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Learning to Compare and Contrast Historical Perspectives

IB English Language and Literature 11 is learning to compare and contrast different storytelling methods. 
IB English Language and Literature 11 students are delving into more than just words, as they have been studying the graphic novel Persepolis and comparing it to the video game 1979 Revolution: Black Friday. The graphic novel and the videogame both revolve around the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. 

“We are trying to contrast those two portrayals of the event to look at the perspective and the literature,” explained Ms. Jamie Elbert. 

The graphic novel is an autobiography of a young girl who grew up during the revolution, while the video game is a first-person point of view game where players choose different options. The protagonist in the game has to make a decision to become involved in a violent aspect of the revolution or to try and stay out of it and be a photographer. 

“The protagonist, and the students, are challenged by the moral ambiguity, the lack of trust for family members and the difficulty of making decisions when you aren’t sure of the consequences of those decisions,” said Ms. Elbert about the video game. “We, of course, have hindsight looking back at these events, but the game and novel try to strive and show a perspective from inside the Islamic Revolution.” 

To finish the unit the Grade 11s are working on student-led seminars where they prepare a handout and a picture-based slideshow to explore historical facts. The groups will then contrast the historical reality from what they find through their research and the first-person stories in the graphic novel and video game. 

Ava Dryden ’21 and her group are focusing their seminar on the political aspects of the revolution and looking at the Shah and the SAVAK (the secret police) while comparing the game to the graphic novel. 

“I knew very little about the Iranian Revolution before reading the book and playing the game,” she said when speaking about what has surprised her the most in the research she has done. 

The video game and the graphic novel presented two different ways to tell a story. The graphic novel tells a young girl's story through her eyes, while the video game uses pictures and videos to tell its story. 

“I thought they were both a cool way of telling a story without your classic novel,” she said. “I think it would be really good in a novel as well, but I think the game and graphic novel made it different and more engaging.” 
Brooke Taylor ’21 says she likes the two different perspectives seen through the game and graphic novel and that it was a fun way to learn not only about the Islamic Revolution but also different ways of how to tell a story. 

“It’s a nice contrast of learning and it gets a different perspective,” she said. “I Like the graphic novels better. I just found it more interesting than the game. Although the game is interactive and everything, I was able to understand the book a bit more and grasped the concept there. But, both ways are really interesting and I feel like I learned a lot.” 

Comparing and contrasting the two methods of storytelling is going to help lead and prepare the Grade 11 class for the IB assessment at the end of the year in which they will discuss how two texts of their choosing from the course content addressed a global issue. 

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