Our Top 6 Classroom Resources for Comics and Graphic Novels
Whether you're a teacher or just someone interested in getting into comics, I can't stress enough that they can offer something to a wide range of readers. I recently read Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios, and felt it really stretched me: it demanded my full attention, used narration sparingly and presented me with richly detailed illustrations. I felt I was constantly trying to assimilate the detail in the illustrations with those in the text - nothing was made obvious in the exposition and I had to work hard to form conclusions about the characters.
I loved Pretty Deadly because of how hard it made me work. By the end, I felt completely immersed in the story and confident that my experience with it had been totally unique because of how much I'd been asked to bring to the table as a reader.
Graphic novels can provide a way into absorbing, exciting and often complex narratives for less-confident readers
Graphic novels can stretch us, but they can also provide a way into absorbing, exciting and often complex narratives for readers who are less confident at making meaning from text. Take Shaun Tan's The Arrival (ok, technically a picture book rather than a graphic novel) which is completely wordless. No one I know would even suggest that The Arrival is anything but a rich and complex book.
Sometimes, though, it's fine to see comics as simply being easier to grasp than extended prose, because that can absolutely be true, as Adam Murphy points out in his fantastic blog series Comics in the Classroom. And that provides a nice segway into a list of our top resources for educators who want to introduce graphic novels into their classroom. Check them out and give them a try!
Graphic novel creators Metaphrog have written this fantastic, in-depth guide to support our graphic novel competition for the 2017 Scottish Teenage Book Prize. It covers all the stylistic decisions a comic creator needs to make and encourages pupils to think hard about how they want to convey character, setting and atmosphere. The resource focuses on how to adapt an existing scene from a novel, to help pupils understand the different things a graphic novel creator needs to think about compared to a novel writer. However, you could easily use many of the activities to help pupils write completely original stories too.
Adam Murphy is the author of CorpseTalk, a brilliant collection of shorts for young children that introduces them to the lives of famous historical figures. In this fascinating blog series, Adam presents a mixture of intriguing theory and concrete practice, proposing ideas about how comics interact with our brains and then moving on to explore how they can be used in the classroom. The series finishes with some great recommendations for different age groups.
Metaphrog's resource encourages pupils to think hard about how they want to convey character, setting and atmosphere
Robin and Lorenzo Etherington have worked on the Angry Birds app and Transformers comics, but their best work is in their own comic books, like Monkey Nuts and Baggage, as well as their contributions to The Phoenix comic for children. In this recorded event, the hilarious duo give some of their best writing tips. Although it might sometimes feel as if you're watching a very child-friendly version of the Mighty Boosh, there are some absolute gems of tips in here, and we've got a learning resource to support the event too.
This specially commissioned graphic novel for S1-3 on the life of conservationist John Muir is available as a free download from our site, accompanied by lots of handy learning resources to help you use the novel to explore conservation and environmental issues with your pupils. We also have Skint!, a graphic novel about money management, and Walk the Walk, which tackles themes of sectarianism. These graphic novels are ostensibly aimed at adult learners, but we'd definitely recommend checking them out to see if they might be right for your pupils too.
Adam presents a mixture of intriguing theory and concrete practice, discussing how comics interact with our brains and can be used in the classroom
As part of her blog series, Apps for Literacy, technology and libraries consultant Bev Humphrey provided this cracking list of digital reads for various age groups. As well as comics to read, there's also an app to help children make their own comics. Be sure to check out the rest of the series too!
We've got a wide range of lists on graphic novels, as well as this list of picture books for older readers. Think something should be added to one of these lists? Leave a comment and let us know.
We've got a fantastic graphic novel event coming up in our free Authors Live programme with the author and translator of Alpha, a graphic novel about a refugee's journey. You can sign up to watch it here!