Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Using Comics to Teach Reading in the Classroom

Imagine having a class of 15-19 year olds who really want to learn to read or read better but not in a baby sort of way. What could I do? I hunted for low reading level but high interest material for them! I actually found a set of comic classics in the dumpster of my district office (I don’t recommend that for everyone but years ago I was desperate). Now there is an instructional library for teachers that has material like this available so you might want to check with your district on this. The two best hits were The Scarlet Letter and the Tale of Two Cities. My students loved the idea that they were reading novels just like higher level students. My students were able to discuss and answer questions on a higher level but they just couldn’t read or write on a higher level and this made them extremely frustrated. I gave them comprehension questions that asked for the main ideas, details, sequencing, drawing conclusions, analysis of the literature just like other students were given but just in a different way. Some of these assignments were given orally to students, or they had peer tutors to read the questions on a tape recorder. Responses could be given on another tape recorder or artwork could be turned in to answer the questions. Students were really motivated to learn the new vocabulary because they were enthralled with being able to learn a novel like students without reading and writing problems. It was magical to watch them learn! The more excited they became about reading and learning, the more excited I became.

Before reading the classics, I encouraged students to bring in a comic book to read in class. I also brought extras for those who didn’t have any or forgot to bring them. I gave some class time to read the comics and then we discussed the common things that each comic book had that made them so appealing. This was a great way to introduce the lesson of reading a comic classic.

After reading comic classics, I encouraged the class to write their own comic story which took about a week. Students would first write their story for a foundation and then draw the comic book pages to go with the story. The story was proofread and corrected before the illustrations were made. Then we made book covers using cardboard and actually bound them with yarn. I allowed my lowest level students to pair up with higher level students because they each had their own strengths and this was actually discussed before the pairing was allowed. I asked each of the students to think about their strengths and try to pair up with someone who complemented their weakness. I was amazed at how well the students paired themselves up this way. I gave them an actual timeline of tasks they needed to complete each class period which helped them stay on task.

After all the books were completed, I had the students exchange the books to read. Then each group had to write 5 things they like about the book they read, the main idea of the story, and then propose a different ending. The students loved this also.

From their responses, I felt using comics in my class was a great success.

Here is a great New York Times article: Superman Finds New Fans Among Reading Instructors


Mathew said...

Creating comics is a fantastic way to improve comprehension and motivate students to write. We've used ComicLife to great effect.

Anonymous said...

hi veri interested in using comic for my taching.i have been teaching for 2 years now and currently im doing a research on using comic to teach literature.i even thought of creating a comic book for the would be an honour if you can share some advice..

loonyhiker said...

Mathew had a great link above your comment. I can't wait to try it out and have given the link in my Useful Info post 02/01/08. (Thanks Mathew!) I would stress that you make sure they know it isn't baby stuff or dumbing down the material. I would approach it that sometimes I like to read different genres of work and comics are one of them. Thanks for reading!