Check out this awesome resource for teaching graphic novels in the classroom! Comics in Education hosts a plethora of ideas on how to incorporate one of my favorite mediums into your daily lessons. Check out the categories on the right side of the webpage to narrow your search. You might find something new about comics like I did! Did you know Graphic Poetry was a thing? Gotta give a big thanks to Comics in Education for reviewing my graphic novel lessons, and I thought I'd repost my video for your perusal.  Throw Back Tuesday, ya'll! (I know, I know, it's supposed to be Throwback Thursday...)

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Click on "Calamity Jack" to watch my video about teaching graphic novels in the classroom!

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View this text as a Google Doc.

The Arrival (MS/HS)

Pass out Handout 1 – During Reading


Discussion Questions

  • Why aren’t words used in The Arrival? What effect does this have on the reader?

  • Is The Arrival a colorful book? In what way? When and why does the color change? What effect does the use of color have on the overall reading experience?

  • The city the immigrant arrives in isn’t real, but what sort of a city is it? Is it meant to suggest a contemporary or a historical place? In what way does it suggest that place?

  • How is visual metaphor used? Are the immigrants who tell their stories really running from giants with vacuums or through vast mazes? What are these things meant to represent? Why do you think the main character left his own homeland?

Create your own Panels (put on back of Handout1) (Daily Assignment) Lesson from ?

  • Telling a story without words. To demonstrate how narrative operates in its most stripped-down form, have each student illustrate the following story: A man (or woman) is hurrying to catch a train. He runs. He runs faster. He runs faster still. He either boards the train or misses it. He reacts to his success or failure.

  • Students must tell the story in six panels (no more and no less). They can use body language, facial expressions, color, and symbols such as speed lines, but they cannot use words. When everyone is finished, compare the ways the completed stories show the character’s various actions and final reaction.

  • Depicting emotion and action. The following two activities give students an understanding of the various ways emotion and action can be portrayed. When the drawings are completed, ask the group to discuss the artists’ chosen perspective and style.

1. Have each student draw five different depictions of “sad.” They can use facial expressions, body language, words, color, or metaphor (i.e., a wilted flower), but each image must be limited to a single panel.

2. Have each student draw three different depictions of a character jumping. The jumps can be small or large, up, down, or from one surface to another (one roof to the next over a sprawling cityscape). The students can use words, color, symbols, etc., but each depiction must be limited to two panels (for instance, the beginning of the jump and the end of it).

Adapted from: http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/case-graphic-novels-education

The Arrival

Student’s Name: _________________________  Class period: _________________

Teacher’s Name: ___________________________

What are you seeing on the pages? Please take notes on these traits as we read the story.

Panel Style, Shape, Size

Visual Appeal

Illustrations: Type, style, line, movement

Other Notes and Observations

Persepolis (HIGH SCHOOL)

After Reading Persepolis in lit groups, have students discuss the following questions.

  • Even though Marjane’s life is very different than yours, what common threads do you see in comparing your childhood?

  • What section of the book was the most shocking to your group?

  • What do you think of the cartoonish drawing style she used to display her life?


Reflection and Evaluation:

  • Have students exchange and read each other’s graphic narratives evaluating them for the requirements.

  • Students should also leave at least 2 positive comments.

Note: World History teachers can add a lot more of their curriculum content to this lesson by comparing Iranian childhoods to other cultures.

Lesson adapted from: http://www.graphicclassroom.com/?p=266

Comic ideas from: http://mashable.com/2010/10/24/create-your-own-comics/

Rapunzel’s Revenge/Calamity Jack (ES/MS/HS)

Teaching Ideas

I love how complex Jack and the Beanstalk became simply by changing the setting and modifying the characters. I’d like to share this with my students and then have them create their own fractured fairytale graphic novels in groups.  Each group could have an art director, author(s), artist, and pencil artist. Groups would be given fairytales, settings, and character ideas and then they could work together to create their mash-up masterpiece!

