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March 11, 2016

Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom

By Rhonda Stewart
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    I try to keep a pulse on what my students are reading. Every year, with each new group of students comes a new set of interests. The English department at my school allocates funds for classroom libraries and I try to stay ahead of the curve. I try to anticipate the reading interests of my incoming class. I largely go with what is on the best-seller list, recommendations from the school librarian, and having conversations with my students.

    Last year I decided that I would order graphic novels for all levels of readers in my classroom. There was no rhyme or reason, I just decided that this particular genre needed some updating in my classroom library. Little did I know that this year’s incoming class would be the class to take to graphic novels the way a duck takes to water! I am noticing more and more of my students gravitating towards this genre.

    Since it was obvious that this group of kids had an affinity toward these books, I decided to survey them about how they were engaging with, and what their thoughts were about the genre. I would then use this information to help me figure out how I could best incorporate the use of these books into my lessons.

    I posed the following questions to my class and asked them to be very honest. More importantly, I stressed that their comments would be taken very seriously. For instance, It had not occurred to me to use them as a mentor text or for book clubs, but after seeing the huge interest in my classroom, I determined that these would be good ways to seamlessly integrate the books into the curriculum.

     

    Graphic Novel Survey Questions

    1. What is your favorite graphic novel and why?

    2. What advice would you give to teachers when it comes to students reading graphic novels in class?

    3. Do you think that reading graphic novels helps you to grow as a reader? Why or why not?

    4. What reading skills and strategies do you find yourself using when you read this genre?

    The results were very insightful. I thought that they would tell me that graphic novels were a quick read and it helps them fulfill their book reading requirements, but this was not the case. Instead, my students gave me some food for thought.

     

    Student Responses

    Favorite Series

    • The Bone Series was the overwhelming favorite for both girls and boys. Their responses ranged from great humor that has interesting characters, fascinating plot lines, and  the mixture of mystery and adventure rolled up into one.

     

    • Raina Telgemeier, who wrote Drama, Smile, and Sisters was the obvious favorite with the girls. As fast as these books are shelved, there is someone waiting in the wings to check them out. Students let me know they felt as if the author really understood the drama of middle school, making the sensitive subjects less painful to deal with, and really understood the “heart” of being a girl.

    • Other series that made the favorite list were Big Nate and Amulet. My students loved the humor in the Big Nate series and the adventure/mystery of the Amulet series.

     

    Advice to Teachers

    • Create reading contracts for students who only want to read graphic novels. For instance, for every graphic novel a student reads, they must read two other genres before reading the next graphic novel.

    • There is a lot of vocabulary in these books and kids have to use other strategies to understand what is going on in the story. So relax: kids are really reading!

    •  Using graphic novels is a great way to teach dialogue and the inner thinking of characters a story. Look at all of the speech bubbles that are used in these books!

    • Remember that students need to build their reading muscles because you must “read” the images to understand what is going on in the story.

    • Try to find more graphic novels that are adapted from “regular" books. Then kids at all levels can talk about what is going on in the book.

     

    Reading Skills/Strategies Used

    • Visualizing — The illustrations help them to picture what is going on in the text without getting discouraged.

    • Inferring — Having to "read" the images means that students would need to infer to understand the character, the character’s actions, and what’s going on in the setting.

    • Drawing conclusions — Putting all of the pieces together (words and images) to build comprehension supports the resistant reader.

    This was eye-opening for me. My students really did take the survey to heart and gave me some interesting information! Moving forward, I am going to look for more books to be paired with graphic novels. Who knows, maybe I will be able to "hook" some of my resistant/reluctant readers.

    Pearls of Wisdom — It's easy to get overwhelmed with paperwork. Remember to take a break and to re-energize. Giving yourself permission to take a moment for yourself. You will find that after having a quick break, you will have the energy to tackle the paperwork with a fresh set of eyes. Don't forget to ask for help or check in with a colleague who may need a helping hand!

    Do you have any tips to share on how you incorporate graphic novels in your classroom? Please share! I enjoy hearing ideas that make all of our lives easier!

