I had the privilege of meeting and listening to Terry Thompson speak at the All Write!!! Summer Institute, this past week. Terry is the author of Adventures in Graphica - Using Comics and Graphic Novels to Teach Comprehension, 2-6. I have never used graphic novels or comic books, in my teaching experience. However, Terry made this process seem so common sense, that I would be a fool not to try it, especially since I work mainly with struggling readers. Listening to Terry speak, as well as reading his book, he had my full attention with his sense of humor and common sense information.
As stated by R. Sylvester, "emotion drives attention and attention drives learning." That's exactly what graphica does for some readers. It grabs their full attention and introduces them to literary conventions, that they may struggle to grasp in traditional novels. Terry Thompson, in Adventures in Graphica, says that, "because comics are engaging they often can perk up our passive readers and offer them the experience of what it feels like to be an active participant in the reading process - a feeling that regrettably, many of them have never had before."
I would just like to mention a couple aspects of this book that I found the most beneficial, for me. Having never read a comic before, in terms of using it for teaching, I was nervous about using them with students. In this book, Terry does a great job of explaining the parts of a comic and how he had used them in supplement with other texts. He does not recommend using graphica as a replacement text, but in a supplemental integrated way. In my experience, many students seem to struggle with the concepts of summary and inferring. After reading this book, I plan on using graphica to teach those concepts that tend to be complex for struggling readers. The narrative boxes, in graphica, provide a pop-out way for students to understand the summary of what they are reading. As for inferring, the white space between each panel, the gutter, is where they students practice this skill. Terry does a phenomenal job of going into detail about how to teach those two skills, as well as many others, while using graphica.
Another aspect of this book, that I found beneficial were the "translate the transfer" boxes. Terry goes into detail on how he used graphica for many different reasons in his classroom (struggling readers, vocabulary development, ELL students), but after the graphica lesson he explained how he would translate that lesson to a lesson using a traditional novel. I love how he makes the process so simple and user friendly!
If you are one of the "on the fence" educators in regards to using graphica, I highly suggest you to read this book! Terry had me hooked after the first 30 minutes of his presentation, and this book had me reeled in after the first page! This book also addresses the history and downfall of graphica, sites and publishers to access graphica and so many other common sense practices with the use of graphica.
Here's just a list of a few graphic novels I plan on purchasing for my classroom:
Owly by Andy Runton
Babymouse by Jennifer Holm
Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
A final recommendation, please review all forms of graphica BEFORE using them in your classroom. Terry Thompson goes into greater depth about this issue. Some forms of graphica are wrote for a more adult audience, using not only language, but pictures not appropriate for all ages.