Create a List

List Name

Rename this List
Save to
Back to the Top Teaching Blog
March 5, 2018

Bring Reading to Life: A School Comic-Con

By Juan Gonzalez
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    It was a Friday afternoon and I was closing down my classroom when an email popped up on my phone that said “School Comic-Con” in the subject line. This email that stopped me in my tracks was from a woman named Sheri Howard. She’s a book lover, an educator, and my school librarian.

    Sheri Howard, our school librarian.

    The email was an invitation for teachers to join in on an event that would celebrate fantasy, science fiction, STEM, and graphic novels. With a proposal like that, who could say no? I work at a school that includes both an elementary and middle school on one campus. This first Comic-Con was created for just the middle school side. I sat down with Howard to talk about what inspired the idea and why things like this matter. I also scored some great tips that can help you create your own school Comic-Con.

    School Comic-Con decor.

    Why a Comic-Con?

    The first thing I wanted to know was what inspired such a fantastic event. As with many of our ideas, it turns out that it came from an experience Howard had in the past. “I am always looking for ways to celebrate reading and this type of event had been in the back of my mind. I’ve been to a Comic-Con and knew that it was something I wanted to bring to our school,” she says.

    Not only was it inspired by an experience, it was also a desire to expose our students to different types of literature. “Plus, sci-fi is usually a genre that doesn’t start to pick up in student interest until high school. A comic-con is a perfect way to show kids that reading sci-fi and fantasy is just like enjoying things they already like. For example, movies, television, and video games all have an element of those genres."

    Howard went on to share that her time as a librarian has shown her that using pop culture and movies can be entry points for budding readers. “As a librarian, I want to have books that hook students into becoming lifelong readers. We know the saying, 'the book is better than the movie,' which is true, but sometimes a student can become a reader backwards. Their favorite movies and television shows can create a curiosity for books.”

    A local used bookstore set up tables of books, journals, and gadgets to sell to the attendees.

    A Love for Graphic Novels

    When talking about reading, the conversation began to change direction because it’s a subject that’s rich and intertwined with many ideas to share. Howard went on to explain how we have to start acknowledging that graphic novels are real books. “Gosh, graphic novels do much for our reading community. The reason I love and want to celebrate them is because kids love those books. You don’t even have to encourage kids to read them, it happens so naturally. Those are the books that I can’t keep on my shelves. They’re run down and loved and I'm always looking for ways to replace them."  

    If you are in the classroom, you know Howard’s sentiments to be true. Kids love graphic novels and they offer great content for readers. “Another reason I love them is because the vocabulary is always high and there is a lot of think work that goes on with the pictures and the text. So if kids love it and it’s helping them grow as readers, why are we not using them more?” says Howard.

    STEM Creates Curiosity

    STEM is a hands-on curriculum that is used to teach students through four core subjects: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Rather than teaching these disciplines in isolation, STEM combines all of the subjects into one learning experience. “STEM lends itself perfectly to reading because it creates curiosity and where do you go when curiosity strikes? Books! It was important for me to incorporate things like LEGOs and robotics into our day because I want the kids to see the connection. Not only is reading a form of escape, it’s filled with information that can help us solve problems and expand our thinking."  

    The robotics area.

    A middle school robotics team shows off their creations and share their building process.

    LEGO rooms for creating and playing competition games.

    Students unwinding and freely building.

    Tips to Create Your Own School Comic-Con

    After experiencing this event, I knew it was something that I had to share with our teaching community. The energy it created was unlike any school event I have ever been a part of. I asked Howard to give us her best advice on how to create a successful Comic-Con.  

