Thursday, November 29, 2012

Teaching graphic novels

Over Thanksgiving break I looked at my plan book for the remainder of the calendar year. I was done with my reading and writing units and needed to consider what came next. With reading I knew I wanted to do a Mock Newbery and Caldecott unit right before Christmas break, but I planned on teaching that one the week before break. What unit could I fit in the next three weeks AND keep my students attention during this crazy time of year? The answer was simple, a unit on graphic novels.

I’ve never taught a graphic novel unit before but after reading Terry Thompson’s amazing book, Adventures in Graphica, I knew I wanted to try one this year. If you are considering this type of unit, I highly recommend this book. It does a wonderful job of not only explaining the brilliance in Graphica, but also the many reading strategies you can us these books to teach.

Last week I mapped out an eight-day unit in reading and writing. Due to an insane schedule, we don’t have writing every day, so this will take me all the way to break in writing and leave enough time for a two-week Caldecott/ Newbery unit in reading. Perfect! When mapping out the unit I looked over Terry’s book, added some lessons from there, some things I wanted to go over with the students, and left some room for ideas that might arise as I teach this for the first time.

Today we began. First of all, I don’t know that I’ve ever had all three classes cheer when I announce a topic for a unit before. Cheer I tell you! Like a bunch of “woo hoos” filled the air. A student from another class poked their head in and asked if we were having a party. My response? Yep, a reading party.  J

I started with exploring graphic novels with the three classes. We came up with a list of common conventions found in Graphica. We talked about what they meant and what they looked like. (This idea came from Terry’s book.) 

Then the kids poured over their books. They shared with friends the conventions they found. We discussed new ones found and other interesting things we came upon. Great discussions ensued in each class about our reading preferences and why we like or don’t enjoy reading graphic novels. It was amazing. 

 In writing class (I only teach writing to my homeroom) we continued the discussion but also talked about what things we need to keep in mind if we are creating a comic strip. We created an anchor chart, listed the type of topics we’d like to create a comic for, and sketched some thumbnails out. 

In each class I taught today, three reading and one writing, there were groans when I announced it was time to stop. I wandered around during the time they were exploring the graphic novels. Kids were spread around the room and I was floored by the insightful discussion the kids were having. I can’t wait to continue this unit and see what the children and I learn from each other and this wonderful format of writing.