How Graphic Novels Help Students Develop Critical Skills

graphic novels and literacy

With Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe novels, the 18th century saw a new era in literature. They introduced something completely different: the notion that a common person’s pursuits and ideas could be important. This idea shattered the belief that books should be centered on people of high social worth and high ideals. Teachers and students are now at a familiar spot with a new kind of book: the graphic novel. Both students and teachers often wonder if graphic novels can be used in the classroom. Let’s look at their many benefits and how you can use them in your classroom.

Definition of the graphic novel

Graphic novels are similar to comic books in their layout, so those who are new to the genre might be confused. Comics can be serialized, meaning they are published over months, years, or even decades. Graphic novels on the other side have the same key components as traditional novels. They are full-length (over 100 pages), follow a common narrative path, and can be read as one story or a series. Graphic novels can be read by many generations, but they are not as popular as novels and comic series. Graphic novels, in other words, are a single narrative told through images and words. These graphic novels are often misunderstood as genres. They can be about any topic, and fall under any of the other genres.

The benefits of the graphic novel

Teachers of elementary and preschool have used illustrated texts for years with their students. However, educators should be cautious about introducing graphic novels to the upper grades. Many sources show the numerous benefits of graphic novels being introduced to the classroom.

Developing visual literacy skills

Graphic novels are a great way to teach visual literacy. The International Society for Technology in Education published an article on developing visual literacy. It pointed out that, while traditional novels require students to infer from the text, graphic novels allow students to develop literacy and inference skills when they interact with photographs, paintings, or other people.

These visual cues are also a lifeline for dyslexic readers. Students can understand the material by using multiple cues in a graphic novel. These include the illustrations that readers can look at for context clues and the emphasis (bold. italic. large font) throughout. Moving beyond words helps students meet their learning goals and develops new skills for all readers.

English Language Learners and reluctant readers: Engaging them

Graphic novels are often attractive to reluctant readers. These stories are visually stimulating and can help you understand a text better. Judd Winick states that graphic novels “allow the reluctant reader to slip into the story without having to do as much as prose might require.” They can also quickly develop literacy skills like general reading comprehension and inference as they jump into the narrative without having to deal with the structure of a traditional book.

Teachers are happy to give books with photos to primary students. These readers are similar to English Language Learners but they often learn English later in life. To make it easier for younger readers to learn text and images, why not give the same experience to secondary school students using graphic novels. The story is enhanced with images of the setting, characters, and structures to lighten the “heavy lifting” of language, protocols, and structures. These students will be able to fall in love with reading if educators remove the so many text barrier.

Low-pressure reading without a grade or any mandatory text attached can encourage a love for reading and improve reading skills. While encouraging students to continue reading the graphic novels that they love, teachers can also introduce text with fewer images and more words. Students learn more when they read.

The best graphic novels for reluctant readers are James Patterson’s middle school, the Worst Years of My Life, and the first book in a series on Rafe Khatchadorian who attempts to make school more exciting by breaking every rule. This title is engaging and funny and targets people who aren’t “smart children.” Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick is another great graphic novel. Selznick also wrote The Invention and Hugo Cabret. Selznick’s illustrated novels are full of beautiful artwork that draws readers in and allows for plenty of conversation and inference. These illustrated novels communicate more with images than words could. Raina Tegemeier’s graphic books, Drama, and smile share middle school perspectives on braces, first crushes, and fitting in. The text is delightfully colorful and has funny dialogue. What’s the best part? The best part?

How to use graphic novels within the classroom

The purpose and content of graphic novels can vary depending on their use in the classroom. These texts are useful in English Language Arts environments as they can be used to help students learn inference and elements of storytelling. Many classic texts such as William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens have graphic novels which can be used to make it easier for readers to access the content.

Science topics From dinosaurs to evolution, magnets to fractures are all available in a graphic novel format. This can be a great way to review or introduce key concepts. These graphic novels are powerful and can be used to connect with many social studies topics, including the Holocaust or the Revolutionary War.

Knowledge building for graphic novels

Graphic novels are not new to the literary world or classrooms. However, they might feel unfamiliar to some teachers. There are many resources available to help you implement these novels efficiently. NPR’s 100 favorite comics and graphic novels and Common Sense Media have book reviews and useful information for educators. Graphic novels can be used in any class, regardless of the content or who the student is.