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Book Review
Macbeth Henry V
Frankenstein cover Great Expectations

Comic extracts

Review by Alistair Dickinson

Henry V

To see the flyer

It's usually a struggle to get our students reading outside of class so the publication of graded Classical Comics comes as a breath of fresh air. Here's what the publishers say:

Classical Comics is a revolutionary new series of graphic novels which re-tells classic literature for learners of English. Graded at intermediate to upper-intermediate (B1-B2) levels, the fresh blend of contemporary storytelling and captivating artwork ensures that students will want to return to these stories time and again.

They are really well produced with glossy pages & lovely design throughout. The books begin with a character list & a contents page. You are then presented with the comic version of the classic. Then the appendices include a useful glossary, biodata on Shakespeare, information about the real characters of the book & some famous quotations from the book. Finally there are the audio CDs of the book. A very clear & complete package.

To get an idea of the comic book, click this pdf flyer link.

The books have been rewritten for learners in simple, graded language, no mean feat by any means. There is always the danger that the grading can lead to too much simplification & be patronising but here they seem to have got the right balance. As soon as I present the book to students, they want to get reading them immediately, such is attraction of classic literature being presented in comic format.

The books out at the moment are Macbeth & Henry V & these will be accompanied shortly by Frankenstein & Great Expectations, with others to come. They will also be accompanied by teacher's notes & materials. I have the notes for Henry V & they are excellent. There are five worksheets & teacher's notes to use before reading about Shakespeare, the times & vocabulary. Then the while reading tasks & notes deal with different scenes & most of the acts. There are quizzes at regular stages throughout. Then there are tasks for after reading, together with tests, an answer key & audio track listings. The tasks are varied & interesting as they ask the students to respond to the story as well as develop language. The tasks combine both the comic & the audio cds.

These are excellent additions to the rapidly evolving area of graded readers. Buy a class set & you won't be disappointed, especially with the teacher's notes to go with them.

Teacher's Resource Packs

And then there are the Teacher's Resource Packs for each book. These are excellent, a teacher's dream, full of photocopiable worksheets for each Act. This is what they say in the introduction to the Teacher's Resource Pack for Henry V:

'This photocopiable resource is designed with ease of use in mind.

Our aim is to create engaging, fun, easy-to-use worksheets with the busy teacher in mind!

These worksheets are created to encourage ELT students to both widen & develop their use of english, working on reading, writing, listening & speaking, while also developing valuable study skills for Shakespeare & beyond.

While these worksheets focus mainly on language, there are also applications for history & drama. The question types are formulated to reflect the FCE Paper 3 Use of English.

We hope you, & your students, enjoy them.'

The worksheets consist of a variety of interesting comprehension checks on the Act the student has just finished, together with related language tasks. They follow the comic book very closely, as well as the CD audio version, & expand on the content to provide even more depth to the times of the play & the times when Shakespeare wrote - the latter sometimes appearing as extra optional worksheets.

The teacher's notes are excellent as well, providing answers to the tasks as well as suggestions on how to carry them out.

Here are two examples, the worksheet & teacher''s notes - click on the image:


In the Henry V resource pack, there are 20 worksheets with corresponding teacher's notes, 3 quizzes, 2 tests, the test & quiz answer keys & finally an appendix & audio track listing.

It really could not be any easier for the teacher to provide an interesting reading of the novels. Excellent!

Henry V

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