If you are reading this during the pandemic than things will look a bit different now but for this purpose try and picture a normal day. Everything has gone great so far in your day of teaching. There were no early meetings that could have been an e-mail. A parent donated Clorox Wipes(which is currently equatable to gold) and your students are finally mastering two-digit multiplication. Everything is going all lovely until you look at your lesson plan and see it there practically shouting at you. “Writing time.”
Teaching writing is sometimes a dreaded concept to teach. I personally think that the reason every teacher has a favorite subject is that they liked it themselves as a kid. I was never good at math and instead loved spending my time writing.
Writing: A Throwback
Even before I properly learned how to write, I was writing. My best friend and I would write stories scrawled out poorly with drawings that were laughable(and haven't gotten much better). My cousins and I would write up newspapers about what was going on in the world. Then after moving twice in the span of a few years, letter writing was a given.
Thinking back on all my time writing I was wondering what led me to want to write more. I chalk it up to my teachers who made writing fun. I remember one project was to make a magazine complete with a comic. This was kind of like our own take on Highlights Magazines. I loved reading comics in the Sunday paper and in the Highlights Magazine. Props if you remember the best comic strip, The Timbertoes.
As a teacher I wanted kids to be able to learn how to write in a way that could make it fun and one way was to have them make their own comic book! This was a fun way for kids to get into writing because I think anytime you can involve drawing and/or superheroes, you can engage most kids.
I first heard about graphic novels recently and let me tell you, they are a great way to intertwine reading and writing! As a former teacher of younger grades, I had several chapter books in my classroom library, but most were hand me downs and I didn't know what a graphic novel was until I saw them in a store years later. When I saw Baby-Sitters Club graphic novels, my world changed. Basically graphic novels take chapter books and put them into comic format making them more engaging to read! I admit that I was skeptical about how much difference this could make in a person's willingness to read. That is until I tried to read Marie Kondo's “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” As a lover of reading, I thought I would have no trouble getting through this book. By page two I was bored out of my mind and content with having all my possessions in disarray. Then I found the manga (a type of Japanese comic) version of the book….and I read the whole thing in a day! I essentially was getting the same information and text but in a much easier format!
Ideas for Using Comics
There are many chapter books that are now graphic novels. To use comics and graphic novels in the classroom here are just SOME ideas!
- Make photocopies of pages of popular graphic novels or comics. Then whiteout any speech bubbles. Make a new copy for students to fill out the text.
- Have students work in groups to learn about sequencing. One person will start the panel and then pass it to the next person.
- In pairs, students can delegate who will draw and who will write. Working on different tasks will require them to use lots of details so their partner knows what to draw or write.
- Don't just stop at writing! Comics are a great way to teach grammar! Adjectives and onomatopoeia are especially fun to teach with comics!
- Using a picture or chapter book, have students create a comic for it. For a more integrated lesson, have them create a comic page for each chapter to show their understanding of the novel.
Comic Book Writing
With my Digital and Printable Comic Book Writing students will learn about what makes a comic, how to use dialogue, practice brainstorming skills, and much more. When teaching kids to write, comics are a great way to do this because you can cover many concepts in one! For example, creating a main character and understanding how the problem and solution make up the plot. Designing a setting with lots of details will allow kids to really practice elaborating on what the scene looks like so the reader can feel immersed!
I wanted to make this a fun unit where multiple grades can use it. Everything is able to be used together, or as supplements to mini-lessons. There are four types of writing pages to suit the needs of multiple grades. After learning how to create a comic and writing drafts, students will be able to create a comic strip, a one-page comic, or an entire comic book!
For the unit, I used a superhero theme, but comics can be about anything! Encourage your students to get creative and share comics that are about things other than superheroes. For example, Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, Family Circle, Archie, Richie Rich, etc. (My age is showing here). Another great way to subtly introduce students into liking writing is with graphic novels. Many books are now graphic novels and with their fun images, students don't realize they are reading something they might not have otherwise!
The same goes for writing! When you make it fun, students don't realize they are doing something they may have not liked to do. Plus, as a teacher, you will have more fun when reading/seeing your kids' final products when a bit of creativity is involved in the writing process!