Bam! Pow! Wham! These aren't your typical vocabulary words, but you'll see the sound effects often in the world of comic books and graphic novels. Many students, particularly boys (and lately, more and more girls) are reading comic books in their free time. Comics have inspired me, challenged me, and contributed significantly to my love of reading and the arts as an adult.
In recent years, graphic novels have expanded beyond superhero storylines, and offer many teaching opportunities for educators who want to take advantage of their broad appeal and themes. Read on, and watch the videos below, to find out how to add some bam! to your classroom.
Video Playlist: Comics in the Classroom
Watch the first video below, or watch the whole playlist on YouTube.
- Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels (8:43)
In this video essay, Courtney Angermeier reviews the book Building Literacy Connections with Graphic Novels. This collection of essays by teachers highlights how comics can help students with reading comprehension, engage them with current events and social issues, and improve literacy.
- Serious Comics: Graphic Novels for the Classroom (4:16)
The simplest way to introduce comics to the classroom is to use a long form graphic novel as class reading material. There are many graphic novels that touch on historic events and serious literary themes. Here are five solid book recommendations from SilentCay.
- Kids Need Comic Books (13:45)
In this TEDx talk, Carol Tilley, a former high school librarian, details the ways educators have historically discriminated against comics. Tilley sees this as a "squandered opportunity," and makes the case for comics as an essential part of every child's reading list.
- Why Are There So Many Superhero Movies? (13:18)
The most popular comics are about superheroes -- why? "For as long as people have told stories, those stories have involved the feats of great and powerful characters," says Mike Rugnetta of PBS Idea Channel. This is a great introduction to the enduring myth of the superhero.
- Understanding Comics (17:39)
Before you can start using comics in the classroom, it helps to understand what comics are! Scott McCloud is the authority on understanding comics, having written a book by the same name. In this humorous, visual-minded TED talk, he grounds comics in their historical context among other media.
- Stanford Students Write and Produce Graphic Novel (2:29)
Another option is to use comics as part of a project-based learning unit. In this class at Stanford University, students wrote and produced a graphic novel dealing with a current social issue from start to finish. You could easily adapt this idea for younger students by producing a shorter comic or just doing the concept planning portion.
- Sean's Comic PBL Project (2:50)
Sean Waters is a student at Harmony Public Schools, and in this great claymation video he gives some advice to other students who want to make their own comics, which he gleaned from his own school project on making comics.
More Resources on Using Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom
For more ideas on how to bring graphic novels into your class, check out these websites and articles:
- Comics in the Classroom website
- "Using Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom" via National Council of Teachers of English
- "Using Graphic Novels and Comics in the Classroom" by Andrew Miller via Edutopia
- "Why Teach with Comics?" by Jennifer Haines via Reading With Pictures
- "The Best Comics for Your Classroom" by Chris Wilson via The Graphic Classroom
- "26 Ways to Use Comics in the Classroom and 5 Free Tools for Creating Comics" by Richard Byrne via Free Technology for Teachers
- "Comics in the Classroom: News and Resources Roundup" by Kerry Eustice via The Guardian Teacher Network
- "21 Ways to Use Comics in the Classroom" by Bill Zimmerman via MakeBeliefs Comix