This common dilemma is a wonderful problem because there are ample solutions. Bringing graphic texts into the classroom presents unlimited opportunities and new teaching tools and reading materials that are easy to introduce and implement and enjoyable for teachers and students alike. But like most new ideas — especially in the classroom, graphic novels and comics come with certain risks and potential controversy, too.
The first consideration to be made is your relationships with adults and students within the school community. Sure, your kids might love the reading materials you keep in your classroom, but without the trust and support of their parents and your co-workers, what is that energy worth? Of course, you’re a great teacher who commands respect and earns it by giving careful consideration of the potential positives and negatives of presenting any student with any text, so why are you worrying so much?
In Adventures in Graphica: Using comics and graphic novels to teach comprehension, 2-6, Terry Thompson (2008) provides a selection guide to assist teachers in selecting what he calls “Graphica (noun) – A medium of literature that integrates pictures and words and arranges them cumulatively to tell a story or convey information; often presented in comic strip, periodical, or book form; also known as comics” (2008, p. 6). Attached to this post readers can download an adapted set of considerations to examine each new graphic text being surveyed for classroom use. I adapted Thompson’s guide because his audience is stated as grades 2-6. While all grade-level teachers can benefit from supplying graphica in their classrooms, high school teachers granting students more flexibility and autonomy may wish to introduce more controversial texts to maintain motivation and both independent and assigned reading.
Such considerations include:
Will students be motivated to read this text?
Will students be interested in the subject matter, themes, and characters?
Is the subject matter appropriate for your students?
How challenging is the vocabulary?
Do the illustrations support language to assist in comprehension?
Does the design including panels and gutters aid comprehension?
Do illustrations help develop literary elements: plot, symbolism, characterization, setting, & conflict?
How “busy” are panels and pages?
Will students be able to determine where to focus?
Is it appropriate for students?
Are visuals and language vulgar?
What risks may the text present?
As a student, would you have read this text?
As a parent, would you facilitate your child’s reading of this text?
The only thing to fear is fear itself. If you can successfully choose traditional texts for classroom purposes, you can do the same with graphic texts.
Click the link to view/download the adapted selection guide Rubric for evaluating graphic texts