Formula from the author’s webpage (http://www.squeetus.com/stage/jack_begin.html):

  1. Take a fairy tale (i.e. Rapunzel, Jack)

  2. Change the setting (i.e. from woodsy, quasi-European landscape to desert-y, quasi-American Wild West)

  3. In the first 1/4th of the book, retell the fairy tale, allowing the story to alter with the setting

  4. Then, set the story loose, infusing it with both fairy tale elements as well as big Hollywood-style movie elements.

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale (MS/HS)

Good teaching resources: Even though this is for a community college, I could see Pre-AP middle school and regular high school students having success with these lessons: http://www.lagcc.cuny.edu/maus/teachmaus.htm

Lesson for ELLs: http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/making-visual-students-teaching-1178.html

More ideas for teaching Maus in the classroom: http://www.webenglishteacher.com/spiegelman.html

Detailed Lesson for Chapters 1-3:


The Photographer (HS)

This mixed media nonfiction book chronicles a photographer’s journey to Afghanistan to chronicle a Doctors Without Borders Mission.  My favorite thing about this book is that it mixes Didier’s film strips and photographs with drawings by Guibert.  A third author helps weave the narrative that surrounds the pictures.  It is a deep, graphic, and moving piece about the young photojournalists naive ideas about Afghanistan as he struggles to survive the harsh surroundings.   Some images and content are quite disturbing, so the book is best suited for upper middle school and high school.

This book would make a great intro to a PBL.  After reading this book, students could take another piece of history from their curriculum and create their own mixed media piece detailing the life of a figure during that time period.  Students should mix researched photographs with their own creative writing to teach others about the culture and time period of the country they’ve decided to research.

Romeo and Juliet (HS)

Having taught RJ to freshmen for the last 5 years, I needed something to spice up the unit.  This Graphic Novel is awesome because it retains some of the old language and mixes it with language students can understand.  The visual portrayal of these young lover’s ever changing emotions is priceless!  Because it is a play and it is complicated, I like to teach it with different mediums.  I usually start the unit with students acting out the first scene.  We read it in class reader’s theater style twice and then act it out in our school’s courtyard for the third reading.  Then we listen to the first/second act while following along in our textbook, stopping to compare the scene where they meet with the Leonardo Dicaprio movie.  The rest of the acts we read with the graphic novel.  It really helps my ELL students to understand it better.  If you were able to procure other No Fear Shakespeare graphic novels, it would be great to use these for literature circles and then have the kids tableaux the main scenes in each play.

Baby Mouse (ES)/Squish (ES)/Lunch Lady (ES) - Literature Circles

For elementary I would introduce the concept of graphic novels and then have them read these gems in literature circles to increase reading comprehension.  Teach the students about graphic novel basics like speech bubbles(dialogue!), panels, and even theme.  Students can read these great books and even learn about the archetype for heroes.  Have students find the recurring visual theme in each book and have them meet to discuss the books as they would for regular literature circles.  More info and resources on Lit Circles here:  http://www.lauracandler.com/strategies/litcircles.php

I’ve done lit circles in many different ways.  I’ve passed out role sheets for HW and then had students meet to discuss.  I’ve given them specific assignments the day they came in for meetings, but my favorite and most effective way was by combining literature circle norms with Jeff Wilhelm’s Action Strategies for Deepening Comprehension.   For management purposes, I would film one group during each meeting and review the video for engagement.

Sample Lit Group Activities:

Meeting One- Lunch Lady

  1. Students meet and use role sheets* to facilitate discussions (15 min.)

  2. Role Play Activity: Flashback Drama: Students imagine and represent what happened before a story or scene, identifying possible causes and background.

Imagine what Lunch Lady was doing before she became a lunch lady.  Why do you think she became a lunch lady? Prepare a speech by her about why she loves her job and act it out for the class.

    3. **Turn in role logs with your opening scene.**

Meeting Two:

  1. Students meet and use role sheets* to facilitate discussions (15 min.)

  2. Role Play Activity: Choral Montage

    1. Students can write between students about the lunch lady and then cull lines from these notes to wrote a poem about the book.  They will perform it as a group for the rest of the class.

