Using Cartoons, Comics, and
Graphic Novels in the
Classroom
Quinn Rollins
2013
About Me…


I was raised in
the 70’s and
80’s on a steady
diet of cartoons
Comic Strips


The only part of
the paper that
mattered was
the comics page
My Career




In my “previous life,”
I was a cartoonist
for the University of
Utah
I was also a toy
designer for
Palisad...
Impact on Teaching
In my social studies
teaching, I often
use political
cartoons, comic
strips, comic book
characters, and...
Political Cartoons







Published in
newspapers
or online
About
current
events
Useful for
class
discussions
Comic Strips






Serialized or
stand-alone
Published in
newspapers or
online
Useful for cause
& effect,
character ana...
Comic Books


Serialized or
stand-alone



Superheroes



Independent



Good for key
ideas, character
mapping
Graphic Novels


Self-contained
books



Developed
characters



Varied settings



Often address a
social issue
Why use Graphic Novels?




Can help promote
complex reading
skills
Can play a role
similar to children’s
literature
Why use Graphic Novels?






Point of reference
to bridge what
students already
know with what they
have yet to learn
...
Why use Graphic Novels?


Use as another kind of pop
culture
• Can address curriculum
standards
• Motivate students to
le...
What makes it a Graphic Novel?


Structure

• Beginning, middle, end
• Climax



Character

• Main character develops

t...
Graphic Novel as a Tool

“For students who lack the ability to visualize as
they read, it provides a graphic sense that
ap...
Graphic Novels as a Tool
“The brain…is a meaning-maker, constantly
searching for patterns, connecting bits of
new informat...
Other ways to use Graphic Novels
Use wordless
graphic novels to
teach dialogue,
characterization,
voice and other
literary...
Other ways to use Graphic Novels


Emphasize critical
literacy – analyze,
read, and understand
the motive of the
author a...
Other ways to use Graphic Novels
Students are more capable
of understanding complex
issues than they’re capable
of accessi...
Using Graphic Novels
They give the teacher an opportunity to
bring youth culture into the classroom.
We care about their i...
Things to watch out for…
Adaptations
They should be used as supplements, not
replacements for the original text.
Things to watch out for…


Superheroes

• Most superhero graphic novels assume the

reader has encyclopedic knowledge
• A...
Things to watch out for…
The same tools you use for analyzing
other literature can (and should) be
used for graphic novels...
Things to watch out for…


Content
•
•
•
•

Language
Violence
Sex
Alignment to curriculum
A Few More Recommendations:
American Born Chinese
Structure
Setting
Characters
Plot
Theme
Artwork
American Born Chinese
How does the structure of American Born
Chinese impact the reader?
How would the structure influence...
American Born Chinese
Characters:
Monkey King
Jin Wang
Danny
Chin-Kee
American Born Chinese
Conflict:
Monkey King / Gods
Jin Wang / Wei-Chen
Danny / Chin-Kee
American Born Chinese
Themes:
Prejudice
Racism
Acceptance
Immigration
Self-Knowledge
Assimilation
American Born Chinese
How does the artwork underscore the
message of the text?
How would a different style of artwork
chan...
Conclusions
Graphic Novels and Comics are seeing a
surge in popularity among young
readers, and can be a powerful tool wit...
And yes, I still like
“SuperFriends.”
Using Cartoons, Comic Books and Graphic Novels in the Classroom
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Some tips, tricks, and warnings about using Cartoons, Comic Books and Graphic Novels in the secondary classroom, featuring "American Born Chinese" by Gene Luen Yang.

