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October 10, 2018

Happy and Engaged Writers: Graphic Novels and Underpants

By Meghan Everette
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Picture reading a book to your class while they all sit on the edge of their seats, anticipating the next word. Picture hearing your class roar with laughter when you get to the punch line in a novel. Imagine a text so compelling that even your most reluctant writers are inspired to create their own books upon hearing it. Sound impossible? Then you haven’t had Captain Underpants visit your class.

    Dav Pilkey Ultimate Epic Teaching Guide

    Conquering Teacher Trepidation

    I was slightly reluctant to introduce the good captain to my students. I didn’t want parents to rant about potty words or what they deemed inappropriate topics. I didn’t want to spend time on silly stories and not fine literature. What changed my mind was reading author Dav Pilkey’s letter to teachers in his Ultimate Epic Teacher’s Guide. As he toured schools he found kids afraid to write or draw because they feared they weren’t perfect. Using George and Harold's Captain Underpants cartoons, Pilkey set out to show them that being imperfect is okay. I realized he was right, and decided these books would be the perfect introduction to a whole new style of writing for my students.

    Guidance for Grown-Ups

    Armed with the teacher’s guide, I checked out the first Captain Underpants book and dove into reading it with my class. They were mesmerized and looked forward to reading a few chapters every afternoon. After each reading session, we would make lists of character traits and predict what would happen next. When we finished the book, we compared the elements of a graphic novel to a regular chapter book.

    Captain Underpants for Grownups

    Graphic Novel Biographies

    While studying writing, we learned about biographies. The students enjoyed reading Pilkey’s four-part biography and discovering how he was a sometimes-trouble-maker turned author. After reading his biography, students identified five events in their lives that were important to them and put them in order. Then, using Pilkey’s model as a guide, students created their own mini-biographies in graphic novel form.

    Students eagerly shared their writing with each other. Even the most reluctant writers and artists were able to create finished biographies that they were proud of.

    Dav Pilkey Biography

    Writing a graphic novel style autobiography

    Mash It Up

    The culminating event of our Underpants reading was watching the Dav Pilkey and Jeff Kinney webcast. These two graphic novelists came together to start a new story with the help of some imaginative students. The challenge to students was to complete the story on their own, with free teaching resources provided. Though the contest is now closed, my students enjoyed making their own endings at home and are still bringing them to class to share.

    Mashup Teaching Resources

    Introducing students to new characters, graphic novels, and a fun new way to express themselves was rewarding for the kids and me. I saw imaginations ignite and confidence levels soar as students set pencil to paper. And while I eagerly dipped into Scholastic's book list for more titles to keep the enthusiasm going, I also found this trove of teaching resources to teach with Captain Underpants!

    Writing a Pilkey Style Biography

    Smiling Young Writer

    How are you using graphic novels with your students?

    Picture reading a book to your class while they all sit on the edge of their seats, anticipating the next word. Picture hearing your class roar with laughter when you get to the punch line in a novel. Imagine a text so compelling that even your most reluctant writers are inspired to create their own books upon hearing it. Sound impossible? Then you haven’t had Captain Underpants visit your class.

    Dav Pilkey Ultimate Epic Teaching Guide

    Conquering Teacher Trepidation

    I was slightly reluctant to introduce the good captain to my students. I didn’t want parents to rant about potty words or what they deemed inappropriate topics. I didn’t want to spend time on silly stories and not fine literature. What changed my mind was reading author Dav Pilkey’s letter to teachers in his Ultimate Epic Teacher’s Guide. As he toured schools he found kids afraid to write or draw because they feared they weren’t perfect. Using George and Harold's Captain Underpants cartoons, Pilkey set out to show them that being imperfect is okay. I realized he was right, and decided these books would be the perfect introduction to a whole new style of writing for my students.

    Guidance for Grown-Ups

    Armed with the teacher’s guide, I checked out the first Captain Underpants book and dove into reading it with my class. They were mesmerized and looked forward to reading a few chapters every afternoon. After each reading session, we would make lists of character traits and predict what would happen next. When we finished the book, we compared the elements of a graphic novel to a regular chapter book.

    Captain Underpants for Grownups

    Graphic Novel Biographies

    While studying writing, we learned about biographies. The students enjoyed reading Pilkey’s four-part biography and discovering how he was a sometimes-trouble-maker turned author. After reading his biography, students identified five events in their lives that were important to them and put them in order. Then, using Pilkey’s model as a guide, students created their own mini-biographies in graphic novel form.

    Students eagerly shared their writing with each other. Even the most reluctant writers and artists were able to create finished biographies that they were proud of.

    Dav Pilkey Biography

    Writing a graphic novel style autobiography

    Mash It Up

    The culminating event of our Underpants reading was watching the Dav Pilkey and Jeff Kinney webcast. These two graphic novelists came together to start a new story with the help of some imaginative students. The challenge to students was to complete the story on their own, with free teaching resources provided. Though the contest is now closed, my students enjoyed making their own endings at home and are still bringing them to class to share.

    Mashup Teaching Resources

    Introducing students to new characters, graphic novels, and a fun new way to express themselves was rewarding for the kids and me. I saw imaginations ignite and confidence levels soar as students set pencil to paper. And while I eagerly dipped into Scholastic's book list for more titles to keep the enthusiasm going, I also found this trove of teaching resources to teach with Captain Underpants!

    Writing a Pilkey Style Biography

    Smiling Young Writer

    How are you using graphic novels with your students?

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