Project Overview
Student Learning Objectives
Content Material
Links to Course Competencies
Supplementary Resources
Recommendations for Integration

Understanding and Using Narrative Time


Time: approximately one or two class meetings with homework

Materials: student directions and a computer lab with internet access

Prerequisites: none

Implementation: This RWLO can be used in the classroom to introduce students to the concept of narrative time and to allow them to put their new knowledge to work. It could also be used as an out-of-class assignment or as an assignment for an on-line course.


  1. Preview the online course materials with the students. Give them a quick walk-through of the resources on
  2. Ask students to choose three different "expansions" of the Carl Comics Original Recipe and then write the three prose versions of the resulting stories. Stress that they should contain their story just to that which is conveyed in each of the comic frames. In other words, it should feel like an act of translation from visual to verbal, without taking liberties but rather attempting to stay true to the original text.
  3. When the students complete all three versions, have them write a brief reflective piece (or perhaps engage in group discussion as an alternative) to consider what is different about the three versions of the story. Guide them towards the concept of narrative time.
  4. At this point, introduce students to useful terminology to talk about narrative time and its relation to real time. Inclulde definition, discussion, and perhaps prose examples of summary, scene, gap, pause, and stretch. Students capture definitions for later use.

    [Steps 5 through 7 are done as homework.]
  5. As a follow-up activity, the students can pick any combination of Carl frames (at least 6). They can choose from the "Original Recipe" strip or from "Choose Your Own Carl" (this contains additional frames). Or, for those who have a hard time choosing, they might try the "One Armed Carl" which randomly selects 6 frames. (This is an option, but keep in mind that random selection removes the element of choice, which is an important part to this exercise.) As they select their frames, they should keep the concept of narrative time in mind, working to make deliberate choices about their control of time in the story.
  6. Once students choose their own Carl, so to speak, and have at least 6 frames, they should write the story (again being true to the visual story they assembled--frame by frame, scene by scene).
  7. The final step is some reflective writing where students discuss the choices they made regarding narrative time and its effects on the text and the reader.
  8. Students assemble all the work produced in the previous steps and submit it as a "mini-potfolio" of work; it should include: the three initial stories from step 2, any reflective writing from step 3, definitions of each use of narrative time from step 4, the longer story from step 6, and the reflection from step 7.