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Using Cartoons, Comic Books and Graphic Novels in the Classroom

  1. 1. Using Cartoons, Comics, and Graphic Novels in the Classroom Quinn Rollins 2013
  2. 2. About Me…  I was raised in the 70’s and 80’s on a steady diet of cartoons
  3. 3. Comic Strips  The only part of the paper that mattered was the comics page
  4. 4. My Career   In my “previous life,” I was a cartoonist for the University of Utah I was also a toy designer for Palisades Toys
  5. 5. Impact on Teaching In my social studies teaching, I often use political cartoons, comic strips, comic book characters, and graphic novels.
  6. 6. Political Cartoons    Published in newspapers or online About current events Useful for class discussions
  7. 7. Comic Strips    Serialized or stand-alone Published in newspapers or online Useful for cause & effect, character analysis
  8. 8. Comic Books  Serialized or stand-alone  Superheroes  Independent  Good for key ideas, character mapping
  9. 9. Graphic Novels  Self-contained books  Developed characters  Varied settings  Often address a social issue
  10. 10. Why use Graphic Novels?   Can help promote complex reading skills Can play a role similar to children’s literature
  11. 11. Why use Graphic Novels?    Point of reference to bridge what students already know with what they have yet to learn Making inferences from pictures + text Transfer this skill to lessen the challenge of a new book
  12. 12. Why use Graphic Novels?  Use as another kind of pop culture • Can address curriculum standards • Motivate students to learn • Enhance learning • Provide additional opportunities for those who struggle with literacy tasks
  13. 13. What makes it a Graphic Novel?  Structure • Beginning, middle, end • Climax  Character • Main character develops through conflicts  Artwork • Text is both written and visual • Each picture aids in interpretation of the text
  14. 14. Graphic Novel as a Tool “For students who lack the ability to visualize as they read, it provides a graphic sense that approximates what good readers do as they read.” “ …it provides an excellent way for reluctant writers to communicate a story that has a beginning, middle and end.” “…easy for the students to look at a short comic strip and identify story elements.” -- Rachael Sawyer Perkins
  15. 15. Graphic Novels as a Tool “The brain…is a meaning-maker, constantly searching for patterns, connecting bits of new information to old, fashioning wholes from parts and parts from wholes. It’s also shamelessly self-centered. The brain makes sense of the world in terms of personal learner needs.” -- Stephen Cary
  16. 16. Other ways to use Graphic Novels Use wordless graphic novels to teach dialogue, characterization, voice and other literary functions
  17. 17. Other ways to use Graphic Novels  Emphasize critical literacy – analyze, read, and understand the motive of the author and accuracy of the reading
  18. 18. Other ways to use Graphic Novels Students are more capable of understanding complex issues than they’re capable of accessing traditional texts. Graphic novels can reduce cognitive load, while still portraying sophisticated concepts.
  19. 19. Using Graphic Novels They give the teacher an opportunity to bring youth culture into the classroom. We care about their interests - They contribute something of value - Students see us as fellow learners (their ability to read these texts usually exceeds that of the teacher) -
  20. 20. Things to watch out for… Adaptations They should be used as supplements, not replacements for the original text.
  21. 21. Things to watch out for…  Superheroes • Most superhero graphic novels assume the reader has encyclopedic knowledge • Are more implausible than “real world” graphic novels • Characters might be well-known through movies or other media
  22. 22. Things to watch out for… The same tools you use for analyzing other literature can (and should) be used for graphic novels - Graphic Organizers - Character Maps - Sequencing - Webs - Compare/Contrast
  23. 23. Things to watch out for…  Content • • • • Language Violence Sex Alignment to curriculum
  24. 24. A Few More Recommendations:
  25. 25. American Born Chinese Structure Setting Characters Plot Theme Artwork
  26. 26. American Born Chinese How does the structure of American Born Chinese impact the reader? How would the structure influence how you might teach the novel?
  27. 27. American Born Chinese Characters: Monkey King Jin Wang Danny Chin-Kee
  28. 28. American Born Chinese Conflict: Monkey King / Gods Jin Wang / Wei-Chen Danny / Chin-Kee
  29. 29. American Born Chinese Themes: Prejudice Racism Acceptance Immigration Self-Knowledge Assimilation
  30. 30. American Born Chinese How does the artwork underscore the message of the text? How would a different style of artwork change the book?
  31. 31. Conclusions Graphic Novels and Comics are seeing a surge in popularity among young readers, and can be a powerful tool with students Gaining academic acceptance is an uphill battle with parents and some administrators Don’t sacrifice rigor because “it’s only a comic book”
  32. 32. And yes, I still like “SuperFriends.”
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