  3. **Turn in role logs, notes from students, and choral poem**

Meeting Three:

  1. Students meet and use role sheets* to facilitate discussions (15 min.)

  2. Role Play Activity: Missing Scene Drama- Students notice a missing scene, infer, and fill this textual gap.

    1. What significant experiences are missing from this reading? Create the missing scene and act it out for the class.

  3. **Turn in role logs, and missing scene**

Meeting Four:

  1. Students meet and use role sheets* to facilitate discussions (15 min.)

  2. Students discuss how they want to present their book to the class.  They can create a presentation, drama, or whatever they can dream of!

*Role Sheets printed from Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups, by Harvey Daniels. I used Summarizer, Illustrator, Questioner, Connector, and Passage Master.

Role Play Activities from Action Strategies for Deepening Comprehension, by Jeff Wilhelm.

General Resources for teaching with graphic novels


Graphic Novels in the Classroom: http://www.graphicclassroom.com/

Comic Book Project: Promoting literacy by having students create their own original comics: http://www.comicbookproject.org/

Using Graphic Novels and Comics in the classroom: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/graphic-novels-comics-andrew-miller

Graphic Novels in the AP Classroom:


More Graphic Novel Resources from AP Central: http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/apc/members/courses/teachers_corner/180039.html

Find out about the best new graphic novels: http://graphicnovelreporter.com/

Case for Graphic Novels in Education: http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/case-graphic-novels-education


Graphic Novels in Your Media Center: A Definitive Guide, by Allyson A.W. Lyga and Barry Lyga

Published by Libraries Unlimited

Graphic Novels 101: Selecting and Using Graphic Novels to Promote Literacy for Children and

Young Adults – A Resource Guide for School Librarians and Educators, by Philip Crawford

Published by Hi Willow Publishing.

PeanutPeanut by Ayun Halliday
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Halliday, Ayun, and Paul Hoppe. Peanut. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2013. Print.

Moving to a new school is a nail biting experience for any teen. But what if you could ditch your nerdy ways and become popular overnight? After meeting a laid back teen with a peanut allergy, Sadie concocts a seemingly harmless plan to stand out at her new school -- a killer peanut allergy that she does not have.

First of all, I loved the quirky twist in this coming of age “I don’t know who I am” teen fiction. Sadie’s sarcastic “I hate everyone, but I want everyone to like me” narration is apropos for today’s teen with low self esteem issues.

While some of the other characters lack depth, Zoo’s anti-technology personality adds to the distinctive plot line. I only wish I knew more about him and the reasoning behind his aversion to all things technical.

Hoppe’s pen and ink drawings lend this graphic novel authenticity and make this a perfect example of what I call the “fake memoir graphic novel” similar to American Born Chinese,Level Up, and Anya s Ghost.

The touch of red on each page to show Sadie’s location is a delightful visual pun that characterizes how every teen always feels like they stand out. When something awkward, funny, or strange happens to them, most teens feel like everyone is staring at them no matter the reality of the situation.

Overall, I think middle school and high school teens will indulge in this uncontrollable lie that quickly gets out of hand.

Note: Review of Advanced Reader's Copy courtesy of Random House Books.

View all my reviews

I used Videolicious on my iPad to book talk a few hidden gems in the library.  Enjoy the video at the bottom of the post with the Videolicious icon.

This is a visually enhanced handout I would include on my webpage and print for students with the list of books in citation form on the back:


Benton, J. (2005). Dear dumb diary: Can adults become human?. New York: Scholastic.

Cottrell, B. F., Hunter, C., & Heney, C. (2011). The unforgotten coat. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press.

Hannigan, K. (2011). True ( -- sort of). New York: Greenwillow Books.

Kostick, Connor ( 2004). Epic. New York: Penguin.

Oldham, T. (2009). Kid made modern. Los Angeles: Ammo Books.

Palacio, R. J., & Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (2012). Wonder. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Schmatz, P. (2011). Bluefish. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press.

Stead, R. (2012). Liar & spy. New York: Wendy Lamb Books.

Tracy, K. (2011). The reinvention of Bessica Lefter. New York: Delacorte Press.

