For the past three weeks, Roberto Clemente Community Academy freshman English students have been learning about the Middle East and diving into Marjane Satrapi’s enthralling memoir, Persepolis. Before beginning the book, students read and analysed a text on the historical background of the Shah and the Iranian Revolution. Students have used this international background knowledge to help navigate Satrapi’s world as they read the International Baccalaureate-style anchor text, Persepolis. To assist in comprehending the context of the graphic novel, students expanded their geographical knowledge using Google Maps in the classroom and were then able to use Google Earth to explore the city of Tehran, where the story takes place.
Before beginning Persepolis, students learned about the genre of graphic novels and compared the author’s ability to express her message differently through this genre as compared to a traditional novel. Students listened as a chapter was read aloud and recorded the main idea and key details before reading the chapter with the “comic style” images and adding more detail to their initial analysis of the chapter. This activity demonstrated to students the author’s ability to enhance her message through the use of images.
After reading the chapter titled “The Veil,” students analysed the author’s point of view regarding the need to wear the veil. Students are currently working to expand their knowledge on what the veil is, the many different versions, and reasons both for and against wearing it. As students engage with complex texts, they are working in groups and engaging in critical thinking and discussion, making connections to today’s world and the work they are completing in their World History class, focusing on Syria and the refugee crisis. It has been a joy to see students so engaged in the topic and bringing in knowledge from other classes to further the discussions in English class as we continue to learn about Marjane Satrapi’s childhood journey through a changing Iran.