    Top Five Tips for Planning a Comic-Con

    1. Plan in Advance — If you are planning a large school event, you have to give yourself enough time to recruit inside and outside support. An event like this has a lot of moving pieces, so you want to give yourself the right amount of time to build your team and find those who are willing to help.
    2. Get Your Community Involved — The people inside your school are a great resource. Don’t forget to reach out to your local high schools and parents. You will be surprised with the help you can find when you ask around. High school clubs and organizations are a great starting point for booth ideas or to bring in people to help run booths.
    3. Bring Out the Passion — With an event like this, you can try things that are outside of the “normal” teaching zone. Ask your teachers to think about what they’re passionate about and use that excitement to create an experience for the students.
    4. Ask the Students — We all know that children are full of great ideas. Ask them about their interests to help prioritize what kind of booths should be at your comic-con.
    5. Make a Plan — Ask yourself what you want your day to include. Make a list of all of the games and experiences you want to create for families and students. Then, find books that tie into those activities to bring it all together.

    Activity Ideas

    Although not part of our school activities, we encouraged kids to come in costume. It really added to the entire experience.

    • games
    • trivia
    • bookmark making station
    • drawing classes
    • photo opportunities

    Comic-Con Highlights

    Below you will see some highlights from my school’s version of Comic-Con. Scroll through to see the different booths, games, and costumes. I hope these pictures give you some inspiration and smiles too. (Just wait until you get to the costumes — they're amazing!)

    This was the main hallway that had photo opportunities and the mini book shop.

    Star Wars trivia room

    No costume? No worries! We had face painting to help everyone get into character.

    Take the fun outside and have the students play Quidditch! Flying brooms are optional.

    Magnetic slime in the science lab!

    Batman!  

    Dogman!

    Eleven!

    This Pennywise costume would make Stephen King proud.

    Pikachu bookmark making class.

    Intro to anime class.

    Hulk balloon smash game.

    Get Out of the Bubble and Get Bubbly

    It is no surprise that Howard’s energetic personality transfers into the work that she does. When talking about taking risks in the education profession she said, “teachers need to get out of the bubble and get bubbly. It’s okay to try things and fail. You win either way.” This perspective is what gave the students at my school a chance to talk about the books they love, the confidence to share their passions, and most importantly, build school memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you to Howard for reminding us how important librarians are to our schools.

    It was a Friday afternoon and I was closing down my classroom when an email popped up on my phone that said “School Comic-Con” in the subject line. This email that stopped me in my tracks was from a woman named Sheri Howard. She’s a book lover, an educator, and my school librarian.

    Sheri Howard, our school librarian.

    The email was an invitation for teachers to join in on an event that would celebrate fantasy, science fiction, STEM, and graphic novels. With a proposal like that, who could say no? I work at a school that includes both an elementary and middle school on one campus. This first Comic-Con was created for just the middle school side. I sat down with Howard to talk about what inspired the idea and why things like this matter. I also scored some great tips that can help you create your own school Comic-Con.

    School Comic-Con decor.

    Why a Comic-Con?

    The first thing I wanted to know was what inspired such a fantastic event. As with many of our ideas, it turns out that it came from an experience Howard had in the past. “I am always looking for ways to celebrate reading and this type of event had been in the back of my mind. I’ve been to a Comic-Con and knew that it was something I wanted to bring to our school,” she says.

    Not only was it inspired by an experience, it was also a desire to expose our students to different types of literature. “Plus, sci-fi is usually a genre that doesn’t start to pick up in student interest until high school. A comic-con is a perfect way to show kids that reading sci-fi and fantasy is just like enjoying things they already like. For example, movies, television, and video games all have an element of those genres."

    Howard went on to share that her time as a librarian has shown her that using pop culture and movies can be entry points for budding readers. “As a librarian, I want to have books that hook students into becoming lifelong readers. We know the saying, 'the book is better than the movie,' which is true, but sometimes a student can become a reader backwards. Their favorite movies and television shows can create a curiosity for books.”

    A local used bookstore set up tables of books, journals, and gadgets to sell to the attendees.

