The Wright Brothers, written by Lewis Helfand & illustrated by Sankha Banerjee
Located on the central, far west portion of Ohio is a small city: Dayton, Ohio. And if you have ever lived there (as I and the Wright brothers have), or had family members who did and/or still do live there (as I and the Wright brothers do), you are probably very well aware of one of its most famous attractions. Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) in Dayton, Ohio is a phenomenal Air Force Base and museum. Nestled west of I-675 and east of I-75, visitors to the museum are never disappointed. From air travel, to space travel, to an entire section devoted to area 51 theory and documentation this museum has got it all, including our topic in this graphic novel review, a noble and inspirational tribute focused on its one-time citizens Orville and Wilbur Wright, the two men who just so happened to figure out how to fly in the early 20th century.
As a child, and when I lived in Dayton as a University of Dayton graduate student, I visited Wright Patterson Air Force Base about once a year. So when I came across a graphic novel on the Wright brothers I wondered if I would actually learn more about these two local, courageous and determined young men I already knew so much about. Campfire's The Wright Brothers graphic novel did not disappoint. I not only learned more about the Wright brothers, but also learned about their family history, personal struggles, and their overwhelming sense of perseverance and ingenuity. From surprising topics (such as one brother's deep depression) to their claim-to-fame no-nonsense entrepreneurial enterprises with building the first, successful airplane, Campfire's The Wright Brothers packs a powerful, informational punch.
My recommendation on this one is simple: anyone interested in teaching an engaging and thoughtful biography about two of America's most famous inventors, this graphic novel is for you.
English Language Arts Elements of Story
Plot: The life story of the Wright brothers, inventors of the first successful airplane
Main Settings: Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina
Main Characters: Orville Wright, Wilbur Wright
Themes: Family, Innovation, Determination, Relationships, Action-adventure, Biography
Traditional Literature Pairing Suggestions: Benjamin Franklin's The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass' The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Junior's The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., James Newton's Uncommon Friends: Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel, and Charles Lindbergh
Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle School & High School English Language Arts
Suggested Alignment to the IRA /NCTE Standard(s):*
- standard #s correspond to the numbers used by IRA/NCTE
1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate and appreciate texts.
4. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
Suggested Guided Writing Lesson Plan:
For this guided writing lesson students will need the following materials: paper and writing utensils.
One of the most interesting aspects of The Wright Brothers by Campfire is that it focuses on the strengths and learning styles of each brother, both in and out of school. From shenanigans, to experiments, to schooling, to leadership, and, last but certainly not least, entrepreneurial intentions the Wright brothers have a host of learning experiences for your students to talk about.
Thus, for this mini-lesson, ask students to draw a T-chart on a piece of paper. Make the same T-chart on the board. Next, ask students to label the first column "things I learn in school" and the second column "things I learn outside of school."
Give students about 15-20 minutes to write down some of their own learning experiences both in and out of school.
Finally, ask students to draw another T-chart. In the first column ask students to write "the Wright brothers in school." In the second column ask them to write "the Wright bothers outside of school." As they read the graphic novel, ask students to keep a list of what the Wright brothers learn both in and out of school.
For a writing activity, ask students to write a few reflective paragraphs. Each paragraph should concentrate on either a similarity or a difference that the students noticed about themselves and the Wright brothers, either in our out of school.
As students write, walk around the room and consult with them about their writing.
When the class is done writing and conferencing, ask for volunteers to share the similarities and differences they noticed between themselves and the Wright brothers, both in and out of school.
Katie Monnin, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy at the University of North Florida and author of Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom (2010) from Maupin House. To learn more about Teaching Graphic Novels or Katie Monnin, please go to this link: http://www.maupinhouse.com/monnin.php.