I only became fascinated by zines about a year ago, and in the past year I've found myself answering this question a lot (often accompanied by pulling random zines out of my bag to show parents, baristas, border agents, etc.) Zines are small self-published magazines, and anyone can make them. No two zines are the same (unless maybe they are copies of eachother!) and I think the best way to learn zines is to go to a zine fest. Here is a list to find one near you.
Here's some other useful resources* I found:
- Video: What is a zine? (English)
How do zines fit into the language classroom?
I love zines because they are accessible and flexible, so all my students could create something creative that fits with their level of Spanish. With a diverse range of language levels and an Oct. 1st (!) exhibition deadline, I used zines as a way to explore the why of language learning to kick off the school year. This meant the project was more focused on reasons to learn language than on specific skills and proficiency, but I found it to be a great way to start the year for middle school learners in particular. Successful language learning takes motivation and hard work and getting buy in from students is crucial.
What did this project look like?
Here's the project overview that I shared with parents and students, and here is a folder of project resources if you are interested in doing something similar.
This project took about a month (with Spanish classes twice a week.)
- We explored language connections in our lives. In class, students moved to different parts of the room based on how many languages were in their lives: first, languages they spoke, then languages spoken in their home, and then languages spoken by people in their lives. This led to an awareness of how multilingual our classes are, and to realize that everyone in our school knew at least one person who spoke more than one language. (San Diego demographics helped with this, probably.) Outside the classroom, students had to interview someone who spoke or had learned more than one language. Most students interviewed family members or friends, but some interviewed staff members.
- We explored zines. I brought in a selection of zines from my own personal zine library (somewhat curated for school) and some student zines. Students looked through the zines, browsed through some books about zines, and took notes about what they noticed. I loved watching students get excited and start scribbling down ideas.
- We planned our zines and created mock-ups. Our zine theme was reasons to learn a new languages, and I asked students to make a zine with language that fit their level and what would be appropriate for their zine. (For example, comics or lists of reasons could be in Spanish even for beginners. More complex narratives were in English or Spanish depending on the learner's level.) I showed students how to fold various zine sizes, and provided supplies from Donors's Choose. (Most useful was a ton of fine tip sharpies and a long reach stapler.) The rest was up to them!
- We gave peer feedback on rough drafts before creating final zines. Students used our rubric and a checklist to give feedback to their classmates. I specifically assigned feedback partners based on the zines people were making, with language in mind. Our timeline was more rushed than I would have liked, so some groups and individual students didn't get a chance for this step.
- We enlisted parent and staff volunteers to help copy, fold and hang up zines. I asked for help with the exhibition itself, but also with the massive amount of copying and folding. This helped us finish, copy, fold, and hang 70 individual zines within the space of a few days!
- We shared our zines at San Diego Zine Fest! Parents and students signed up to help run our table at the big zine event. Original zines were hanging up for display, and we distributed copies. I brought supplies so students and visitors could make zines with us. A few people stayed to make "Why language?" zines. I loved seeing my students excited about sharing their work, and having conversations about language learning with new people. People visiting our table left positive notes for our students and donations for future zine supplies.
- We shared our zines with our school community by hanging them up in the library for exhibition week at the end of the trimester.
This project was a ton of work, but I've never had more fun! I got very positive feedback from students, parents, and community members and I will definitely do this project again next year. The San Diego Zine Fest is always at the end of September or beginning of October, which is a quick deadline but also just right for kicking off the year exploring reasons to learn languages. This year I did the project with 6th-8th grade, and I had a much lower percentage of 6th graders complete it on time. Doing something like this during the first month of 6th grade (along with all the other adjustments to middle school) was a lot. (Then again, next year my 6th graders will be entering their fourth year with me, so zines in Spanish might not be so daunting!) I also required students to write their biography in Spanish (regardless of if the rest of the zine was in English) but didn't have much time to peer edit those. All students had learned how to describe themselves in Spanish previously, but coming back after summer those skills were rusty and I would scaffold that part differently in the future. I would also like to find a way for students to sell their zines at zine fest, rather than just requesting donations. Lots of students got very excited about this aspect of making and sharing zines, but we found out somewhat last minute that admin wasn't comfortable with students selling their work. I'd like to hash this out earlier on next year. I'd love to host a student zine fest at our school, too, either with our students or with more schools. I think zines would be a great way to creatively share and publicize our projects.