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Megan English - Using Graphic Novels in Education

As a future teacher, the study of graphic novels constantly compels me to investigate how this unconventional form of literature can be used in the classroom.  Graphic novels appeal to a diverse range of students across gender, race, socio-economic status, background, and content area. Students are more easily engaged by graphic novels and more interested in their content.  Through this research I want to focus on three main concepts in regards to graphic novels and education.

First, how are graphic novels most effectively utilized in the classroom and throughout the school?
Graphic novels come in all shapes and sizes and cover a broad range of content.   Additionally, there are a number of graphic novels in existence for each academic content area.  While graphic novels that relate to English language arts, history, and the arts are most prominent, it is easy to find graphic novels that relate to chemistry and statistics.  Can graphic novels be most effectively used in each of the content areas or are they more useful in some than others?  Are some graphic novels that cover a range of subjects, such as The Watchmen, applicable to learning in a number of content areas?

Second, which skills does the reading of graphic novels most often employ?  How can I know which students they will be the most help to?
Literacy skills are required for success in each content area, and required by the reading of graphic novels.  By determining the skills that graphic novels most frequently employ, teachers can then suggest their use to students who are having trouble developing these skills.  Additionally, I think it would be helpful to determine if graphic novels help different students' learning in different ways.  By establishing these varied results that the reading of graphic novels yield, we could hopefully determine how to help a variety of students with their use.

Third, why are students so drawn to graphic novels?
Such a large number of students enjoy graphic novels, but what is it that draws them to these books?  Is it the characters that are already visually created on the page for the reader?  Are these characters easier for students to identify with?  Do the multiple formats in which the story is presented that appeal to different learning styles?  If the main source of inspiration is discovered for a range of students, then this can be used to create more engaging and effective lessons, hopefully improving the entirety of our current educational system.

Most importantly, I simply want to find out how I can best use graphic novels in my classroom.

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3 Comments

  1. Unknown User (mwf1)

    This is certainly an important topic.  I work for the afterschool program in the Perry elementary school and I can attest to the effectiveness of graphic novels there.  The school library has a large collection of retellings of classics such as Moby Dick and The Headless Horsemen in the form of graphic narratives.  I also think that graphic narratives have a great deal of potential to assist children with learning disabilities in reading.  This class has certainly helped to open up my mind to the different ways that graphic novels can be used, so maybe your essay can do the same for other future teachers not in the class.  I like that you posed your essay topic as more of an exploration of this topic than a set thesis.  I think that if you write the essay in this way you may even be able to include it in your portfolio to show your prospective employers some out of the box teaching methods.

  2. I really like how you're using this project as an opportunity to develop your pedagogy.  I agree with you that comics are immensely popular, and the time is long past where they can be dismissed as trash in comparison to literature, etc. -- it just doesn't get you anywhere.  I had a second-grade teacher who was in the first year of her job & whose lessons plans were MUCH too short for me: I'd get done in 10 minutes & start talking to friends.  What I remember most about that year is roaring through a stack of "Classics Illustrated" comics....As to the specific questions you raise, I think they're all good.  If you're not careful the paper might get a little diffuse (12 pp. ÷ 3 topics = 4 pp. per section, minus introduction), and so I'd recommend channeling your various concerns through a "case study" -- "Teaching Visual Literary: Moore's Watchmen" or something like that.  You might find an anthology by Donald McQuade called "Seeing and Writing" to be helpful for imagining how visual culture can be taught, and more generally research upon "visual rhetoric" grows out of a field that always was interested in the teaching of writing.  Might be a good fit.  Your biggest challenge will be to write Concrete-ly about a work or two without it devolving into the dreaded "lesson plan"; all of the more theoretical questions you ask in your abstract are worth retaining, and my only real concern is that you don't lose track of the essay as a whole.  Nice project!

  3. Unknown User (mkf2)

    I like your topic a lot, mainly because of how relevant it is. Depending on your findings, I think you have a real shot at exploring a subject that could tangibly effect your teaching style for the better. The subject of graphic novels in education is an intriguing one, and you seem to already have a specific layout in mind, which will make it even easier to organize your ideas and results. Because of this, I'm wary of suggesting too many new ideas, but you could think about researching already-existing lesson plans that have incorporated graphic novels into the teaching of various subjects. Overall, this seems like a great topic with a huge upside.