Where Words and Pictures Party

Comics are Books Too

Added on by Timothy O'Briant.

I've recently been compiling materials for a teaching conference.  The mission of the conference is to share ideas about how brain based research can improve learning within the school systems.  The booth I've been working on specifically targets the use of comic books within the school.  I think any comic fan is going to be an ardent supporter of comics worth, and as a comics fan and educator I come to the table with a unique perspective.  Today's Comic Curve is going to highlight just a couple ways I have used comics in the classroom, and other ideas I've heard other people use.

The first thing I need to do is overcome any preconceived notions  parents or teachers may have about the merits of comic books.  Comics come in all forms and genres, from science fiction (Akira) to romance (Blankets), biographies (Persepolis) to historical fiction (the Nam).  Comics have something for everyone.  The use of pictures juxtaposed against words helps beginning and struggling readers by providing additional context clues to follow.  Stories read in comic form are also believed to be easier to remember as they stimulate additional areas of the brain as it works to process written language and visual information in tandem.

I have personally used comic books to help teach my second graders the meaning of dialogue.  The comic medium contains it's own unique set of rules to convey information and dialogue is shown through the use of speech bubbles.  Written language uses quotation marks to provide the same information.  When I begin teaching dialogue to my children I tell them that go around the same words that we would see a speech bubble circle.  This helps to keep children from putting things like "I said" or "she asked" in quotation marks, but still give them guidance about where quotation marks should start and end.

Some comic books convey a lot of information without any words at all.  This lesson was actually taken from ideas I got from talking to David Peterson the writer and artist of Mouse Guard.  Comics use pictures where prose writing relies on vivid imagery and descriptions to create an image within the readers mind.  Mr. Peterson shared that he had heard of teachers presenting a page of comic to a class that was completely devoid of words.  It was the students responsibility to describe what was happening on the page clearly and vividly. 

I've come up with lots more ideas and lesson plans as well, but it's starting to dawn on me that the amount of comic readers and educators reading this is probably pretty small.  I'm going to end this Comic Curve here, but if you get me talking about this face to face, you're going to have your hands full getting me to stop.

-Jon O