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The Power of Graphic Novels

As I am sure most teachers discovered, it was a challenge to keep students engaged with remote learning as we entered May and June.  To combat the remote learning blues, I decided to focus on graphic novels with my fifth graders.  I was able to find Nathan Hale’s graphic novels on Epic, so students could easily access them digitally.  We read and analyzed Nathan Hale’s historical fiction graphic novels in book clubs.  The discussions were spirited and thoughtful.  

Then, I worked with our literacy coach and our art teacher to design a mini-unit to support students as they wrote their own graphic novels.  After one short brainstorming session, students were brimming with story ideas for their graphic novels.  We applauded each other’s efforts to draw accurate facial expressions, shared ideas for slowing down the heart of the story, and thought of cliffhangers to end the stories.  My students’ enthusiasm for graphic novels carried them through June’s remote learning.

For next year, we are planning to expand this initial attempt at a reading and writing graphic novel unit by connecting it to an American History unit in social studies.  To prepare for this future work, I compiled a stack of graphic novels to read this summer.  I must admit that graphic novels are not my preferred literary medium.  Of course, I included a graphic novel section in my classroom library, because I knew they appealed to many of my students.  But, after reading some of Nathan Hale’s books and some interviews by Gene Yang and Jerry Craft, I am beginning to appreciate graphic novels more.  I will further my graphic novel education this summer by reading…

For more information, check out this link to an NPR interview of Gene Luen Yang and a graphic novel essay he wrote about the power of graphic novels.

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