Social Identity Comics

Comics frame stories of identity.  

How can you express an identity story in 4 panels? Students began this inquiry by considering the Social Identity Wheel and a chapter from Gene Luen Yang's graphic novel American Born Chinese. Students then embarked on telling a story from their own experiences relating to one section of the Social Identity Wheel, in the format of a comic strip. 


1. Students first do a mindmap in groups and then as a class to answer the question, What is Identity? 

2. Two definitions are given: ascribed and avowed, the pieces of identity given to us versus the way we see ourselves. 

3. Students divide the ideas written on the class mindmap into ascribed and avowed. The class discusses: how can avowed identity relate to ascribed identity? 

4. After reminding students that they do not need to share information that would make them uncomfortable, I introduce the Social Identity wheel, and ask students to consider the different aspects of their ascribed identity. See Resource 1

5. We read Chapter 3 of the graphic novel American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. Students are asked what the main character's ascribed and avowed characteristics are, as well as what part(s)of the social identity wheel the chapter touches on. See Resource 2

6. Students are asked to select a part of the Social Identity wheel that they will express in a comic. 

7. Students begin storyboarding their ideas in their sketchbook in a 4 panel format. 

8. Groups of students each receive one page of a comic book from various artists. Students are asked to discuss with the class how each artist framed each panel and the series of panels together on the page, as well as the text and the image. 

9. Students continue storyboarding, and are encouraged to consider their framing choices. 

10. Students are partnered to exchange work-in-progress critiques. 

10. When ready, students move on to outlining their 4 panels on bristol. 

11. Students review value with hatching and crosshatching, as well as with gray brush tip markers.

12. Students share their final work with a gallery walk and then move into a guided critique.