A Digital Delve into Literary Analyses

A Digital Delve into Literary Analyses

After reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry during Humanities, Class 5 students embarked on a unique, interdisciplinary project during Technology. Designed by Class 5 Teacher Augie Sherman, this project allowed students to deepen their literary analyses and transfer their creative writing skills to a digital platform through the creation of a historical fiction comic.

Number the Stars follows the family of 10-year-old Annemarie Johansen and their efforts to help Jewish families living in Denmark during World War II. To commence this project, students were given a list of quotes from the novel. “Think about which ones bring strong images to mind,” Ms. Sherman said. “Consider why this quote is important to the novel and what it might tell you about WWII.”

After a brief deliberation, Ms. Sherman emphasized the difference between mood and tone to aid the students’ analysis. “How does the quote make you feel as the reader?” she prompted, noting that it may evoke a specific mood. Tone, she explained, is set by the author and shows how they feel about the subject through their writing.

With critical thought and care, the students dove into the analytical exercise. They pulled keywords from their selected quote, wrote connected words/phrases and, lastly, sketched symbols that might communicate themes within their comic. (This practice aligns with the structure of their Humanities reading responses, as students find keywords in their evidence to support a “juicy” topic sentence.)

A few Number the Stars quotes used by the students included:

  • “That's all that brave means – not thinking about the dangers. Just thinking about what you must do. Of course you were frightened. I was too, today. But you kept your mind on what you had to do.”
  • “For Kirsti, the soldiers were simply part of the landscape, something that had always been there, on every corner, as unimportant as lampposts, throughout her remembered life.”
  • “The old man bent his head forward and closed his eyes, as if he were praying. His mouth moved silently, forming words that no one could hear.”

One student, who chose to focus on the third quote, pulled out the words ‘praying,’ (which she related to the words God, hope and request) and ‘silently.’ She sketched images of hands placed together to resemble praying and a finger pressed to lips.

Another student reflected upon the quote ‘The air was breezy and cool… High against the pale clouds, seagulls soared and cried out as if they were mourning,’ writing that the mood induces feelings of devastation and the tone reveals the author is sad, crushed and cynical.

Next, the students began brainstorming the structures of their stories. While the story was required to take place during WWII, the girls crafted their own character arcs, settings and conflicts. “Communicate the complex relationship between your characters, too,” Ms. Sherman stated.

Once the students had their storyboards prepared, they began creating their final product using the app Comic Life. Through this platform, students learned how to produce vibrant comics complete with speech bubbles, thought bubbles and layered images. They also utilized Canva’s AI image generation to create compelling characters and backgrounds that strongly resembled the ideas in their hand-drawn drafts.

While this project was fun and creative, it also allowed students to comprehend and learn more about the abhorrent devastation of World War II in an age-appropriate manner. Demonstrating their compassion, the students crafted stories of family reunification, thoughts from the perspective of concerned seagulls and acting bravely when you feel like you have no power.