Varon, S. (2011). Bake sale. New York: First Second.

Wolitzer, M., & Dutton Children's Books (Firm). (2011). The fingertips of Duncan Dorfman. New York: Dutton Children's Books.

Yang, G. L., & Pham, T. (2011). Level up. New York: First Second.

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Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick: Ginny Davis's Year In StuffEighth Grade Is Making Me Sick: Ginny Davis's Year In Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great new media book!

Ginny Davis shares her life with us in an untraditional format. Told strictly through sticky notes, poems, and calendars, this year of Ginny's life is sure to get you hooked on a new format! It is a lot like Why We Broke Up.

This visual format takes some getting used to, but the great thing about it is that you get to use a lot of inferencing skills to put all the pieces together. With the pieces in place, you will realize that Ginny is going through the same stuff that most teenagers have to deal with: moving, fitting in, illness, etc.

View all my reviews

The Plain JanesThe Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Castellucci, Cecil, Jim Rugg, and Jared K. Fletcher. The Plain Janes. New York, N.Y: Minx, 2007. Print. (unpaged) 9781401211158

This great starter graphic novel is written with a bildungsroman narrative style. After being attacked by a bomb in Metro City, Jane’s parents move her to a boring small town. Jane’s life and attitude is different after the attack. She no longer cares about being popular and fitting in, so she dyes her blond hair and changes her attitude. After discovering the sketchbook of one of her fellow bomb survivors, she begins to look for beauty in everyday life. In her new town, she finds a table of rejects whom are all named Jane and entices them into friendship with secret art attacks. All of the girls try to convey to their small community that there is art in all things - you just have to know where to look.

The guerilla tactics the girls employ remind me of Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club and the mid-2000 knitting craze dubbed yarn bombing text. I enjoyed the secret club and ridiculous nighttime excursions. Where were these girls when I was in highschool? The art is simple and the strong geometric lines with comic book styling are similar to the Scott Pilgrim series and will entice new readers of graphic novels. The characters are easy to delineate and the storyline flows well. However, the ending was abrupt and irresolute. I’m hoping some of the loose ends will be tied up in the sequel Janes in Love. However, one of the great things about Plain Janes, was that even though they are teenagers, the story did not revolve around a love story. Instead, it exhibited teens who long to fit in, who rebel, and who sometimes strike out with love.

View all my reviews


Ed. by Anne Thoms.  2002. WITH THEIR EYES. New York: Harper Tempest. ISBN 0060518065

Hampton, Wilborn. 2003. SEPTEMBER 11, 2001. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press. 0763619493

With Their Eyes was written by students at Stuvesant High School after the September 11th attacks.  Following the style of the playwright, Anna Deavere Smith, they interviewed students, teachers, and employees of Stuvesant High which is only blocks away from Ground Zero.  The students then compiled the interviews into monologues and performed the play for audiences.  

The result is a sad, comprehensive, and movingly honest portrayal of the World Trade Center attacks.  Interviewing a multitude of ages and keeping the ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ that make up real conversations give this taboo topic a frank and forthright urgency. Time is also staggered throughout the monologues and will help modern day readers understand the long-term implications of the attacks on Stuvesant students and employees.  Each piece will remind older readers of the mixed-emotions of the day: the surprise, the anger, and the emptiness, and young readers will be captured by the authentic voices of real New Yorkers.

Reviews (With Their Eyes)

  • Parent’s Guide Review by M. Jerry Weiss: “There is humor and a protective coating for the seriousness of the drama.”
  • Children’s Literature Review by Jeanne K. Pettenati :”The monologues describe both kids and staff who were eyewitnesses to a horrible piece of history.”

Teaching Ideas

The opening act of this book would work well with a Reader’s Theater technique.  Teachers should choose other monologue sections to teach student’s about the harrowing effects of September 11th.  

I would combine pieces of this book with September 11, 2001 by ?.  This nonfiction book is also about real people who survived the attacks.  Some who were actually in the building and recount what it was like moving down the stairways and leaving friends behind. NOTE: The pictures in this are very disturbing.  I had to cover them as I read.  However, students who were not old enough when this happened to understand the event, will benefit from these shocking photographs.

