Graphic Novels: connecting to students

Back in August I happened across the Graphica exhibition at The University of Mebourne’s Giblin Eunson Library. Here is a link to the material in the exhibition: Graphica Exhibition – Celebrate Reading! Stories, Images & Text @ the Library – LibGuides at University of Melbourne.   One of my keen interests has always been the use of ‘story’ as a part of teaching, especially in science. This exhibition helped me to consider how this genre might be useful when working with teenagers.

This exhibition was great, and I was lucky to have Kat and Rachel as my Guides, showing me the coolest books for Science. Graphic novels are not a genre I am really familiar with. In my reading about literacy I know they can be powerful texts for many students, who seek a different writing style. I was aware that these graphic novels have been produced for a long time (one of my Nephews loves them) and that many of the ‘English’ texts are available in this form. I was amazed at the number of books available that relate to other subjects, including science and wider real world issues.  I borrowed a ‘1 World Manga’ book to read myself and think about how I could integrate these into my own classes.

Three books that stood out for me are:

Charles Darwin’s on the Origin of Species : a Graphic Adaptation – Michael Keller Which wasn’t available to borrow, but will be now.

The Manga Guide to Physics – Hideo Nitta Which wasn’t available to borrow, but will be now.

1 World Manga – Annette Roman and Leandro Ng which I have borrowed and plan to use in a class in the next couple of weeks.

Even though this is a genre I am not entirely familiar with, I feel that is is important to explore how these resources can be used to help my students make connections with the content and life. In reading the 1 World Manga book, it took me a while to find the voice this was written in and connect with the text.  I can imagine this is how many teenage students feel when faced with a text book or similar in class (this is a big ‘blocker’ for many students, so using a format they are comfortable with will help).  After a couple of ‘read throughs’ I was able to make some great links to sustainability issues and how these books may be a vehicle for supporting students to make these connections in more meaningful and powerful ways.  Another idea that intrigues me is to combine the study of a text in an English class and support this with Science classes to have a cross curricular topic, allowing multiple, deep links to be supported. At Secondary school level I know this can, and does, happen in some schools, but it would be great to see this approach in more schools. In saying this, I realise that graphic novels may not be the answer for all students to be engaged in reading, however I think that in trying to incorporate these types of texts and other approaches into our classrooms, students can see that learning and teaching can take many different forms. It may even help some students to discover a new text that can support them in their learning. There is such a wide range of topics available in ‘graphic novel’ form I encourage teachers  to hunt some of these titles down and explore if these may be of benefit to your students, and help them make connections for their learning.

I wonder if you have been involved in cross curricular units of work, perhaps using different topics and materials? I would love to hear your story!

Until next week

Fiona T



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. downhousesoftware
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 16:35:55

    I’m also interested in using stories or other similar methods like games to teach. I recently released my first iBook using the mythic tale of Heracles to teach the gas laws. I have several others in the works and hope to get them out soon. You can check it out at:
    I hope you enjoy.

    I’m eager to check out the Darwin Manga you recommended.



    • Fiona T
      Oct 07, 2012 @ 16:41:36

      That sounds interesting Jack, I will check it out. There are great things happening in and around schools, and any way we can make content more accessible is worth a try. Thanks for commenting too.



  2. Kat Frame (@kat_frame)
    Oct 24, 2012 @ 19:53:17

    Fiona – thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience of the exhibition and observations about incorporating graphic novels in your teaching.
    My personal experience has disproved my initial assumptions that graphic novels are an easy read 🙂 I am much more comfortable with a traditional text and it often takes me longer to read a graphic novel than I anticipate.
    The educational graphic novels do tend to make some compromises in the format to communicate the content. I think that this is the case with ‘1 world manga’ however, this seems a small compromise if the stories support learning about global issues.
    I’m sure that a stream of librarians will read this blog post. Your willingness to incorporate new resources into your teaching is a really positive indicator of the value of the Library hosting events such as the exhibition and establishing the Graphic Novel Collection.



    • Fiona T
      Oct 24, 2012 @ 21:16:21

      Thanks for the comment Kat. Using these with my pre-service teacher students has met with varied interest. A couple of students who are into the ‘comic book’ genre gave some good feedback on the ‘one world’ book I had presented. I am always on the lookout for ways to connect students with learning, and am really pleased that the you showed me this collection. I really want to try to read the ‘origin of species’ in this genre too. Thanks for helping me to expand my vision of science texts 🙂



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