Are you tired of reading the same old literary analysis essays over and over again throughout the year? I had the same problem last year during fourth quarter, so I did a little research. The clouds parted and the light shown through when I found this post from Living in the Layers on graphic essays. A graphic essay is a visual that uses words, color, and other visual representations (like symbolism) to make a unified statement. Graphic essays allow more creativity, but assess the same skill sets when it comes to assessing an essay for a claim, facts, and commentary. I suggest assigning the graphic essay further into the year after you have assessed your students' abilities in the aforementioned areas. It should probably come at a time when students have been exhibiting proficiency in these areas, so they can focus more on the creative side of the assignment. I'm getting ahead of myself here, let me tell you how I took the information from Living in the Layers and made it my own.

Each year, my students read The Catcher in the Rye. Don't groan; you are forgetting what it's like to be an angsty teenager. As we read, we focus upon symbols and how those symbols directly relate to the theme of the novel. My students use a particular handout to track these symbols throughout our reading. Once we are finished with TCITR I assign the following:

"Literary Analysis: In The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger uses many symbols to support the thematic idea that maturation and the loss of innocence are an inevitable rite of passage for all of humanity. Prove this thematic statement using one particular symbol from the novel. Discuss the symbol’s meaning and how it connects and aides the development of Salinger’s message. You must use at least three quotes from the story that relate to that symbol and to Salinger’s message about maturation and the loss of innocence. But…. Your final product WILL NOT be a four-paragraph essay; it will be a graphic essay."

At first, this is confusing and daunting to students because they've only known essays to be a four-five paragraph written assignment. In order for them to better understand the task at hand, I give them a graphic essay outline. They work through the outline to organize their ideas before they start creating their masterpiece. I give them a week to work on this outside of class. The day the students' graphic essays are due, we do a gallery walk so the students can see each others' graphic essays. The students thoroughly enjoy looking at each others' essays, and I thoroughly enjoy actually grading them! This was an assignment I'm definitely repeating this year. 

Keep on stressin' on,

Michon Otuafi

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