS University of London and University of Sussex.

Our work endeavours to combine literature, journalism and education. Visual story-telling engages audiences of all ages, backgrounds and levels of literacy. Approaching subjects like conflict and forced migration through the prism of personal narratives emotionally engages general readers and students alike. We have developed comics from research, policy papers and first hand testimonies for organisations such as these and many more. Each comic has reached millions of viewers, and many have been translated into multiple languages reaching diverse international stakeholders.

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