Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood" by Marjane Satrapi

Me in my Hogwarts shirt with Ms. Satrapi's book.

"Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood", by the amazingly talented Marjane Satrapi, chronicles Strapi's middle childhood as an Iranian girl growing up in the 70s and 80s. Her personal tales of her family's involvement in the revolution (her grandpa was prime minister), and her reflections on growing up under the Shah and the Ayatollah. This memoir has everything to do with our young people as it deals with a loss of innocence, religion, family, youthful rebellion, and revolution. It is nothing short of fantastic.


This book is one of the most compelling graphic memoirs, and is in my top ten books to use with high school students. Because of the language and content, this book is only for high school students on up. With that said, it is a fabulous book with many applications. Here is just one of them:

Graphic Memoir with Historic Spin-

We are all surrounded by the makings of history. Often we observe it from afar, but at times the stuff that will be written down in history books will seep into our lives. This lesson asks students to think about a historic situation they lived through that had a personal impact on their lives. Here is the lesson:

Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12

Materials Needed:

Computer for research
3" x 5" index cards (5 per student)
Drawing paper
Markers, pens, and pencils

1.     After reading Persepolis, talk about how Satrapi was able to weave in the story of a nation and the story of her life. Have students find evidence for both interwoven storylines.
2.     Now share the prompt for this creative assignment with the class:
Construct a 3-page graphic novel-styled memoir about you and an historic event that had a significant impact on you. Each student may choose his/her own method for constructing their art: draw it; get magazine or online collage pictures; or even recreate the scenes with photography.
3.     At this point, we spend time doing a brief overview of modern history, especially events that may have touched close to home. I basically spend twenty minutes highlighting two or three main events from the past 15 years. Some events include: The invasion of Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, Obama is elected, the Great Recession, legalization of gay marriage, etc.
4.     I then have the kids answer the questions below. This may be assigned as homework:
a.     What significant events have happened during my lifetime in world events? List at least three.
b.     Now circle the event you plan on writing about. That event took place in the year _______________.
c.      During that time I was _________ years old.
d.     I lived here: ________________________________.
e.     My favorite food was _____________________.
f.      My favorite activity/game was __________.
g.     I liked this type of music _________________.
5.     The questionnaire is VERY important, as kids will get a chance to think back to that time. All students need this data to make a well-rounded memoir. 
6.   I then have the students copy their questionnaire data onto a 3” x 5” index card as  a system for recording and storing data. I use this system detailed by another blogger.
7.     After they have copied their data, have them now research their "historic event" on the Internet.  For instance, if I was to construct a graphic memoir on 9/11, one of my sources would be this link. All students will need three sources that describe that significant event. Significant facts should be copied onto 3” x 5” index cards using the above mentioned system; each student should have one index card per source.
8.     After collecting the data, the student will need to interview one other person who was either with them during that time (a parent, sibling, or teacher) or a person who also remembers that event, anyone alive during that time—not necessarily someone who was “with” that student. (Remember, some kids no longer live with their families from that time.) Significant facts should be copied onto a 3 x 5” index card.
A page on "smuggling" from the memoir.
9.      The student should have 5 index cards of data—1 with personal information, 3 with information on the event, and 1 with an interview from a person who was alive during that time.
10. With that data in hand, share a comic book template like these from Google Images. Have the students plan how they will organize their information into a minimum of 3 pages; they need to include one bit of information from each source.
11. I have my students write out a mock up “storyboard” with words only. Use Satrapi’s book to talk about the balance of text and pictures. Note the use of strong vocabulary and specific details.
12. We then take a day in class to edit the words and flow of the story. I suggest assigning the storyboard, starting it in class, and then having the students finish it for homework.
13. Collect the drafts and review for story flow and ideas.  Then have one-on-one meetings with each student or have kids do peer editing to focus their drafts. Be sure to look for those five ideas from the research.
14. At this point, the students need about one week to make the final draft—either in class or at home.
15. In the mean time, have the students make a Works Cited page. I use OWL at Purdue to help teach this.
16. After the work is complete, have a reading day in class. Kids really love reading other works. I ask them each to have a blank sheet of paper at the back of the book where readers can give compliments to the author.
17. I grade this project using the following scoring guide:
  • The draft/"storyboard" was turned in complete and on time _______/10 points
  • Research index cards completed and followed proper format ________/25 points (5 per card)
  • Works Cited page attached and in proper format _______/20 points
  • The graphic memoir follows a historic event with researched details _______/10 points
  • The graphic memoir includes personal details from the questionnaire _________/10 points
  • The graphic memoir uses strong, academic language ________/10 points
  • The graphic memoir is organized in a logical manner, is easy to follow, and shows good effort in art  ______/15 points 
Here is a sample page of my historic, graphic memoir on 9/11

My historic, graphic memoir. Feel free to print it and share!
Discussions/Writing Prompts:

Use these prompts to talk about the book with your kids, or you can have them write their responses. Remember, picture books don't need to stop in second grade!

Two pages from the memoir.
1. Was Marjane's life better under the Shah or the Ayatollah? (I stole this question from my friend Vickie Gill.)

2. What would have changed if Marjane had not rejected her call to be a so-called prophet?

3. How does Marjane's relationship change with her parents throughout the memoir?

4. Do you believe Marjane's parents were right to send her away from Iran? Why or why not?

5. How does this story relate to your experience of growing up? In what ways do you relate, and in what ways do you contrast?

I hope you enjoy "Persepolis"... And I hope you do take the time to talk with kids about how the world around you relates to your lives!

Happy learning!

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