    A Love for Graphic Novels

    When talking about reading, the conversation began to change direction because it’s a subject that’s rich and intertwined with many ideas to share. Howard went on to explain how we have to start acknowledging that graphic novels are real books. “Gosh, graphic novels do much for our reading community. The reason I love and want to celebrate them is because kids love those books. You don’t even have to encourage kids to read them, it happens so naturally. Those are the books that I can’t keep on my shelves. They’re run down and loved and I'm always looking for ways to replace them."  

    If you are in the classroom, you know Howard’s sentiments to be true. Kids love graphic novels and they offer great content for readers. “Another reason I love them is because the vocabulary is always high and there is a lot of think work that goes on with the pictures and the text. So if kids love it and it’s helping them grow as readers, why are we not using them more?” says Howard.

    STEM Creates Curiosity

    STEM is a hands-on curriculum that is used to teach students through four core subjects: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Rather than teaching these disciplines in isolation, STEM combines all of the subjects into one learning experience. “STEM lends itself perfectly to reading because it creates curiosity and where do you go when curiosity strikes? Books! It was important for me to incorporate things like LEGOs and robotics into our day because I want the kids to see the connection. Not only is reading a form of escape, it’s filled with information that can help us solve problems and expand our thinking."  

    The robotics area.

    A middle school robotics team shows off their creations and share their building process.

    LEGO rooms for creating and playing competition games.

    Students unwinding and freely building.

    Tips to Create Your Own School Comic-Con

    After experiencing this event, I knew it was something that I had to share with our teaching community. The energy it created was unlike any school event I have ever been a part of. I asked Howard to give us her best advice on how to create a successful Comic-Con.  

    Top Five Tips for Planning a Comic-Con

    1. Plan in Advance — If you are planning a large school event, you have to give yourself enough time to recruit inside and outside support. An event like this has a lot of moving pieces, so you want to give yourself the right amount of time to build your team and find those who are willing to help.
    2. Get Your Community Involved — The people inside your school are a great resource. Don’t forget to reach out to your local high schools and parents. You will be surprised with the help you can find when you ask around. High school clubs and organizations are a great starting point for booth ideas or to bring in people to help run booths.
    3. Bring Out the Passion — With an event like this, you can try things that are outside of the “normal” teaching zone. Ask your teachers to think about what they’re passionate about and use that excitement to create an experience for the students.
    4. Ask the Students — We all know that children are full of great ideas. Ask them about their interests to help prioritize what kind of booths should be at your comic-con.
    5. Make a Plan — Ask yourself what you want your day to include. Make a list of all of the games and experiences you want to create for families and students. Then, find books that tie into those activities to bring it all together.

    Activity Ideas

    Although not part of our school activities, we encouraged kids to come in costume. It really added to the entire experience.

    • games
    • trivia
    • bookmark making station
    • drawing classes
    • photo opportunities

    Comic-Con Highlights

    Below you will see some highlights from my school’s version of Comic-Con. Scroll through to see the different booths, games, and costumes. I hope these pictures give you some inspiration and smiles too. (Just wait until you get to the costumes — they're amazing!)

    This was the main hallway that had photo opportunities and the mini book shop.

    Star Wars trivia room

    No costume? No worries! We had face painting to help everyone get into character.

    Take the fun outside and have the students play Quidditch! Flying brooms are optional.

    Magnetic slime in the science lab!

    Batman!  

    Dogman!

    Eleven!

    This Pennywise costume would make Stephen King proud.

    Pikachu bookmark making class.

    Intro to anime class.

    Hulk balloon smash game.

    Get Out of the Bubble and Get Bubbly

    It is no surprise that Howard’s energetic personality transfers into the work that she does. When talking about taking risks in the education profession she said, “teachers need to get out of the bubble and get bubbly. It’s okay to try things and fail. You win either way.” This perspective is what gave the students at my school a chance to talk about the books they love, the confidence to share their passions, and most importantly, build school memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you to Howard for reminding us how important librarians are to our schools.

Comments

Share your ideas about this article

Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2
About Us