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Category Archives: educators

Comics Literacy in the Classroom

by Lars Wallner

Comics as Narrative Tools[i]

Comics are a narrative form combining text and image in surveyable sequences (McCloud 9). In Sweden, comics are common reading for children, young readers and adults, even though comics reading among young people seems to have lessened, as have all types of reading—see, for example, Statens Offentliga Utredningar (231). Despite what these reading trends seem to indicate, publication of comics for children has grown in the past few years (The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books 25). Throughout my dissertation study (Wallner, Framing Education), I came in contact with many teachers from different levels of schooling who were interested in using comics in their classrooms. These contacts indicated not only an interest on the part of teachers, but also an interest on the part of students wanting to read, and to benefit from reading, comics in school.

Comics are also a prime material for studying how students engage in conversations on reading and writing—that is to say, literacy—especially because of how comics combine text and images. Because of this, a study of the use of comics in a school context can contribute greatly both to our knowledge of literacy construction with comics and to a better picture of what literacy entails.

In order to study this ongoing practice in the classroom, I made video recordings of three classes in Grade 3 (age 8-10) and one class in Grade 8 (age 13-15). In total, 77 students and 6 teachers, in two different Swedish cities, contributed to this study. 15 lessons were recorded with work in whole class, pairs and groups. As a researcher, I had no influence over the settings or materials: the teachers had already chosen the amount of time to be spent on comics, the material that they wanted to work with for each lesson and how they wanted to use said material. My role in the classroom was merely to film the activities that they planned and carried out.

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Keep watering the rocks by Di Laycock

For goodness sake put that graphic novel down and get yourself a real book to read.

Overheard in the school library, this comment was a short, but far from simple, remark made to a student by a colleague. Given the work I’d done with this teacher as to how graphic novels might be used in the classroom, I was disheartened to hear that graphic novels still struggled to make her literary cut. And whilst another colleague once told me not to waste time ‘watering the rocks,’ a part of me wasn’t going to give up so easily – I enrolled in a professional doctorate and grabbed my watering can.

The above scenario took place nearly six years ago, around the same time that Carter (2007) suggested graphic novels ‘still remain largely on the fringes of the [teaching] profession’ (p. 1). To reposition graphic novels more centrally, added Carter, more success stories of their use in schools were needed.

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Comics in Education: A Personal Perspective by Robert G. Weiner

Comics have long played a role in my life. My first memories of comics include Tales of Suspense 39 and Silver Surfer 1. The image of the grey Iron Man is one that I remember seeing as a kid, and I still have an affinity for that old costume. The Silver Surfer, too, remains one of my favorite characters. I also remember reading an old Legion of Superheroes story in which one of the characters, Chemical King, dies. I remember re-reading that issue several times just to make sure he did indeed die. It really affected me (I must have been about 10 or so). Other comics I read include Black Panther, Human Fly, Moon Knight, the Kirby and Simon Sandman reboot. I loved them (and still do). I remember going to 7-11 every week to see what new comics the store might have.

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