- Grade Band
- Estimated Lesson Time
- From Theory to Practice
- Student Objectives
- Instructional Plan
- Instruction and Activities
- Student Assessment/Reflections
POW! ZAP! BLAM! The proliferation, popularity and acceptance of graphic novels in American culture increases annually. This is a unit or topic introductory classroom lesson teachers can use to help students develop important background knowledge of the genre and prompt them to consider how and why it has made significant inroads into the literacy lives of adolescents. Teachers can use this activity to expose students to a variety of internet information sources about graphic novels, their historical roots in comics, their popularity, characteristics and creators. It can be used as a stand alone lesson or as part of a unit on the genre or on American popular culture. The lesson is designed to (a) promote critical thinking about the genre and how its unique features are utilized to convey information (b) prompt student reflection and conversation about the genre, some of its more notable creators, and the debate about its contributions to literacy.
160 minutes (2 class sessions for 80 minutes or four 40 minute class sessions)
From Theory to Practice
Schwartz, Gretchen E. (2002). “Graphic Novels for Multiple Literacies”. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 46, 262-265.
- Graphic novels offer value, variety, and a new medium for literacy that acknowledges the impact of visuals…appeal to young people, are useful across the curriculum, and offer diverse alternatives to traditional texts as well as other mass media.
- In any subject area, studying graphic novels can bring media literacy into the curriculum as students examine the medium itself.
- An important benefit of graphic novels is that they present alternative views of culture, history, and human life in general in accessible ways, giving voice to minorities and those with diverse viewpoints.
The students will:
- access, view, and glean key information about graphic novels as a genre from specific sites on the Internet related to the topic
- make observations and form their own opinions about graphic novels that reflect thoughtful examination and consideration of each site’s content
- share their questions, observations and thoughts about the sites they visited and the topic they explored with fellow class members in both oral and written/graphic forms.
Resources: Items students and teachers will need to complete all tasks for this lesson are as follows:
- The “Graphic Novel” entry from Wikipedia
- Graphic Novel Exploration Activity (at end of this lesson outline). If possible, it would be best to have students come to this site and use the document so they can quickly navigate to the sites linked in the document or move it to a shared folder where they have easy access to it.
- The Comic Creator Interactive Tool from the ReadWriteThink site
- Chart/Butcher Paper
The teacher should review the Wikipedia entry and the various websites in order to be familiar with the look and content of the items. The teacher should render a large six-panel comic strip outline like the one on the Comic Creator interactive tool from the RWT Website on the butcher paper, and hang that on a wall of the classroom for later use (after students have finished items 1-8 on the Exploration). Teachers should also familiarize themselves with the Comic Creator tool in advance. The teacher could distribute the Graphic Novel Exploration activity page to individuals or pairs of students depending on the number of computers available.
Instruction and Activities:
- Before students begin the exploration activities, all class members should pull up the Wikipedia entry and read through this general information together as a common starting point for all. The teacher should also make reference to the large comic strip panels on the butcher paper and explain that the class will use those to do a rough example version of what they will be doing individually with the interactive Comic Creator tool for the last item of the lesson. Students should also be taken through the Graphic Novel Exploration activity sheet and given an opportunity to ask questions for clarification and confirmation of comprehension prior to completing that activity.
- Once the class actually pulls up the Wikipedia entry and starts to read through it, they should make sure to click on the hypertext links to the terms “comics,” “comic book” and “Will Eisner”. Again, this will just create a common starting point for all and give them broad, general background knowledge.
- Students should then be given the Graphic Novels Exploration sheet and begin working through it. If the class is on a block schedule, students should be able to work their way through items 1-6 in one period. Then finish up items 7 & 8 at the beginning of the next class period, have orientation to the RWT Comic Creator interactive tool and work together on a class example so they can finish their own comic for independent work. If they are on a 40 or 50 minute class schedule, have class members work through items 1-4 the first class period and 5-8 the following class period. Then do the tool orientation and class example in the third class period. During the fourth session they can finish up the class example and begin working on their individual ones.
- When all class members have completed the Exploration Activity, they will orally discuss some of the responses they gave to items on the sheet. Next, have them go to the Comic Creator interactive tool on the RWT site. Give them orientation to the site by showing them the Comic Strip Planning Sheet, and using the six large panels drawn on the chart/butcher paper as a model, rough out an example version together incorporating some of the information they just shared. Assign item 9, giving them a deadline of at least a class period from the one in which they finish the exploration and its follow-up activities to complete it, print it out and be prepared to share it with their classmates.
Students could read one another’s six-panel products and give feedback and suggestions for improving the presentation of the information.
Students could create miniature autobiographical graphic novels or mini-comic books.
Students could choose a particular graphic novel to read and then write up a review of it in visual narrative format.
Successful Navigation to and through the various sites
Completed Exploration Activity Responses
Completed Six Panel Strip highlighting key information students have learned
Teacher observation and anecdotal notes on class sharing discussion