October 5, 2011

Why I'm Using Graphic Novels

I've always resisted graphic novels. Even as a kid, I hated comic books. "It's not real reading." As I began to hear about people teaching with graphic novels I started to think that they might have a point, but I wasn't sure that using them would be any different than regular texts.
My classroom library has "real" books! :)
People seem to reference MOTIVATION as a major reason to use graphic novels, but most of my fifth graders are motivated by great books. Those that have trouble finding great books usually respond to what I read aloud or recommend to them. I usually have kids who are disappointed when it's time to STOP reading... So, the motivation argument didn't really work for me.

Then I read Bill Ferriter's blog post about teaching with graphic novels. He basically said the same things I'm saying, but much more thoughtfully. I thought, "Awesome! Someone I respect agrees with me. Maybe I'm not such a book snob after all!"

Then I read the comments to his post. They contained a lively discussion (to say the least) of people arguing against him. He posted some follow-ups and by the end of the whole thing, I was willing to try a graphic novels unit.

Just to see.

Since I wanted it to be meaningful. AND since I had NO CLUE what to do - I ordered a book. I chose Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom by Melissa Hart because it met my vision:

1. Learn HOW to read a graphic novel
2. Read a graphic novel
3. Write your own graphic novel

This week we started with part one. The ideas in the book were perfect. This week our lessons have used some prepared materials from the book paired with actual graphic novels.

The first lesson I did REALLY surprised me (I love when my kids surprise me!). I just passed out 1 graphic novel to each pair of students and asked, "What do you notice?" I noticed right away the about 80% of them had NEVER seen a graphic novel before - ever!

"Really! We can read this! Sweet!!"

Other topics of week, How to Read a Graphic Novel, have looked at:
* Differences & similarities between graphic novels & comic books
* Symbols. What are they? Let's find and discuss some. (ex: mountain = obstacle)
* Color as symbol. Let's discuss examples in all forms of media. (ex: white = innocence)
* Purposes of all the bubble types in a graphic novel
* Perspective
* Artist and author choices
* Inferring from details
* Characterization

Basically - I've been amazed at how much deep critical thinking we've done so far. Our discussions about characters, inferring, and symbols have been especially powerful. Isn't this what we all hope to do with our readers?

Next week the students will actually READ a graphic novel of their choosing and do some in depth analysis. They're excited. And I'm excited too.

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