Comic Books in the Classroom: all the rage?

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We knew it! Barely a week after looking at comics as teaching aids, The New York Times is back with a freaking EDITORIAL saying how great comics are as teaching aids:

The point is not to drop a comic book on a child’s desk and say: “read this.” Rather, the workshops give groups of students the opportunity to collaborate on often complex stories and characters that they then revise, publish and share with others in their communities.

Teachers are finding it easier to teach writing, grammar and punctuation with material that students are fully invested in. And it turns out that comic books have other built-in advantages. The pairing of visual and written plotlines that they rely on appear to be especially helpful to struggling readers. No one is suggesting that comic books should substitute for traditional books or for standard reading and composition lessons. Teachers who would once have dismissed comics out of hand are learning to exploit a genre that clearly has a powerful hold on young minds. They are using what works.


Is this some kind of new obsession at the comics-loving New York Times. See also these letters commenting on the original piece. [Last link via Kids' Comics]

Comments

  1. R. Maheras says:

    I think it’s great that the New York Times is advocating using comics to stoke the creatives fires of young people.

    The thing that got me drawing beyond the stick-figure stage was weekly composition assignments in the sixth grade that had to be accompanied by a story-related illustration. At the time, I was an avid comic book reader, and a short time after that school year ended, I started drawing comics in earnest. That was 40 years ago, and I’m STILL drawing comics.

    A few weeks ago, my brother showed one of my young nieces some comics I had self-published years ago. On her own, she then decided to draw her own comic, “Sandman vs. Waterman,” and proudly showed it to me this past Christmas Eve.

    I don’t know why, but there’s something about comics that gets the creative juices flowing in some people — especially young people. And if comics helps kids read more and create, every educator should look at using comics in the classroom (appropriate for the age group they are teaching, of course).

  2. The Blade in Toledo ran a similar editorial a few days back…

    http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071231/OPINION02/712310306/-1/OPINION

  3. Over the past year and a half my store has been working with several teachers from various local schools in providing comics to them. We offer 100 copies (total) from Free Comic Book Day to each teacher to give out, and we give a healthy discount to teachers on trades that they store in their classroom, many of the teachers have to pay for the books themselves. In fact this past year I ran a table at a ‘Writing in the classroom’ workshop that a friend of mine was keynote speaker at. Her speech was on comics in the classroom and I did a brisk business after the speech. There is another Teacher Convention coming up in March/April here in Indianapolis that looks to have over 1500-2000 state teachers there, and we plan on being there.

  4. Aspiring graphic novelists and comics creators could start their careers by working with educational institutions, to create material that’s educational but very entertaining. I wrote about this topic in my blog, though I’m not sure if what I propose merit value to creators.

    http://thecomicscreator.blogspot.com/2007/12/another-source-of-stories-2.html

    With the NYT’s notable attention to graphic novels, creators would do well to see how they can get involved.

  5. sunny says:

    What really stunned me was my mom ( I do not know why she reads Fox News, I really wish she didn’t) sent me this link to a FoxNews story on comics in the classroom, who would have thought?
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,269913,00.html?sPage=fnc.national/education

  6. Torsten Adair says:

    Barnes & Noble offers an Educator’s Discount for K-12 teachers. While I ring their purchases, I always ask what they teach, and if they use comics. Most do.
    There has been a strong graphic novel presence at the American Library Association conventions. Public and school librarians have discovered that GNs circulate perpetually. Libraries use reviews as a selection tool, which help the medium gain credibility among the literate public. It’s a quiet revolution.

  7. The only thing that’s particularly challenging about using comics in the classroom is finding the ones that won’t arouse parent ire. (A teacher in a nearby town was asked to resign from the high school due to a comic that had too much sexual content for the parent of the fourteen year old girl to whom he gave it.) I recently helped add titles that are low-violence, no-nudity, no-sex (but sexual tension ok, I assume) for a Catholic middle-school/high-school librarian. There are some great obvious titles out there, but in manga particularly it’s hard to identify quickly the titles that will fit those three factors *and* be of interest to a teen audience. I ended up recommending far more independent titles, because they seem to be easier to identify as single entites.

  8. Comics are also routinely used to teach English to non-native speakers. When I taught children in Turkey and Taiwan, the most popular textbooks would use a comic strip as the basis for the entire lesson.

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