Saturday, July 17, 2010

Comics in the Classroom

Recently we decided to do Saturday Matinees @ the IMC. My Saturday was today and with Comic Con just around the corner, I decided to do “Comics in the Classroom.” There are an amazing number of resources available for teachers in the use of this literature.

Literature? Comics? Yes, comics. When is the last time you looked at a comic without reading? Don’t you have to determine sequence of events, character, plot, and resolution? And don’t forget that these panels have a beginning, middle and end in as few as three squares. I found a website,, using Destiny that allows you to sort the panels into correct sequence and then you have to answer questions about them. It was not as easy as you would think!

Teachers can use comic books and graphic novels (fiction and nonfiction) to teach the same curriculum and standards as with traditional literature. Publishers are seeing the interest that students have placed in graphic novels. Some companies have published graphic novels of the classics. These versions make it easier for Second Language learners or students reading below grade level to grasp the storyline, as well as give them some background for reading the original. Stone Arch books and Capstone Press have created Graphic Libraries of content related curriculum. Now students can read what they want, and learn something while doing it. As with any literature, teachers and librarians will want to pre-read before using graphic materials with students. (Remember my article on Don’t Shoot From the Hip.) Our local sales rep is Diana McGeorge. Capstone books are also available in paperback for your classrooms!

As you learn more about graphic novels, you will find there are many strategies that carry over from using traditional literature. Many publishers and authors also have lesson plans on their websites, so there is no need to recreate the wheel. First Second Books, for example, has free lesson plans on their website. On the other hand, here are some strategies for using any graphic work with your students in the library or in the classroom.

• Use a document camera to “read” a graphic novel or picture book to your students. The pictures are as important as the text, so everyone needs to see both well.
• Instead of barcoding comic books in the library, have students sign for them on a clipboard-perhaps as a reward or over the weekend.
• Allow students who like to draw the opportunity to use their skills in their work from time to time.
• Graphic novels and comic books are expensive. Encourage your students to swap books with each other.
• Photocopy a page of comic panels. Cut them apart. Ask students to put them in order.
• Photocopy a page of comic panels. White out the text and ask students to either match the panels to the original text or create their own. Students can work separately or in pairs.
• As an alternate activity, give students the text and have them illustrate the panel.
• Mo Willems’ series, Elephant and Piggie, can be used as Reader’s Theater. Divide your students into pairs and let them read.
• Have a gaming activity- whether it’s Dance Dance Revolution or a video game challenge, this activity is sure to bring them into the library.
• Use graphic novels to teach transition words.
• Use graphic novels to teach fluency with ESL students. Turn a graphic novel into a readers’ theater just by reading the dialogue. Be sure to assign a narrator.

Once I told the group what graphic novels are and why and how to use them, the next logical step was where do I find them. Enter IMC and Destiny. Destiny is our one-stop digital shopping cart. Teachers choose their school, check IMC box also and search. In a matter of seconds we can use One Search to find hundreds of books, database articles and websites on our topic. We found that by typing in “comics” and our subject area, we can find content related materials. As an SDUSD staff person, they learned that they can make a resource list to keep track of those resources. By making it public, even their students can see those websites, databases and books or media. They also learned that they can book these materials from IMC in advance and have them delivered. Membership has its privileges.

To make it easier to find supportive websites, I directed participants to my internet hotlist of websites for books and boys. Searching through that list, you will find links to student and teacher resources, lesson plan ideas and even software that students can use to create their own comics.

There is a wealth of ready to use material for teachers and librarians on using comic books in the classroom. Try it. You might find that even you, enjoy it.

By the way, I am speaking at Comic Con Saturday at 3:30. How cool is that?!

1 comment:

LeeAnn said...

WAY COOL!!! Looking forward to sharing this blog with teachers and kids in the fall. ~LeeAnn