Comics and graphic novels in the classroom? It’s true, but these aren’t your parents’ comic books that they snuck between the covers of their textbooks to read while the teacher lectured. Today, educators at all grade levels are incorporating comics and graphic novels into the classroom to enhance and promote student learning across the curriculum. However, we know that it may be difficult to see how these tools can enrich learning, so in this blog we’re going to take a look at what educational experts are saying about it. Let’s begin with Scholastic’s definition of “the graphic novel”:
In this context, the word “graphic” does not mean “adult” or “explicit.” Graphic novels are books written and illustrated in the style of a comic book. To be considered a graphic novel, rather than a picture book or illustrated novel, the story is told using a combination of words and pictures in a sequence across the page. Graphic novels can be any genre, and tell any kind of story, just like their prose counterparts. The format is what makes the story a graphic novel, and usually includes text, images, word balloons, sound effects, and panels.
With that in mind, let’s continue.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
The way we take in the world is changing as the world around us changes. Scholastic explains:
[Because] young people are growing up navigating narratives presented through websites, video games, television, films, and increasingly interactive media, learning and maintaining visual literacy is a necessary skill.
Visual literacy is defined as the ability to decode and understand information presented through images and media. Comics and graphic novels fall quite nicely into these categories, however at first glance, it’s easy to see nothing more than a few words in thought bubbles and colorful art. But let’s take a look at the comic medium in a different light. Again, from Scholastic:
[T]hey actually contain more advanced vocabulary than traditional books at the same age/grade/interest level. They require readers to be actively engaged in the process of decoding and comprehending a range of literary devices, including narrative structures, metaphor and symbolism, point of view, and the use of puns and alliteration, intertextuality, and inference.
When you read a comic or graphic novel, you may think you’re just looking at the photos, but you are most likely figuring out all of the elements necessary for understanding a text: sequencing, predicting, inferring, synthesizing, analyzing, and evaluating.
In fact, studies have shown that learning style, and intelligence, are not one-size-fits-all concepts. Some students actually learn better through images, and pictures can often be easier to understand than text. It’s also true that students have a better chance at learning when material is approached in multiple ways, and the illustrated texts are a great complement to the originals. For example, check out these illustrated classics — where were they when we were in school? Last but not least, comics are also effective tools for writers, reluctant or otherwise, and are fun when combined with journaling.
Keeping this in mind, it becomes clearer how using illustrated texts can be an effective addition to the curriculum, promoting high-level critical thinking skills in a way that is so fun and engaging that students may not even realize they’re being challenged.
Not all comics are created equal.
This is especially true when it comes to using illustrated texts in the classroom. Luckily, there are resources that assign appropriate age and reading levels to them. Click below to find information on graphic novels and comics that teach:
Does your child enjoy reading illustrated texts? Have comics or graphic novels helped your child better understand a topic? Let us know on our social media pages.