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Students absolutely love graphic novels, which makes it all the more important to incorporate them into your current curriculum. With graphic novels, you’ll not only engage your reluctant readers and help build important reading skills, you’ll provide advanced readers a wonderful opportunity to think critically about a new form of storytelling—one that combines the most important elements of traditional novels, picture books, poetry, and even film in a new and captivating way!

When building graphic novels into your current curriculum, there are a few things you should keep in mind. This guide to teaching graphic novels is a wonderful resource if you’re just getting started and will help you choose the best titles to introduce in your classroom. Whether you’re hoping to improve your students’ reading development, build vocabulary, or use graphic novels across subjects, here are five tips to making adding graphic novels to your teaching toolbox even more effective.

Highlight the visuals and focus on format
When introducing graphic novels to your students for the first time, encourage readers to focus on the format and how all the visual elements come together to help tell the story. They should consider the size and shape of the panels and how they fit together; how dialogue is used and shared; sound effects and how they’re layered through the story; and of course, the overall visual style of the graphic novel. Is the art realistic? How does the illustrator use color to show emotion?

Pair with traditional works of literature to teach literary themes
Just like their literary cousins, graphic novels often feature the same important themes other traditional works of literature employ. Graphic novels are also a great lead-in or follow-up to teaching classics and contemporary novels, especially for students who have trouble engaging with more traditional forms of literature. Bone, an epic adventure in the same vain as The Odyssey is a great pick to complement lessons on mythology. Other titles like Smile, Drama, and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier captivate young readers by exploring themes of belonging and fitting in—themes made popular by contemporary classics like Wonder and Fast Break.

Use graphic novels to inspire creative writing
The old writing adage, “Show, don’t tell,” is definitely on display in graphic novels—that’s why series like Dog Man and The Bad Guys are such great books to read before students dive into creative writing projects. Whether you task students to craft new endings for their favorite graphic novels or develop new characters or dialogue for existing stories they love, graphic novels are a great way to fuel your students’ creative writing instincts.

Use graphic novels as a steppingstone
For younger readers, graphic novels are perfect for helping students transition from picture books to chapter books. They teach important reading skills and give students a wonderful opportunity to reflect on common literary themes and empathize with characters. Graphic novels also shouldn’t be limited to English and language arts. Science, social studies, and art instruction are areas where graphic novels can help introduce students to new subject matter and provide an introduction to important lessons from history, STEM, and more!

Adored by students of all ages, graphic novels are a tool every teacher should use to help develop the next generation of readers. They not only motivate students to read, they support learning in your classroom and help your students develop the skills they need to read and comprehend even more challenging works of literature.

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