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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Using comic books to promote literacy?

Using comic books to promote literacy?

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I noticed that our school's classrooms and library are pretty well stocked with comics. And last year my son's teacher encouraged her students to read comic books (Calvin and Hobbes was a favorite in our house), and quite effectively, used the comic book format to help the students compose essays. And I know, we at Edutopia, have written a few great pieces on how comic books can improve literacy. But I wanted to hear how other teachers are using this art form to help kids improve their reading skills.

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Ray Dorso's picture
Ray Dorso
Director of Special Services, New Milford School District

Great question. In my previous district, in a high school US History class, we used Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale to teach students about the Holocaust. Maus is written entirely in a comic format, as a result, student engagement in this intense content area was immediate. As a result of their interest, comprehension of the content was increased and simply by reading and reviewing the text, reading skills were improved.

Please note, although it is in a comic format, Maus is a true depiction of the Holocaust and therefore should be geared to older students.

Melissa Davis's picture

There is an excellently illustrated graphic novel for this classic story that has very limited language by Garth Hinds. It relies nearly solely on imagery for the text. I only taught Beowulf one year as the district I work for has moved my grade level around quite a bit, but the year I used it, I selected specific images for discussion and also had a class set for students to "read" during SSR periods (although they weren't technically reading). I appreciated the g.n. because it was a perfect aid for my urban senior students who struggled to visualize what they read (especially when it is so out of context for their personal experience)and it was visually engaging. It, also,paved the way for us to dig deep into the allegory and other literary elements of the text. I would love to know if others have used this g.n. in more effective ways. Having taught it one time, it is something I did not get to continue to explore.

Amber Henrey's picture
Amber Henrey
4th grade techie teacher by day, mom of 3 and Masters student by night.

I use comics to help students write in sequence and with dialogue. I show them examples of great comics and then have them create their own often. They can create them to do book reports or demonstrate similes, pretty much anything really.

I also like using programs like goanimate.com to create my own comics that I want the students to learn from. I've done some on idioms, character traits, compare and contrast...many of the literary skills can be taught using teacher created comics.

Keena Hormel's picture
Keena Hormel
7th Grade LA from Portland, OR

I used the daily newspaper comics to teach inferences. I cut them out and each student gets a comic strip. They have to decipher the literal meaning and the inferred meaning. Using comics to narrow down what inference means has been a highly effective method. The level of engagement in class is high, they all seem to enjoy comics.

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