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United States Constitution

The United States Constitution: A Round Table ComicThe United States Constitution: A Round Table Comic
By: Nadja Baer and Nathan Leuth
Publisher: Writers of the Round Table Press
Format: 7 x 11, full color, $12.95
ISBN: 978-1-61066-025-9

When I went to college I came across what I thought was a radical idea: Learning should be fun! To read Nathan Leuth and Nadja Baer's The United States Constitution: A Round Table Comic was to remind myself that learning is not only an informationally rich experience, but also a pleasurable, fun experience. A strict, yet playful and engaging adaptation of The United States Constitution, Baer and Leuth's graphic novel adaptation relies on 100% of the constitution’s original wording. And that’s not the main selling point.  

Here's the main selling point: Despite the founding fathers' sometimes historically unfamiliar or thick language this graphic novel adaptation reads with ease and with grace.  An admitted and avid reader of texts focused on American history, this graphic novel taught me more about the constitution than all 20 years of my secret, studious hobby.
 
Which brings me to my strongest concern regarding graphic novel adaptations of historical literature. Most historical graphic novel adaptations I have come across – until now – fall into one or two of the following categories: boring or irresponsible. Usually an upbeat, positive writer and person, I am uncomfortable revealing that thought. Yet as I write this review I feel compelled to share just why I think this graphic novel stands above its competition. It is not boring. Baer and Leuth have thought about what today's readers are engaged by, and their words and their illustrations dance together in a beautifully modern graphic novel adaptation of one of the most important texts in American history.  

Driven by a contemporary steampunk flare, this graphic novel adaptation of the constitution should be a required read for anyone interested in learning about U.S. democracy and civic procedures. I can’t decide who I am going to give a copy to first, my niece (who is 13), my mom (who is 62), my neighbor (who is 83), my favorite kid (who is 4), my best friend and his wife (who are 30 and 32), or my undergraduate teacher candidates (who are mostly in their mid 20s). Whether young or seasoned to perfection every reader of this graphic novel will leave with a wealth of "take away" information about the founding fathers and their generative and politically groundbreaking, inspirational ideas.   

English Language Arts Elements of Story

Plot: Following the American Revolution and scaffolding from the Articles of Confederation the founding fathers gather in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to write what will become The United States Constitution

Setting: Philadelphia, PA

Major Characters: James Madison, Edmond Randolph, John Routledge, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin

Themes: Individual and Community, Faith and Reason, Democracy, Balance, Leadership, Justice, Legislative Proesses

Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: The Articles of Confederation, Common Sense by Thomas Paine, The Bill of Rights, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin, The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitution by Ralph Ketcham

Some Teaching Recommendations For Middle School and High School Level Readers

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. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

7.Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.

8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

Guided Reading Lesson Idea for Middle School and High School Level Readers

Before Reading
Before students read this graphic novel ask them about their schema regarding The United States Constitution. "What do you know about The U.S. Constitution?", "When did you learn this information?", "Where did you learn this information?"

Record student ideas on the board.

"What do you know about the Constitution?"

"When did you learn this information?"

"Where did you learn this information?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During Reading
As they read, ask students to continue thinking about what they already know about The United States Constitution. As they read, moreover, ask students to build upon this knowledge by asking themselves, "What am I learning about The United States Constitution?"

"What am I learning about the U.S. Constitution?"

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After Reading
When students are done reading ask them to pick two historical figures/characters (example: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams) and conduct some further research on how each of these people contributed to the writing of The United States Constitution. As students conduct research – online and/or at the library – charge them with asking two new, unknown questions about each of these participants.

Historical Figure #1: _______________________________________________

 

 

Historical Figure # 2:

_______________________________________________

Question # 1: _____________________________________________

_____________________________________________

_____________________________________________

 

 

Findings:

______________________________________________

______________________________________________

______________________________________________

 

Question # 1: _____________________________________________

_____________________________________________

_____________________________________________

 

 

Findings:

______________________________________________

______________________________________________

______________________________________________

 

Question # 2:

______________________________________________

______________________________________________

______________________________________________

 

 

Findings:

______________________________________________

______________________________________________

______________________________________________

 

Question # 2:

______________________________________________

______________________________________________

______________________________________________

 

 

Findings:

______________________________________________

______________________________________________

______________________________________________

 

After they have identified their two historical figures, and their accompanying questions, ask students to gather their new-found information and synthesize it into an expository essay. Students can organize their essay by asking themselves:
1. Previous to reading this graphic novel, what did I know about The United States Constitution?
2. As I read this graphic novel, what did I learn about The United States Constitution?
3. After I selected two historical figures and asked some more questions I learned that ____________________ and ______________________ also contributed to the writing of The United States Constitution by _____________________________.

 

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.