< previous student    next student >

Jill Brooks

Seriously Funny Comics: Montessori Elementary Students Analyze Comics to Inform the Creation and Publication of a Class Zine

Jill Brooks “Student Acting as Comic Character”. 2003. © Jill Brooks

          Children living in the United States are exposed to a tremendous influx of visual information on a daily basis. Living in a society that depends heavily on visual communication to function, it is difficult to ignore the profound influence of popular culture on the personal and social development of children. The mass media of comics, cartoons, television, and video games is ubiquitous, and could be a more valuable resource for more critically considered art education curricula. Legitimizing the study of popular culture would provide students with better opportunities to explore the ways personal experiences are intertwined with popular culture and the forces that shape the influential forces of visual communication. Educators need to legitimize the study of popular visual culture as a formal subject of inquiry in the classroom. Students need to be the curricular informants, facilitators, and discussion leaders of an adolescent culture they already experience firsthand.

Jill Brooks “Book Made by Visiting Comic Artist”. 2003. © Jill Brooks

          The purpose of this qualitative, action-based research is to comprehensively investigate what happens when comics and zines are introduced as a legitimate form of literature, subject of inquiry, and mode of expression. This project explores how lower elementary Montessori students create meaning from deconstructing comic texts, how they relate those social observations to their everyday lives, and how, through these processes, they develop critical thinking skills towards the production of their own visual imagery.

          The children in a 1st - 3rd mixed-age classroom of a suburban Chicago Montessori school wrote and illustrated autobiographic and fantastic narratives utilizing sequential frame comics. This study articulates the challenges, obstacles, and outcomes of this process of how students designed, organized, photocopied, and distributed their publication.

Jill Brooks “Students During Paired Reading Exercise”. 2003. © Jill Brooks

          Relative to storytelling, the thesis also analyzes the principles of the Montessori method and how this method compares with and contrasts with public education. Secondly, the thesis argues for the importance of storytelling as a purposeful mode of spontaneous expression, and how the process of storytelling combined with comics in the classroom has led to meaningful discussions of other popular media such as television and video games.

          Ultimately, this thesis will contribute to the emerging discourse in the field of art education, my own learning as a teacher, and hopefully to the needs of other educators who are welcoming new forms of critical visual literacy into their practice.


          Jill Brooks received her BFA from Miami University of Oxford, Ohio (2000) and a Spanish Minor from the University of Virginia, Valencia, Spain (2000). While at SAIC, Jill provided elementary visual literacy curricula as a Montessori Assistant Teacher and Art Specialist in Evanston, Illinois.


Thesis Advisor: John Ploof Assistant Professor, Art Education; Director, MAAE Program

Thesis Reader: Kevin Tavin Assistant Professor, Art Education; Director, MAT Program

Second Reader: Alan Cohen Adjunct Associate Professor; Art History, Theory, and Critic


admissions | saic home | degrees | cont act info | calendar | grad catalog

37 South Wabash, Chicago, Illinois 60603, 312.899-5100
Admissions Office, 312.899-5219, admiss@artic.edu




Adkins Allende-Pellot Davis Lo Robinson


Brooks CiampagliaFriedeman Lovelace Morris Rain Tritschler




The School of the Art Institute of Chicago