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Graphic Novels

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  1. Graphic Novels

  2. What is a “graphic novel”? “A graphic novel is a narrative work in which the story is conveyed to the reader using the comics form. The term is employed in a broad manner, encompassing non-fiction works and thematically linked short stories as well as fictional stories across a number of genres.” (

  3. Why use comics in the classroom? “Comics and graphic novels can be used as a “point of reference” to bridge what students already know with what they have yet to learn, Xu says. For example, comics and graphic novels can teach about making inferences, since readers must rely on pictures and just a small amount of text. By helping students transfer this skill, she says, teachers can lessen the challenge of a new book.” (

  4. Why use comics in the classroom? • For pre-readers: • -can be viewed as a purely graphic story • Provides practice with sequencing • concrete to abstract transitions using illustrations • writing can be introduced when ready to connect words with images • provides visual cues to the context of the narrative • For more advanced readers: • comics can contain all the complexity of 'normal' written material • literary devices such as puns, alliteration, metaphors, symbolism, point of view, context, inference, and narrative structures. • a comic can also be a stepping-stone to more complex and traditional written work. • (

  5. How does it relate to the Curriculum? In 2008, the Curriculum Services Canada (CSC) published “Literacy Through Graphic Novels. Rationale Research indicates that literacy rates soar when the reading process unites text and images. By associating graphics with texts, students can encode information more readily and, in turn, improve their reading comprehension. Students decipher the meaning of the text and retain pertinent aspects of the elements of the story. Low scores in reading and writing diminish students’ self-esteem and can be a factor in student drop-out rates. By providing students with tools to increase their reading and writing ability, teachers can promote student success.

  6. How does it relate to the curriculum? Connections with Curriculum - Demonstrate an understanding of the elements of story - Identify and explain the effect of specific elements of style - Present ideas and information logically and coherently in written work - Revise written work, independently and collaboratively - Use vocabulary and language conventions to read and write competently and effectively - Create media works and use established criteria to assess the effectiveness of the works (Literacy Through Graphic Novels) - Contains sample lesson plans and worksheet templates – very useful!

  7. Comics & Multiple Intelligences • How comics can relate to the specific Multiple Intelligences: • Verbal/Linguistic: • what does the character say or think? • some artists have made comics using almost nothing but words. • Visual/Spacial: • cartoon drawings are naturally visual • placing the characters in sets and backgrounds encourages spacial learning. • Mathematical: • - sizes and patterns of panel arrangement. • Kinetic/Bodily: • what is your character doing? • we frequently make the faces our characters make while drawing them • different artists/styles portray characters’ physicality in different ways • Interpersonal: - who are your characters friends? • Intrapersonal: - what is your character's moods? What does he or she think? • Naturalistic: - where is your character placed? Explore his or her natural surroundings. • Musical/Rhythmic: - comics are a very rhythmic storytelling. • look for repeating images/themes and the innovative and abstract stories that result. • (

  8. Watchmen – Pros and Cons

  9. Teaching Watchmen Teaching it: • research and present: - Students could investigate the Manhattan Project , the vigilantism of Bernard Goetz and the Guardian Angels, Ronald Reagan's Soviet policy, the Soviets' invasion of Afghanistan, and so on (setting) • read and discuss: save The Black Freighter until the end, issues of morality and choices, vigilantism, etc (plot and literary devices) • Assignments (inferences, metacognition) • have students actually debate the moral issues - are given time to form deeper arguments • write their own super-hero story • summative assignment: • As part of my final test on Watchmen, my students had to write a short essay on the moral question. They had to explain whether Adrian did the morally right thing and use three details from the text to support their claim. Other ideas: • Use (parts of) the film to catch interest, illustrate, compare and contrast • Compare with “traditional” hero comics (

  10. The Dark Knight Returns

  11. Teaching The Dark Knight Returns • Our high school library has been increasing the number of graphic novels on its shelves and purchased Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns just in time for my King Lear unit. As with The Watchmen, I find a lot of appropriate parallels to Shakespeare’s masterpiece, not the least of which is an aging figurehead unable to accept retirement, a power-struggle for the kingdom, and a lot of gratuitous violence. • While my students are creating multi-media presentations for their assigned King Lear scene, it helps to show them example pages from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. • Alan Moore and Frank Miller have repeatedly proven to be ahead of their time; it seems incredible to me that their work was published in the mid-80s — the last great decade. The power and the fear, the hope and the despair, the tragedy and the comedy — it belongs in a Shakespeare unit, and it never disappoints the students. (

  12. Maus I & II – Pros and Cons

  13. Beyond Graphic Novels • Webcomics • xkcd • Penny Arcade • Newspaper and daily comics • Foxtrot • For Better or for Worse • Garfield

  14. Resources • Discussions and sample lesson plan • Discussion, reviews, and lesson plans • Literacy Through Graphic Novels

  15. Works Cited • • • • • • Literacy Through Graphic Novels • • • • • •

  16. xkcd 653

  17. Penny Arcade