When thinking about valuable texts to use to develop a rich curriculum, classic literature, news articles, textbooks, and poems typically come to mind. But an excellent resource that has been hiding in the shadows like Batman for far too long is finally getting the recognition it deserves: graphic novels.
Graphic novels are extremely beneficial to support learning in classrooms. First, students have to use the same reading skills to understand a graphic novel that they would use for a short story, informational text, or play. They still have to make inferences and predictions and use context clues. In addition, analyzing specific frames, art styles, and pages is a great way to develop students’ close reading skills. Second, the visuals within graphic novels make the text more accessible for struggling readers. Graphic novel versions of classic literature have helped students better understand the language and themes of challenging texts. Third, research has shown that reading graphic novels develops empathy. Reading about someone’s tragic life experience, for example, is one way to feel for that person, but actually seeing what he/she experienced and the emotion on his/her face adds an additional layer. Finally, students find graphic novels engaging. To get a sense of this engagement, one only needs to look at the biggest hits in pop culture today: superhero blockbuster films, The Walking Dead, and many, many more. The time is now to start exploring using graphic novels in the classroom.
Teachers throughout the region came together on April 26th to do just that. After a regional survey to educators, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, a graphic novel that depicts the experiences of the author’s father during the Holocaust, was selected to be used in the development of a curriculum kit. Facilitated by CABOCES Staff Specialists Cece Fuoco and Brendan Keiser, educators first brainstormed a list of essential questions that a unit could explore through Maus. These questions served as the foundation of our curriculum unit. From there, educators searched for videos, activities, news articles, interviews, images, and a variety of other resources that a teacher could use to help students be able to answer the essential questions. Over forty resources were found and uploaded into a Moodle page. These educators will meet again on May 17th to finish completing the kit. In the end, we are anticipating enough resources and over twenty lesson plans to support a four-week curriculum unit that educators throughout Cattaraugus and Allegany counties can check out from SNAP. The kit will include class copies of both Maus Volume 1 and Volume 2, two copies of MetaMaus (a text that provides in-depth knowledge about Maus), and all of the curriculum resources developed.
If you are interested in participating in this exciting collaborative effort, please feel free to register for the May 17th session, as well as the two-part July 11th and August 17th sessions that will be developing a curriculum kit on graphic novel versions of Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth.
By: Brendan Keiser, CA BOCES Professional Development