    I try to keep a pulse on what my students are reading. Every year, with each new group of students comes a new set of interests. The English department at my school allocates funds for classroom libraries and I try to stay ahead of the curve. I try to anticipate the reading interests of my incoming class. I largely go with what is on the best-seller list, recommendations from the school librarian, and having conversations with my students.

    Last year I decided that I would order graphic novels for all levels of readers in my classroom. There was no rhyme or reason, I just decided that this particular genre needed some updating in my classroom library. Little did I know that this year’s incoming class would be the class to take to graphic novels the way a duck takes to water! I am noticing more and more of my students gravitating towards this genre.

    Since it was obvious that this group of kids had an affinity toward these books, I decided to survey them about how they were engaging with, and what their thoughts were about the genre. I would then use this information to help me figure out how I could best incorporate the use of these books into my lessons.

    I posed the following questions to my class and asked them to be very honest. More importantly, I stressed that their comments would be taken very seriously. For instance, It had not occurred to me to use them as a mentor text or for book clubs, but after seeing the huge interest in my classroom, I determined that these would be good ways to seamlessly integrate the books into the curriculum.

     

    Graphic Novel Survey Questions

    1. What is your favorite graphic novel and why?

    2. What advice would you give to teachers when it comes to students reading graphic novels in class?

    3. Do you think that reading graphic novels helps you to grow as a reader? Why or why not?

    4. What reading skills and strategies do you find yourself using when you read this genre?

    The results were very insightful. I thought that they would tell me that graphic novels were a quick read and it helps them fulfill their book reading requirements, but this was not the case. Instead, my students gave me some food for thought.

     

    Student Responses

    Favorite Series

    • The Bone Series was the overwhelming favorite for both girls and boys. Their responses ranged from great humor that has interesting characters, fascinating plot lines, and  the mixture of mystery and adventure rolled up into one.

     

    • Raina Telgemeier, who wrote Drama, Smile, and Sisters was the obvious favorite with the girls. As fast as these books are shelved, there is someone waiting in the wings to check them out. Students let me know they felt as if the author really understood the drama of middle school, making the sensitive subjects less painful to deal with, and really understood the “heart” of being a girl.

    • Other series that made the favorite list were Big Nate and Amulet. My students loved the humor in the Big Nate series and the adventure/mystery of the Amulet series.

     

    Advice to Teachers

    • Create reading contracts for students who only want to read graphic novels. For instance, for every graphic novel a student reads, they must read two other genres before reading the next graphic novel.

    • There is a lot of vocabulary in these books and kids have to use other strategies to understand what is going on in the story. So relax: kids are really reading!

    •  Using graphic novels is a great way to teach dialogue and the inner thinking of characters a story. Look at all of the speech bubbles that are used in these books!

    • Remember that students need to build their reading muscles because you must “read” the images to understand what is going on in the story.

    • Try to find more graphic novels that are adapted from “regular" books. Then kids at all levels can talk about what is going on in the book.

     

    Reading Skills/Strategies Used

    • Visualizing — The illustrations help them to picture what is going on in the text without getting discouraged.

    • Inferring — Having to "read" the images means that students would need to infer to understand the character, the character’s actions, and what’s going on in the setting.

    • Drawing conclusions — Putting all of the pieces together (words and images) to build comprehension supports the resistant reader.

    This was eye-opening for me. My students really did take the survey to heart and gave me some interesting information! Moving forward, I am going to look for more books to be paired with graphic novels. Who knows, maybe I will be able to "hook" some of my resistant/reluctant readers.

    Pearls of Wisdom — It's easy to get overwhelmed with paperwork. Remember to take a break and to re-energize. Giving yourself permission to take a moment for yourself. You will find that after having a quick break, you will have the energy to tackle the paperwork with a fresh set of eyes. Don't forget to ask for help or check in with a colleague who may need a helping hand!

    Do you have any tips to share on how you incorporate graphic novels in your classroom? Please share! I enjoy hearing ideas that make all of our lives easier!

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