WITS Voices: Getting Around the Real

By Kelly Froh, WITS Writer-in-Residence

I had an idea to engage my middle-schoolers with a series of curated exercises that would magically entwine, crossover, and accelerate their understanding of the comics form, and that these students would turn out incredible comic pages for a final printed project.

It did not occur to me that some students didn’t constantly doodle like I did when I was their age, or that they didn’t naturally find joy or release in drawing. Hearing “I can’t draw” from a kid seemed like an oxymoron; how can this be?

Then, I remembered reading that a lot of kids stop drawing around age 9. I figured it was when video games and iPads entered their worlds, but with more research, I learned the many stages of drawing development: from scribbling, to symbols, to figures, to attempts at perspective. But after these stages, when kids develop a “visual awareness” in the world around them, they expect more from their drawings. They expect a level of “realness,” and the pressure to “get it right” rears its ugly head.

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As a comics teacher, I needed to counter “I can’t draw.” I saw this pressure to get it right in my students, and the relief when they rejected the white piece of paper in front of them. I couldn’t just say, “try,” or “use your imagination”: that white piece of paper was an ocean, a cliff, a freeway. Read more…