New Exciting Teaching Strategies — The Comic Textbook

"The Graphic Textbook" from Reading with Pictures is giving comics a greater role in education.

Do you remember the last conversation you had about teaching strategies? It probably happened in a meeting room or at a conference. The chairs were plastic and squeaky. Your new button-down was starched too stiffly and everyone looked incredibly serious as they uttered phrases like “best practices” and “technology integration.” Everything about it was, in a word, adult. It’s true that as educators, we need to wear our grownup hats most of the time, but it’s when we slip them off and remember what it was like to be a kid that we gain real insight and create some pretty exciting learning tools in the process.

A prime example? Textbooks. If you can remember what it was like to be a 5th-grader with english homework, you can remember exactly how much you dreaded your textbook. Giant blocks of text intimidated you, and the ’70s-style watercolor illustrations that were thrown in to keep your interest were so corny they were almost insulting. It didn’t matter that the story waiting to be read featured a pack of fighting wolves or an island full of orphaned boys — you took one look at your homework and you could think of only one word — boring! As adults, we’re so used to reading plain text, that we forget what it was like to be a kid with a textbook, and as a result, our teaching strategies, and our students, suffer — until now. One group of grownups is out to make textbooks fun again. It’s a tall order, but the project looks promising.

A Teaching Strategy Getting a Start from Kickstarter

The project, named simply “The Graphic Textbook” comes from the people at Reading with Pictures, a non-profit aimed at giving comics a greater role in education. The idea is simple — make textbooks fun, and more children will read them and retain what they’ve learned. The project’s Kickstarter page explains:

“Aimed at grades 3-6, The Graphic Textbook features a dozen short stories (both fiction and non-fiction) that address topics in a variety of disciplines (Social Studies, Math, Language Arts, Science) drawn from the list of Common Core Standards used in classrooms countrywide. The accompanying Teacher’s Guide will include Standards-correlated lesson plans customized to each story, research-based justifications for using comics in the classroom, a guide to establishing best classroom practices and a comprehensive listing of additional educational resources.

The Graphic Textbook will prove once and for all that comics belong in the classroom by creating a comic that every teacher will actually want to use and a textbook that every student will actually want to read!”

A short video also helps to illustrate (pun intended) the purpose of the project.


What Makes This Teaching Strategy Special

Not all teaching strategies aimed at solving the educational issues of 21st century learners need to do it through tech tools and digital devices. Sometimes, all that’s needed is a new spin on traditional learning tools. Teachers who don’t know what to do with disengaged and distracted students could find the graphic novel format to be the perfect solution. And unlike high-cost electronics, this teaching tool can be produced and used at a low cost, making it an even more helpful tool for helping to close the achievement gap.

Using comics as classroom learning tools isn’t a brand-new concept. In the past, teachers have developed lesson plans that include graphic novels or comics in an effort to increase engagement and get students excited about literacy. But these learning tools have always been supplementary — not the core text. If The Graphic Textbook finds a place in the classroom, it could keep students engaged throughout the year — not just for a single lesson.

Inject Some Inspiration Into Your Teaching Strategies

If you’re excited about The Graphic Textbook and want to offer some support, head over to their Kickstarter page to pledge a donation. The project has less than two weeks to meet its goal and if it doesn’t, the artists and educators at Reading With Pictures won’t receive any of the funds pledged for their project. So check it out and spread the word!

If the project gets the funding it needs, you could find yourself teaching students, or your children, with the help of The Graphic Textbook, but in the meantime there’s no reason why you can’t incorporate comics or graphic novels into your teaching strategies right now. Not sure where to start? Check out the website of NACAE (The National Association of Comics Art Educators) for some easy lesson plans aimed at boosting literacy and reading comprehension. Are you already using comics as learning tools in your classroom? Tell us about it by commenting on our Facebook page or by tweeting us @sparkpgh.


Published May 04, 2012