By Richy K. Chandler, author and illustrator of Lucy the Octopus
Alongside writing and illustrating my own stories, I’ve also been running comic creation workshops for thousands of people of all ages at over 110 venues including; schools, colleges, museums, hospitals and libraries. Lucy the Octopus has come with me to almost all of these workshops. Sometimes I show the process of making a Lucy strip as a basic way to talk through comic creating. At other times I explain how Lucy was, in many ways, an avatar of myself at school, and that comics don’t have to be literal biographies for the creator to use them to express their own experiences and ideas.
I started to realise that beyond just preaching to the choir of mindful readers who recognised and got satisfaction from seeing bullying and bigotry being shown as ridiculous and mindless, there was a new purpose for Lucy’s tale. The strip could be used as a springboard for discussions of the themes in the comic. Taking the ideas out of the underwater town of Stoneydip that Lucy inhabits, into the real world that my workshop participants live in.
With this in mind, when I was putting together the Lucy the Octopus hardback collection (for readers aged 9+) I developed a series of activity sheets to work alongside the book. They can be used with young people at home, in school, or anywhere really! They are best used with those who have finished reading up to the relevant parts of the book as they contain minor spoilers. They can be completed by individuals, in pairs or in groups.
In no particular order, here are some notes for teachers and group leaders on using the activity sheets…
Draw a Friend for Lucy
This could work as a fun intro to a PSHE session. Participants dream up and draw a possible new friend for Lucy. The character could be another octopus, a human or any sort of creature really. The idea of this is to start ideas flowing, thinking about friendship and support.
The task is not about creating what might be considered the best drawing. To emphasise this, the teacher/group-leader could do a rough drawing of a character on the board, as an example. It could be a something as straight forward as a stick figure, with added elements which are relevant to the character’s friendship with Lucy. Perhaps they are wearing a T-shirt of a band they both like or carrying a game or book they could both enjoy together.
Comfort for Lucy
At her lowest points Lucy feels picked on, lonely, and despite her best efforts, struggles to fit in with other teenagers. This activity involves empathising with Lucy and writing a letter to offer advice on how to deal with her situation, and comfort to make her feel better.
Depending on how sensitively the group is likely to work together, this might be better done individually as opposed to working in pairs or groups. With the right group, reading the letters out loud could be a positive experience. Other groups may benefit from expressing their thoughts in a letter to be read only by the teacher/group-leader, keeping their personal ideas private.
The Struggles of Sandra
This activity sheet focuses on the character of Sandra, the newest girl in school. While she prefers the company of Lucy, she feels the need to try to fit in with the cool kids at Stoneydip High, and therefore shuns the unpopular Lucy whenever anyone else is around.
Students write lists of advantages and disadvantages of changing themselves to fit in.
This could work well as a group discussion. Teachers/group-leaders should emphasise that while there may be short term benefits to trying to change yourself to appease others, there are long term pitfalls allowing others to dictate how you should act.
This puzzle is a good starting point for a discussion of different types of prejudice. The intention is that students get an overall picture of how people can find ways of being bigoted against one another, beyond what the individual student may have experienced, therefore hopefully encouraging empathy.
The words to be found in the word search are…
The task also leads to students developing ideas on how their school could help stop the different forms of bullying. If these ideas could be carried out, even better!
Finish a Lucy the Octopus comic strip
This should be a fun activity, helping students develop a narrative, and for some of them, work towards making a comic strip for the first time.
Gathering around a table with a pile of finished comic strips with the teacher/group-leader sharing and giving positive feedback for the student’s efforts is a nice way to end the session on a high!
This can be a good introduction to creating comic strips about their own experiences and ideas.
I hope these activity sheets as well as the Lucy the Octopus book itself provide lots of enjoyment and provoke much discussion!
Get in touch if you would like me to visit your school, college, museum, gallery or other venue, to give a talk or run workshops. For details click here.
Humorous and uplifting, Lucy the Octopus is a hardback collection of comic strips focusing on an unpopular teenager. The free accompanying activity sheets are a perfect way to engage students and open healthy dialogues about bullying, bigotry and isolation.
If you would like a copy of Lucy the Octopus to complement these activity sheets you can use code LTO20 to get 20% off on our webstore until February 1st 2019 – intl.jkp.com.