I have been struggling with choosing a focus for the semester. I have been going back and forth between a focus that I can use in my teaching or a focus that follows my personal interests. I have reasons to believe that either option would be great. A professional focus will help me better my craft and make me a more effective teacher. A passion project will give me the chance to use that passion for motivation and immerse myself in my digital story much in the same way I will ask my students to do so in the future. I have decided on a compromise – graphic novels. I have always loved reading graphic novels and as an educator, who was a reluctant reader, I have always touted graphic novels as a way to help students access literature.
To start my inquiry into graphic novels and literacy I found an genre bending article by Gene Yang called “Graphic Novels in the Classroom”, this piece has a great message about the power of graphic novels to increase student engagement. Yang goes on to hypothesize why the graphic novel is so engaging for young learners. Because the graphic novel has elements of visual media and traditional literature it harness the strengths of each. The visuals draw the views interest and attention. Unlike most other visual media the graphic novel is “visual permanent”, meaning that the viewer moves though the information presented at their own digression, much like a traditional text. Speeding though parts that lag, carefully viewing and reviewing dense or interesting parts. A viewer can even interrupt or change the narrative as they choose, which enables the reader to help construct their own understanding of the story or text.
Yang literally illustrates his opinions by writing his article in the form of a comic. This empowers the reader to experiment with the attributes of comics that Yang highlights as engaging features. By reading about and experiencing these engaging features the reader/viewer gains a deeper understanding of why graphic novels are such powerful tools for teaching literacy.
Check out Yang’s work for yourself, link to the pdf here.