One Nation, Going
Or: Why I Love Using Graphic Novels in Class and You Should
• Draper, C.A., & Reidel, M. (2011). One Nation, Going Graphic:
Using graphic novels to promote critical literacy in social studies
classrooms. Ohio Social Studies Review, 47(2), 3-12.
About the Authors
• Christine Draper: Associate Professor of Teaching and Learning
at Georgia Southern University
• Interests: Children’s/young adult literature, pre-service teacher
education, literacy across the content areas, reading/writing workshop,
reader response theory, qualitative research
• Michelle Reidel: Associate Professor of Teaching and Learning
at Georgia Southern University
• Interests: Democratic education, social studies teacher education,
affective dimensions of teaching and learning
The gist of this article
• What are graphic novels?
• Why should I use graphic novels in class?
• How do I incorporate graphic novels into my class?
Graphic novels are:
• Fiction and nonfiction
• Self-contained stories presented in a comic book format (p. 4)
• Often tell the stories of people who have been marginalized
• Cheap (especially compared to textbooks!)
Why should I use graphic novels?
•70% of middle and high school students
read below the proficient level (National
Assessment of Educational Progress)
• This means they can decode text, but cannot understand, evaluate or
• 60% of middle and high school students read while watching tv
or using a computer (National Endowment for the Arts).
• What if I told you “Outside of school most adolescents engage
with a wide variety of multimodal texts such as the internet,
comics and film.” (p. 3)
• Adolescents use these tools to interpret their world and tell their
• But “these ‘everyday literacies’ are rarely recognized and
incorporated into our classroom practices.” (p. 4)
• Graphic novels provide a “bridge” between the print-based
classroom and the multimodal media environment outside it.
Hmm, interesting. But I’m still
• Consider: “An effective democratic society depends upon
citizens ensuring that civil liberties are protected and preserved,
as well as designing and implementing solutions to common
problems and concerns.”
• And: “Critical literacy practices are a vital dimension to effective
and meaningful citizenship…” (P. 9)
• But teachers aren’t teaching critical literacy
• If students aren’t learning how to critically engage in the
classroom, how can they become effective citizens?
• Graphic novels can help because they offer both visual and
verbal modes of communication, which scaffold the students’
comprehension. (p. 4)
Look at all the skills they teach:
• Interpret the connection
between text and graphics
• Identify and interpret events
that occur between visual
• Must pay attention to plot,
characters, dialogue, panel
layout, empty space, color,
angles and perspectives, and
text (p. 5)
• When you read a graphic novel, you must be actively engaged
But wait, there’s more!!!
• They provide support for English Language Learners
• And students with autism, who can use the visual clues to give
OK, sounds great!
• But how do I teach with them?
How to read a comic
• The words and pictures have equal importance
• But also!
• The layout of the page tells you just as much information
• I recommend Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott
McCloud for more
• 1. Consider what emotions you feel when viewing this panel
• 2. Write them down
• 3. Find a partner
• 4. Share what you felt, then work with your partner to identify
specific elements that affect your interpretation (shading,
placement of images, etc.) Why do you think the author chose
to present these elements this way? (p. 6)
Make Your Own
• Think about the panel, but redraw it from another person’s
perspective. How would that change the images and text?
• This type of activity challenges students to “talk back” to the
text, and shows them that “no text is ever neutral.” (p. 7)
Steps for teaching graphic novels
• 1. Select a topic where you think a graphic novel might be
• If a topic is very complex, graphic novels can help
• 2. Determine the length of the text
• 3. Model how to read a graphic novel
• 4. Structure the reading activity similar to other reading activities
• 5. conclude with an opportunity for students to process and
apply what they read (p. 8-9)
At last, our heroes learn…
• “Research indicates that reading comic books and graphic
novels acts as a gateway to more and varied reading.”
• “Graphic novels provide a framework to access, analyze,
evaluate, and create messages…and build the essential skills
of inquiry necessary for citizens in a democracy.” (p. 4)