After all books and sections are read, students should respond in journals with either a sentence stem like: “I feel....” or a prompt like: “The title ‘With Their Eyes’ is important because....”

Extended lesson idea: Have students go out into their own school and interview people about a relevant topic.  For instance, I live in the South and I plan on having my students interview others about the effect the Drought has had on families this summer.  We will compile our interviews to create and perform monologues.  

Other books and opinions:

Ed. Jeff Mason. 2002. 9-11 EMERGENCY RELIEF. Florida: Alternative Comics. ISBN1891867121

This compilation of comic artists’ response to 9/11 did not sit well with me.  Many of the selections are crass and the attempts at humor fail.  Most of the artists were not in New York and their opinions and views just don’t do a good job of explaining the situation. I would not suggest using this for teaching this tender subject.   

Jacobson, Sid and Colon, Ernie. 2006.THE 9/11 REPORT: A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION.  ISBN 0809057395

While this is a great adaptation of the 9/11 Report, it is still a complex and difficult read.  Young readers may find the language too advanced, but it is still a great addition to any library.


Review of Calamity Jack  by Shannon and Dean Hale, Illustrated by Nathan Hale My rating 5 of 5 stars


Hale, Shannon and Dean. 2010. CALAMITY JACK. Ill. by Nathan Hale. New York: Bloomsbury.  ISBN 9781599900766

Set in the 19th century, but with glorious technological contraptions, this steam-punk graphic novel glorifies the machine age and dabbles in fairytale creatures like fairies, brownies, and magical beans.  

Calamity Jack is a fractured fairytale taken to the extreme.  The story revolves around Jack (of the beanstalk fame) and the abominable giant. After stealing the giant's goose, Jack goes on the run with Rapunzel (the first book in this series is RAPUNZEL'S REVENGE.)  He brings Rapunzel home to restore his mother’s bakery, and finds that the Giant has overrun the town with giant Ant People.

Rapunzel is a strong sidekick and her whip-like hair gets the duo out of most of their mishaps. The third wheel, Frederick the newspaper man, is quite odd and even forgettable. His character is the weakest in the storyline, and his speech is erratic.  

As an illustrator, Nathan Hale exemplifies pacing in each action-packed panel.  The story is quick and even, and the action gallops at full throttle as such a graphic novel should.  There isn’t much left in the gutter (he space between the panels) so young readers will not have much to imagine outside the storyline and this will help engagement with reluctant readers. Violence is ample and satisfying in this graphic novel, so teen readers will also enjoy this simple fractured fairytale.

More sophisticated readers will note that the giants and townspeople represent a visual metaphor for the massive difference between the rich and the poor in today's society. Although the giants seem refined and bourgeois, they secretly eat human bones and are destroying the city and keeping the townspeople under their thumbs. Readers, make your own inferences. ;)



  • Book List Review by Eva Violin:Shannon and Dean Hale have done an excellent job stretching the bones of the traditional fable into a high-action coming-of-age story that will keep young teen readers excited and engaged.”        
  • Kirkus Review:This volume, though told from a male perspective, has all the pluck and verve of its predecessor. Readers will relish this gleeful mix of fairy tale, adventure and romance.”

Teaching Ideas

I love how complex Jack and the Beanstalk became simply by changing the setting and modifying the characters. I’d like to share this with my students and then have them create their own fractured fairytale graphic novels in groups.  Each group could have an art director, author(s), artist, and pencil artist. Groups would be given fairytales, settings, and character ideas and then they could work together to create their mash-up masterpiece!

Formula from the author’s webpage:

1. Take a fairy tale (i.e. Rapunzel, Jack)

2. Change the setting (i.e. from woodsy, quasi-European landscape to desert-y, quasi-American Wild West)

3. In the first 1/4th of the book, retell the fairy tale, allowing the story to alter with the setting

4. Then, set the story loose, infusing it with both fairy tale elements as well as big Hollywood-style movie elements.





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