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How to Use Graphic Novels in the Classroom

Graphic novels in the classroom are more acceptable then they have been in the past. As teachers realize that getting students to read is more important than WHAT they read, teachers are opening the door for graphic novels into the classroom. However, while kids can enjoy a book with pictures every day, teachers need to know how to utilize them in the classroom. We have some options that could help you add graphic novels in your class.

Option one: Use graphic novels the same way you’ve always taught the content. The difference you’ll see is the engagement of your students. If you need feedback, ask the students their thoughts on using the graphic novel in place of the original version, or use both version and have your students compare and contrast their experience.

Option two: Give them choices. Select a day to be your Graphic Novel or Comic Book Day, where students get to select any short graphic novel or comic book from a classroom selection. Make sure you have read the content and approve it for the day’s assignments. At the end of each book have a set of four or five, detailed literary analysis questions or a writing assignment for them to answer. You give them 10-15 minutes to read (maybe less as they will need less time the more they do it), and then additional time to analyze the text based on the individualized assignments you’ve put in the books for them. The know it’s part of the routine, it won’t take the whole period, and when they are done they turn in the assignment, you check off to make sure they haven’t read that graphic novel before, and then you move on to the next part of your lesson for the day.

Option three: Take students to the school library to choose any book they want to read, including graphic novels. Allow students to pick any book, no matter the Lexile because here’s the catch, the projects they must complete after reading their chosen text is rigorous regardless of the difficulty of the text. The post-reading projects will force students to put a lot of effort into thinking about what they read. Include things like author’s purpose, style, word choice and how it develops theme/tone/mood. Ask students to provide evidence from the text to support their answers (all of that good old ELA stuff). You could have them read Dr. Suess for all it would matter! The actual work and thought going into analyzing the text for their final products, is going to stretch and grow their sweet, unknowing, minds.

Should graphic novels replace all classic forms of literature?

Absolutely not. Students need exposure to all types of literature. They need novels, short stories, articles, and poems. Especially in states where testing is held high on the priority list. They need to be comfortable reading all types of literature. I would simply argue that adding graphic novels to your hot of tricks, would benefit students by getting them engaged, exited, and more comfortable with reading altogether. This is especially true if you utilize them as a weekly activity tool to strengthen their reading comprehension. Once students see how well they are answering such tough questions each week, taking away the incredible pictures, and replacing them with denser materials won’t be as daunting.

The important thing to keep in mind about graphic novels is that there needs to be a purpose behind bringing them into your lesson plans. They should enhance the classroom and learning experience. Don’t just hand them out for the sake of using a graphic novel.

Why are you using it, what are you teaching them, how is this better than using the original version, what is the purpose of them reading the graphic novel(s)? What tasks are you asking students to accomplish after they read the graphic novel?

We have to analyze our own reasoning to ensure that how we utilize the graphic novels is what is best for our students. Remember it is our job to make sure students get balanced education on all types of texts: informational, fiction, poetry, classic literature, speeches.

Ensure there is balance and harmony in what you are giving students to do each week.

Thanks for reading! Please take time out to leave a comment below. Are you planning on using graphic novels in your classroom? If so, how do you plan to use them? What fun activities are you trying out with your students? Let us know!


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